NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL AN ICA (i)

So…. I’m in Toronto and its surroundings this week, having flown over here last Friday and not due home till a week tomorrow (those of you unfortunate enough to be mates on Facebook will already be aware of this).

I’ve come up with a way of covering the next few days with lazy posts, but hopefully in a way that will provide interest.

I suppose I should explain the NOW concept just in case it’s needed….so here’s wiki:-

Now That’s What I Call Music! (often shortened to Now!) is a series of various artists compilation albums released in the United Kingdom and Ireland by Sony Music and Universal Music (Universal/Sony Music) which began in 1983. Spinoff series began for other countries the following year, starting with South Africa, and many other countries worldwide soon followed, expanding into Asia in 1995, then the United States in 1998.

The first Now was featured 30 UK hit singles from that year on a double vinyl LP or cassette. Although the compilation of recent hit songs into a single release was not a new concept (K-tel and Ronco, for example, had been issuing various artists’ compilations for some years), this was the first time that two major record labels had collaborated on such a venture. Virgin agreed to a deal with EMI, which allowed a greater number of major hits to be included (the first album in the series included a total of “eleven number ones” on its sleeve).

The rate of release settled very quickly to three per year: one release around late March/early April, another around late July and a third around late November. Over a hundred “main series” (not including spin-off and special edition) albums have been released to date. The UK series has followed a double-album format throughout the series (many other foreign franchises of the Now! series are only released on one disc), now exploiting the capacity of the CD to include between 40 and 46 tracks over two discs. Since November 2005 (Now That’s What I Call Music! 62), the Now! series have only been released on CD and digital download formats. Previously, the series had been available on vinyl, Cassette and MiniDisc. As these formats declined in popularity, Now releases are no longer issued on them.

The most successful volume to date is 1999’s Now That’s What I Call Music! 44, which has sold 2.3 million copies and remains the biggest selling various artists compilation album in the UK. 2008’s Now That’s What I Call Music! 70 sold 383,002 units in the first week of sales, the biggest ever first week sale of any Now album. Now That’s What I Call Music! 87 holds the achievement for the most tracks in total with 47 tracks

For the most part, the NOW albums have been, for want of a better word, a shit listen, bought in the main by folk who don’t explore much beyond the mainstream fodder. This five-part series over the coming week will hopefully bring some sort of balance.

The words used to describe each of the songs have been lifted from the particular individual ICA in question. There’s a multitude of contributors, but I’ve decided against highlighting who wrote what…..I like to see this, and indeed the entire output of T(n)VV as a collective.

NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL AN ICA….(i)

SIDE A

Complete Control – The Clash (Track 1 from ICA #12)

You’ve got to open any imaginary compilation album with a killer tune…something of an anthem which epitomizes the band or singer being featured….and I can’t think of anything better than this. One of punk rock’s greatest songs, written and recorded in frustration as the penny dropped for the band, and in particular Joe Strummer, that being a fully fledged, ideologically driven punk at the same time as being a core part of the mainstream music industry was an uncomfortable and some would say impossible position. Anger as an energy…..

Dreaming – Blondie (Track 2 from ICA#197)

The band’s drummer, Clem Burke, has always been important to the sound. He’s had to constantly adjust his style to suit whatever genre the band were concentrating on, but there can no arguing that, at heart, he’s just a guy who is at his happiest when he’s allowed to pound away loud and fast, dragging the band along breathlessly in his wake. He’s probably never given as fine a performance as on this hit single from the band’s fourth album, which is fitting given that it seems he came up with the phrase ‘Dreaming Is Free’ around which Debbie constructed the lyric – and I still admire the fact she was able to achieve a rhyming couplet of restaurant and debutante. Genius.

Blue Boy – Orange Juice (Track 3 from ICA#57)

Falling and Laughing may have been the debut but Blue Boy has proven to be the most enduring and enjoyable single from the Postcard era. And surely the greatest song to ever make use of the word ‘gabardine’.

The unexpected appearance of an organ just short of two minutes in adds to the charm of this otherwise noisy and frantic guitar frenzy.

Remember Me – British Sea Power (Track 4 from ICA#61)

If you needed proof that British Sea Power are actually fantastic, then this their first proper single emphatically proves the argument. ‘Remember Me’ has the possibly the most urgent, compelling and exciting opening to a record that I have heard. There must be a full 90 seconds of pounding drums, guitars and seaside sound effects before you even hear a single word uttered. A swirling psychedelic fury filled bastard of a song, a song according to my blogging partner swc, that is so good is sounded like Joy Division had reformed.

Levi Stubbs’ Tears – Billy Bragg (Track 5 from ICA#37)

“The sort a war takes away
And when there wasn’t a war he left anyway”

Everyone accepts that Billy isn’t the greatest singer in the world, but it’s the very basic, fragile and uncertain nature of his delivery that makes this so effective a song. See also, in a similar theme, the very moving Valentine’s Day Is Over from Worker’s Playtime or the Peel Sessions album.

SIDE B

Kennedy – The Wedding Present (Track 6 from ICA#7)

This is an immense piece of music that still sounds incredibly fresh more than a quarter of a century on. There is nothing more that needs to be said.

Let’s Fall In Love And Run Away From Here – Ballboy (Track 7 from ICA#177)

Perhaps this my favourite ballboy tune. Here, I said it! Then again this might change in five minutes, as it did for a thousand times within the last two decades. It’s the opening track to ‘The Royal Theatre’ from 2004 and it proves what JC said in his wisdom in the first ballboy ICA: “Every one of the band’s EPs and albums opens with a truly memorable number”. This is but one of those, if you ask me …

In Between Days – The Cure (Track 8 from ICA#157)

Another track that is truly wonderful and for years and years was the ring tone on my phone for whenever Mrs Badger phoned me. It’s just one of those songs that I will never tire of hearing.

Blue Monday – New Order (Track 9 from ICA#20)

This song was in and out of this imaginary album on at least ten occasions. I had settled on the running order for 9 out of the 10 tracks but just couldn’t make my mind up on what to put in as the penultimate track on Side 2.

Contenders included the 7″ version of Temptation, Love Less, Your Silent Face, the album version of Sub-Culture, As It Is When It Was, Cries and Whispers, 1963, Bizarre Love Triangle and Vanishing Point. But it is impossible to ignore the claims of what was and still is one of the most groundbreaking bits of music that has ever been recorded.

I had a short-term relationship in the summer of 1983 with a girl I had met on the dance floor of Strathclyde University Students Union. I was a regular at that venue but this girl wasn’t, and after a couple of dates it was clear things weren’t really going to work out, not least because our musical tastes were so different. She was real disco diva who had only gone to the Student Union to keep a friend company but had taken a shine to me on account of my constant dancing and she assumed I was someone who would have been happy going along to any club or venue. But I’ll always remember that she was an even bigger fan of Blue Monday than I was which says all you need to know about the crossover appeal of this piece of music. It is a genuine classic.

Dry Your Eyes – The Streets (Track 10 from ICA #45)

A number one single. A big emotional number one single – Skinner went for that deliberately and nailed it. The chorus sounds like Coldplay but like Coldplay sung by your mate, because it needed to. The devil is the detail – “She brings her hands up towards where my hands rested. She wraps her fingers round mine with the softness she’s blessed with. She peels away my fingers, looks at me and then gestures By pushin’ my hand away to my chest, from hers”. Brilliant, poignant, brutally honest. At the time I hated it, then I listened to it, and then I listened to again.

We struggled, I’ll be honest. Technically there are three singles on the first side and three on the second side. The two remixes don’t count as far as I am concerned. The Run the Road remix is an inspired choice and one I had forgotten about. Of the five Badger chose I had four on my list of Ten. He had three of my five.

By Skinner’s own admission Original Pirate Material is the “day in the life of a geezer” yet amongst the bitter-sweet, inner city anecdotes of drugs, violence, playing computer games, trips to the garage and going clubbing, there is a tender sweet message that is so compulsive. Look – don’t just download this stuff, check out Original Pirate Material you won’t regret it for one second.

ENDS

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF MARC ALMOND (Parts 22-25)

Two weeks ago, I made a statement which was quite wrong, but it was something I only found out after doing the research for this particular post. Read on and you’ll soon find out.

Marc Almond’s stock was reasonably high in the mid-90s, helped by positive press around his live shows and his uncanny ability to achieve major chart success with some 45 or other every few years.

There were huge hopes for his ninth studio album what with Marc composing songs at a furious rate, many of which he was promising would showcase the many styles he had utilised throughout his career, from barnstorming showstoppers to the most heart-wrenching of ballads. The record label were looking to hook him up again with Mike Thorne, the producer who had delivered so much at the commercial peak of Soft Cell, but the plan was vetoed by long-term manager and confidante, Stevo Pearce (of Some Bizarre fame) and the record ended up being made over an extended period in different studios with different producers in the chair. Unsurprisingly, the finished product feels a little disjointed and suffers from a lack of overall control with it stretching out to 16 tracks and more than 70 minutes in length – this was an era when labels and artists seem determined to fill the entire capacity of a single CD, making the error that fans and consumers wanted quantity rather than quality….

The roll-call of performers on Fantastic Star is quite an eye-opener. Some of the songs were co-composed with Steve Nieve (Elvis Costello & The Attractions) while Martin Ware (The Human League/Heaven 17) played on tracks as well as taking spells in the producer’s chair. Oh, and John Cale (The Velvet Underground) and David Johannsen (The New Yorks Dolls) also dropped in to add contributions on piano and harmonica respectively. I should also mention that the main collaborator in the studio was Neal X (aka Neal Whitmore) who had been guitarist in 80s cult band, Sigue Sigue Sputnik.

The only problem is that the album was doomed to fail on its release in February 1996 , for the simple reason that its best tracks had all been issued as singles many months prior, only one of which had delivered on its goal of chart success.

(22) Adored and Explored (7” edit) b/w The User b/w Loveless World (May 1995 – #25 in the UK charts)

This is the mistake from a couple of weeks back as I was certain that The Days of Pearly Spencer was the last time Marc hit the Top 40. This upbeat electronic number is one of Marc’s best moments, providing evidence, if any were needed, that he still had a knack for the sort of tune that sounds great whether blasting out of the radio or from the speakers in your home.

Worth mentioning also this was also the era of multi-formatting with record labels issuing different versions of the CD singles, most of which simply had remixes of the main track. It’s far too time-consuming to try to track all of these down, so all I’m going to offer up are the other original songs made available on what were usually labelled ‘CD1’.

(23) The Idol (Part 1) b/w Law of The Night (July 1995 – #44 in the UK charts)

I’ve featured this track before on the blog, back in January 2016, in which I suggested Marc had been uncanny in his prediction of future events…….

The Idol starts off as homage to The Jean Genie before it turns into a sort of Stars on 45 tribute to the glam rock that I recall from the early 70s. Great guitar riffs, amazing backing vocals, and a pumping chorus. Tailored made for radio but got absolutely no exposure on the mainstream daytime shows.

Oh, and here’s the two other tracks on the CD single that I have sitting on the shelf:-

mp3 : Marc Almond – Adored and Explored (Live at Radio One)
mp3 : Marc Almond – Bedsitter (Live at Radio One)

The ‘Unplugged cover’ of the Soft Cell hit is particularly wonderful. No synths – just acoustic guitars and harmonicas. And proof that Marc was a better singer than most gave him credit for.

(24) Child Star b/w The Edge of Heartbreak b/w Christmas In Vegas b/w My Guardian Angel (December 1995 – #41 in the UK charts)

I reckon this is the most Almondesque of all the solo releases. A weepy ballad which has quiet reflective moments along with the most OTT pop orchestration to reach your ears. There’s even a bit where you think it will end only for one final incredibly dramatic and show-stopping surge to tug on your heartstrings. It’s a magnificent production to which Marc gives it his all….and it really was so much more deserving than the miserly #41 position. One appearance on Top of The Pops could have changed everything…..

The Edge of Heartbreak would later also feature on the parent album (the release of which had been delayed until early 1996) while the inclusion of Christmas In Vegas enabled fans to pick up on a track previously released only via a limited edition flexidisc.

(25) Out There b/w Brilliant Creatures b/w Lie (February 1996 – #76 in the UK charts)

The single which accompanied the release of the parent album – it was meant to be a double-A side effort although these things are impossible to determine when it’s CD and not vinyl. Out There and Brilliant Creatures were on Fantastic Star while Lie became the last from this incredibly bountiful song-writing period to find light of day.

Worth mentioning that the failure of the latter singles and Fantastic Star (it stalled at #54 and came nowhere close to recouping its costs) hurt Marc badly, both personally and professionally. His autobiography acknowledges his drug issues weren’t much of a help when it came to making rational decisions, and he mocks himself by referring to the album as Fading Star. It wasn’t too long before the major label let him go. His response was to establish his own independent label……

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #162 : JOCK SCOT

From wiki:-

John Graham Manson Leslie (21 September 1952 – 13 April 2016), known as Jock Scot, was a Scottish poet and recording artist.

Born in Leith, one of seven children, he was raised on a housing estate in Musselburgh, where he was nicknamed “Pooch” Leslie because of his small size. He sold soft drinks locally and worked as a labourer on building sites, until, in 1978, he threw his tam o’shanter on to the stage at an Ian Dury concert in Edinburgh, and was invited backstage. Dury invited him to join his tour party, ending up in London where he moved in with Dury and Clash associate and publicity officer Kosmo Vinyl. He worked for Stiff Records and later Charisma Records, and befriended many of the luminaries of the London punk rock scene, including the members of the Clash, Shane MacGowan, Billy Bragg, and Vivian Stanshall (formerly of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band).

Described as a “supplier of good vibes” to his friends, he began going on stage as a warm-up act for bands, reciting his poems. He regularly performed at the Edinburgh Fringe, toured with the band Rip Rig + Panic, and published a book of verse, Where Is My Heroine?, in 1993. The book drew on his earlier experience of heroin addiction in Scotland. In 1997 he recorded an album, My Personal Culloden, made with Davy Henderson of the band The Nectarine No. 9, and described at Allmusic as “a rich, fascinating travelogue through Scot’s id, ego, history, and city, all delivered in his robust musical brogue against a backdrop of experimental rock pastiches and grooves.” The album was reissued on CD in 2015.

According to his obituary in The Daily Telegraph: “He had startling presence, and a way of investing words with broad and deep meaning, and, with his interest in the Beat poets, horse racing and popular culture, straddled the worlds of London’s pub-land and the aristocratic demi-monde.” He was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, but refused chemotherapy and died in 2016, aged 63.

And from a Postcard Records EP called Pregnant With Possibilities (Volume 1):-

mp3 : Jock Scot – Grunge Girl Groan

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #215 : MORPHINE

A GUEST POSTING by HYBRID SOC PROF,
our Michigan Correspondent

When Rykodisk sent the university radio station Morphine’s first album, Good, it was 1992.

Whatever post-punk and college rock had been five to seven years before, they were done. Grunge ruled the airwaves but seemed increasingly to be a version of the Ramones but 20 years later. While the Ramones had taken early 50s rock, sped it up and ironically(?) made it dumber, a million bands in the US were now copying Pearl Jam (more than Nirvana) and mixing 70s arena rock bombast with affected post-punk alienation – The Wallflowers, anyone? In my world, Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Nirvana were still making great music, I adored Uncle Tupelo, was discovering Billy Childish, had just been introduced to The Stairs, was falling for Vic Chesnutt (while falling out with The Fall, Pogues and Mekons), found myself smitten by Teenage Fanclub, loved Henry Kaiser and David Lindley’s collaboration with Malagasy musicians, and was pretty gaga over Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet. All of which is to say that the implosion and ever-intensifying hybridization of genres that was going to set the stage for Napster to kill most of the music industry had started in earnest.

And here’s a guy with a two-string slide bass, singing lyrics in the adult vein of Leonard Cohen – totally stripped down to the most basic language – in front of a really great drummer and a saxophone, sometimes a tenor, sometimes an alto, sometimes a baritone, and sometimes two at a time. I half remembered “I Think She Likes Me,” the very minor hit Mark Sandman’s previous band, Treat Her Right, had recorded but this took the seedy-bar-at-2-am tonality of that band up an order of magnitude. There was a hint of crooner, an element of beat, underlying tragedy and struggle but, more than all that, an altogether new-to-me kind of musical and emotional space. It was the perfect music to have on while reading Walter Mosely’s series of Easy Rollins neo-noir detective fiction.

Almost every song seemed to be about loss, the potential for loss, the risk of loss… all seemingly hopeless and hopeful, lost but still fighting, beaten down but dignified. I was just starting my dissertation, the nightmare prospect of having to finally moving into a career was on the horizon and I needed adults in my musical life… or, at least that seemed to feel right. I mean, I’d already hung out at a café in Berkeley reading Nabokov, right?! I’d already worked my way through B. Traven’s book, The Death Ship, yeah? I was already weaving all manner of things through the four holes in my left ear, nowhatImean? (OK, I’m not sure I was all THAT young but, forgive me, I was young, at least young-ish, and a romantic, seeking the sublime.)

Rather devastatingly, most of the way through the recording The Night (2000), Sandman died, at 46, on July 3, 1999, on stage early on in a performance in Palestrino, Italy. There is an well-done, slightly provocative documentary – Cure for Pain: The Mark Sandman Story – that was released in 2011 that digs up some material on Sandman’s life but leaves many questions unanswered. I saw them, twice, once in San Francisco and once in a park bandshell in Boston, Sandman and the band were great performers.

My approach for this Imaginary Compilation is to provide snippets of lyrics. Read them, listen to the song, read the next set, listen… lather, rinse, repeat. I’m hoping it works.

1. You Look Like Rain (from Good, 1992)

Your mind, and your experience, call to me.
You have lived, and your intelligence, is sexy.
I want to know what you’ve got to say,
I want to know what you’ve got to say,
I want to know what you’ve got to say,
I can tell you taste like the sky
Because you look like rain.

2. Have a Lucky Day (from Good, 1992)

Now I’m sitting at a Blackjack table
And I swear to God my dealer has a tag, says Mabel.
Hit me, hit me, I smile at Mabel,
Soon they’re bringing complimentary drinks to the table.
Players win and winners play…
Have a lucky day!

3. Cure for Pain (from Cure for Pain, 1993)

And tell me where,
Where’s all that money that I spent?
I propose a toast to my self-control
You see it crawling, helpless on the floor.
Someday there’ll be a cure for pain,
That’s the day I throw my drugs away.
When they find a cure for pain!

4. I Know You (Pt III) (from Like Swimming, 1997)

Give me a kiss, hello, goodbye.
What’s the difference?
Just end everything you say with a smile
Wave goodbye, hello – with that look in your eye…
Forwards, backwards, back it down the drive,
The curtains in the window, wave goodbye,
Hello, there’s that look in your eye,
and your crazy smile…
I know you & you know me too,
I know everything that you’re going through
I know you & you know me too,
I know everything that you’re going to do.

5. Thursday (from Cure for Pain, 1993)

One of the neighbors that saw my car
And they told her yea they told her
I think they know who you are
Well her husband he’s a violent man, a very violent and jealous man
Now I have to leave this town I got to leave while I still can
We should have kept it every Thursday, Thursday, Thursday in the afternoon
For a couple of beers and a game of pool.

6. Top Floor, Bottom Buzzer (from The Night, 2000)

We’re going to a party. Our friends will all be there.
I got the directions. It’s across the river somewhere.
We rang the top floor, bottom buzzer.
Top floor, bottom buzzer. Top floor, bottom buzzer.
The middle won’t work. Ring the one under.

7. Early to Bed (from Like Swimming, 1997)

Early to bed so you can wait,
For 3 buses a trolley and a train.
I think it’s worth it for you to stay awake,
Maybe tomorrow you’ll be a little late, but
Early to bed and early to rise,
Makes a man or woman miss out on the nightlife…

8. You Speak My Language (from Good, 1992)

All around the world, everywhere I go,
No one understands me,
no one knows what I’m trying to say.
Even in my home town,
My friends make me write it down,
They look at me, when I talk to them,
And they shrug their shoulders.
They go, “What’s he talking about?”
But you…. you speak my language!
But you…. you speak my language!
Yes!

9. Buena (from Cure for Pain, 1993)

Well come on a little closer let me see your face
Yeah come on a little closer by the front of the stage
I said come on a little closer I got something to say
Yeah come on a little closer want to see your face
You see I met a devil named Buena Buena,
And since I met the devil I ain’t been the same, oh no!

10. Empty Box (from Like Swimming, 1997)

In the morning, I was by the sea,
And I swam out, as far as I could swim
Until I was too tired to swim anymore,
And then I floated,
And tried to get my strength back.
And then an empty box came floatin’ by
An empty box, and I crawled inside.
Half in the shadows, half in the husky moonlight
And half insane, just a sound in the night

Thanks,

HSP

 

THE BEAR NECESSITIES

I made mention yesterday of how much I had enjoyed the theatre show ‘What Girls Are Made Of’, making reference to the role played by all four members of the highly talented cast.

One of the four was Susan Bear, whose main role was to re-enact the part of the band’s drummer Cathryn Stirling.

It had been quite a while I had last caught sight of Susan on any stage. I had first seen her back in 2014 when a new and really intriguing band called Tuff Love burst onto the Glasgow scene.

Tuff Love was a duo consisting of Julie Eisenstein on guitar and vocals and Suse Bear on bass and vocals, who also called on their friend Iain Stewart, a member of The Phantom Band (who were on the roster of Chemikal Underground to play drums in the live setting. The music they made was lo-fi to the extreme, made entirely at home with Suse utilising the engineering and production skills she was learning within her college course. It was, nevertheless, something of an enchanting listen, issued on vinyl by Lost Map Records, a label which itself was just starting to make some waves on the local scene having been founded by Jonny Lynch of The Pictish Trail following his decision to end his association with the critically acclaimed and successful Fence Records.

Tuff Love seemed to be a throwback to the C86 era in their wholly independent approach to music making which extended itself to their live shows which, it has to be said, were often a bit hit-and-miss, usually because the venue’s sound man (and it was inevitably a bloke) failing dismally to get the mix right with the drums overwhelming the lightness of the vocals and playing. Having said that, when they did get it right, they were as enthralling and intriguing an act as any, and I was at a fair number of their shows during 2014 and 2015, whether as headliners or as part of the support acts.

There were three 10” EPs, all of which had self-deprecating titles.  The first was called Junk, the second was named Dross and the third was given the name Dregs; the records were released over a period of some eighteen months from the summer of 2014, with each of them containing five tracks. The last time I saw Tuff Love was at Stereo in Glasgow, in early 2016, not long after the label had issued Resort, bringing together all 15 tracks from the EPs in one handy compilation on CD and vinyl. It was a great show, and I was certain the band would go on to bigger things.

It turns out that they would spend the summer on the bills of most of the summer festivals after which they just disappeared off the radar. I’m guessing that Julie and Suze chose to go their separate ways although I don’t recall any announcement from the band or label.

Susan is now described as a Glasgow-based multi-instrumentalist, sound designer and performer with her part in the 2018 production of What Girls Want proving to be the first play she had ever performed in, although you would never have known that such was the confidence she exuded on the stage.

I’m not sure what the future hold for her, but you can be certain that it will be intriguing and worth keeping an eye out for.

In the meantime, here’s Track 1 from each of the 3 EPs:-

mp3 : Tuff Love – Sweet Discontent
mp3 : Tuff Love – Slammer
mp3 : Tuff Love – Duke

JC

WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get myself along to a Glasgow staging of the theatre show ‘What Girls Are Made Of’, which itself had first come to prominence and huge acclaim at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year.

The show was the brainchild of Cora Bissett, one of Scotland’s leading lights in the world of theatre whether in an acting, writing or directing and it was based on her own experiences as a teenage indie pop-star (of sorts) back in the mid 90s.

Cora was the singer in Darlingheart, a band from Glenrothes, which is a town just a few miles north of Kirkcaldy where my beloved Raith Rovers FC play their home matches. Over the course of some 80 minutes, the tale unfolds of how a 17-year old kid, having answered an advert in a very local paper looking for a vocalist influenced by Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Pixies, R.E.M, and Throwing Muses, found herself within a matter of months after working up a demo, whisked off to London to sign a very lucrative contract with a major label, only for it to go very badly wrong.

What Girls Are Made Of proved to be a superbly conceived show, with Cora playing herself, switching effortlessly between the now, when she is a reflective and street-wise 40-something and to her past, whether at home with her family, in the studio or on stage with her bandmates or in the ‘wilderness’ years as she tried to piece things back together on the back of the band’s failure to crack the big time.

The show is, without any shadow of a doubt, helped by the performances of the three other members of the cast, all of whom portray, with great energy, a multitude of characters including the other members of Darlingheart, the Bisset family and a range of real-life folk from the music industry. There’s a nostalgic feeling about it all for much of the time, and the band’s experiences on the road with the likes of The Sultans of Ping, a then largely unknown Radiohead and a beery, leery falling apart at the seams pre-Parklife Blur, are recounted with self-deprecating humour. The show did often feel like a gig, albeit in short bursts around the narrative which really takes a grip after the band has broken up as Cora reflects on life, love and loss – the laughter among the audience soon gives way to sobs and tears. One reviewer said:-

“What Girls Are Made Of has the capacity to lift you up and break your heart at the same time, and the audience gave a well-deserved standing ovation for this multi-talented cast.”

Darlingheart were dropped by the label after two singles failed to crack the charts and the debut album, Serendipity, had been subject to a particularly vicious review in the NME, much of which was an attack on the teenage frontwoman, with accusations of her being manufactured and talentless.

The irony, of course, is that the band were far from manufactured and talentless, albeit the music that was being released didn’t stand out too much from the crowd. They were just four working-class kids, being very badly advised and guided by unscrupulous folk out to make a quick buck out of the work of others, and who were chewed and spat-out when someone said they were no longer flavour of the day. I’ve one single in my collection, picked up after Jacques the Kipper had included it on a compilation tape back in the day:-

mp3 : Darlingheart – Wish You Were Here

One of the other actors in the show was someone I recognised immediately – I was surprised to see them on the stage as I hadn’t realised they had moved away from simply being part of a band into the thespian arena. Tune in tomorrow for more.

JC

HISTORY REPEATING

A few weeks ago, on Saturday 4 May to be precise, I went along to the CCA in Glasgow in the company of Aldo and Mike G.

As the poster indicates, it was to catch three bands playing on the Golden Week Tour 2019, with Glasgow being the closing show after Manchester, Leicester, Bristol, London and Leeds.  Here’s an edited review of the Golden Week Tour show in Glasgow as written by Martin Wilson for the Overblown website:-

The Golden Week Tour has been a bit of a masterstroke by Damnably who have brought Japan’s Otoboke Beaver and South Korea’s Say Sue Me over to the UK for a quick five date sprint around the country on the back of releases for both bands on Record Store Day. In Japan the Golden Week is the longest holiday of the year and given that all members of Otoboke Beaver work full time, it’s the longest period they can take off. It’s very much the UK’s gain that they did.

Say Sue Me’s sound is mainly sun-drenched indie pop, perhaps along the lines of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart or Alvvays. The occasional song veers into fuzzier territory and I’m reminded of Jesus and the Mary Chain at times. Regardless of who they remind me of they are utterly charming to watch live. They sound pristine, they look like they’re having a fabulous time and it seems the crowd are too. I’ll forever be smitten by harmonies, hooks, punchy bass lines and driving guitars and Say Sue Me provide all that in spades. Come back soon.

Then it’s the turn of Otoboke Beaver and Oh. My. God. They’re a photographers dream, I’m pretty convinced I loved them before I’d ever heard a note simply because of the imagery on social media, limbs flailing, bodies all over the place, punk rock pandemonium personified. Thankfully their sound reflects all this precisely.

What strikes me first is the ludicrous levels of musical ability these girls have. They should be adorning the covers of every muso magazine in the world, stamping a high heel in the face of whoever the latest guitar hero dude is on the way. Their ability squeezes every inch out of their songs which are of the breakneck speed variety. There’s fragments of all sorts in here, hardcore punk, indie rock, sometimes verging on metal. Can you imagine Bis covering System of a Down? No, neither can I but I don’t think it’d be miles away from the sheer mayhem of sound Otoboke Beaver conjure up.

It’s frankly impossible to take your eyes off them even to simply catch your breath for a second. They’re like an exaggeration of something from the battle of the bands in the Scott Pilgrim movie but they’d wipe the floor with any of that cinematic nonsense. There’s a lot of posturing for sure, the performance is all rock posing, call and response vocals, stop-start songs, huge riffs, crowd surfing and to be this good it’s surely all been rehearsed within an inch of its life. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t come across as rehearsed, they carry and organic sense of chaos like they’ve arrived on stage, planted their roots and are now gonna spread across the venue like creeping ivy on speed, smothering every inch of the room and destroying anything in their path.

The language barrier is irrelevant with music this good. Between songs they’ve picked up enough English to explain they’re broke and we must buy their merch. “Now dancing, after shopping” and “We have no money, buy so no go back to work” seem to be the useful phrases picked up on tour. Their English is infinitely better than my Japanese and they say this between just about every song. Guitarist Yoyoyoshie leads us into another blast of music by screaming the band’s name into the mic and manically waving her arms like she’s trying to raise the dead into some kind of vengeful maelstrom. It works. Every time.

I’m not sure when I’ve seen a performance like this before, or when I will again but I hope Otoboke Beaver will be back. If not, that’s it, I’m packing my Glasgow bags and moving to Kyoto. These four girls should be superstars. Don’t rest until they are.

Here’s the thing.   That’s the review from the Golden Week tour back in 2017.  It was one I only read a few days after I’d been along in 2019, but word-for-word it was exactly how I felt at the end of the night.

The reason for going along was to catch Say Sue Me having fallen heavily for their charms when they headlined a show at Stereo in Glasgow last Autumn.  It was one of my highlights of 2018 and the set in 2019 will live long in the memory….and I’m hopeful, like last year, they will come back for their own headline set given they are full time musicians and not quite restricted in their ability to come to the UK as the headliners (indeed, Say Sue Me toured extensively in Europe, the UK and Ireland on either side of Golden Week 2019).

But nothing had prepared me, or indeed Aldo or Mike G, for Otoboke Beaver.  I’ve been going to watch live music for more than 40 years now, and so I will have been to at least 1,000 shows in my time.  But I have never experienced anything quite as dynamic, uplifting and plain bonkers as the hour of entertainment provided by these four ridiculously talented women, Accorinrin (Lead Vocal & Guitar), Yoyoyoshie (Guitar & Vocals), Hiro-chan (Bass & Vocals) and Kahokiss (Drums & Vocals).   The studio recorded stuff is fine, but it doesn’t come anywhere close to capturing the magic of actually seeing them and picking up on the energy they generate with each performance.

It was a genuine jaw-dropper of an evening.

Oh, and I should also add that Drinking Boys and Girls Choir, the opening act on the night, were also hugely entertaining.  I’ll be picking up physical copies of their material in due course.  In the meantime here’s some tunes:-

mp3 : Say Sue Me – Old Town (single version)
mp3 : Otoboke Beaver – S’il Vous Plait

And some footage:-

JC