SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #243: THE PETTED LIPS

“Park Lane Studio in Glasgow was host to many young bands in the 80’s, often making their first recordings and still seeking a record deal. Some became successful, and a vibrant scene soon developed centred around the studio.
Now the studio archives have been prised open and a treasure trove of fascinating and unreleased tapes discovered. This album offers a unique glimpse into the history of the studio and the bands that recorded there.”

Track 16 on this compilation, released in 2009, is, to the best of my knowledge, the only recording by the band in question:-

The Petted Lips: an unsigned band featuring Park Lane studio manager Fiona Palmer together with John Palmer who played with Deacon Blue, and others. Fiona’s brother Graeme Duffin is a member of Wet Wet Wet, who provided the studio with their first number-one single – their Childline benefit song ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ came out of Park Lane.

mp3: The Petted Lips – Somebody

It’s got that early-mid 80s feel about it, not far removed from the likes of Sunset Gun or His Latest Flame, who both got signed by major labels.

I’ve hunted high and low but can’t find any mention of The Petted Lips outside of the booklet that accompanied the release of this CD.

JC

WHEN LLOYD MET MATT

Matt Johnson, in conversation, 2008

“Lloyd and I used to have small studios/offices down the corridor from each other at Harold Dessau studios in downtown New York. It was like a sort of miniature, funky Brill building really. They had a main studio, which is where I recorded much of NakedSelf, and a nice rehearsal space, plus also a bunch of rooms that people would rent for their own use over the long term. It was a great place with a wonderful atmosphere. Lots of wooden floors, high ceilings, dusty velvet curtains and slow-moving ceiling fans. Totally unsuited to being a studio in a technical way but with a really warm and inspiring atmosphere.

It was my favourite studio outside my own place in London. We all really, really loved it down there, but sadly it’s since been demolished. There were quite a few people in there at its height from the mid to late 90’s and many of us would often pop into each other’s rooms to borrow equipment or just have a chat and a cup of tea. Lloyd and myself would often do that of a morning, bitching and moaning about the state of the industry or Britain or raving about some new piece of equipment or whatever. I sang on his album first I think and then he returned the favour by singing on GlobalEyes on NakedSelf, although his album came out quite a bit after mine.”

Matt is spot on in terms of the sequencing of the songs.  NakedSelf was released in 2000, while Memphis, the Lloyd Cole song on which he contributed a vocal, didn’t come out until 2002 on the album Etc.

mp3: The The – GlobalEyes
mp3: Lloyd Cole – Memphis

A couple of things.  LC’s contribution is very much as a backing vocalist among others and you’d be hard pushed to pick him out. MJ’s vocal on Memphis is also of the backing variety, but he’s on his own and you can just about recognise that it is him.  Oh, and Memphis was written by the actress Karen Black, which she sang, in character as country singer Connie White, in the 1975 film Nashville, directed by Robert Altman.

JC

 

RIPPING BADGERS CDs (Part 3): CORNERSHOP

Ripping Badgers CDs
The nearly finished A to Z Charity Shop CD Challenge #3

Handcream For A Generation (1988, Go! Discs)
Bought from Oxfam, Teignmouth for £1.99

I’ve mentioned before the two Indian Brothers who moved into the house next door to my Dad when I was 14. The two brothers (who I am going to call Bill and Bob) later bought the small newsagents next door to the 24-hour garage, where I worked for them for four years on and off. At the time Bill was 23 and Bob was 21. I’m only half-joking when I say that within six months of Bill and Bob owning it, the newsagents became a front for a medium-sized criminal enterprise.

I lost count of the number of random cousins that would turn up at the shop at around 7am on a Thursday morning carrying black bin bags and then leave ten minutes later without the bin bag. Bob the younger of the brothers would then disappear into the storeroom attached to the end of the shop and come back a few minutes later, often wearing a new watch or a new piece of jewellery.

I also lost count of the amount of time Bill – the older, bigger, more muscular brother, would suddenly get a call to the shop phone and would have to dash off to the ‘Cash and Carry’ despite it being 6.30am on a Sunday and the Cash and Carry was shut for at least another three hours He would come back two hours later, in different clothes, and sporting bruised knuckles.

On New Years Day 1993 I found out why you didn’t mess with them (I mean I didn’t anyway). I arrived for work around 7am, having come direct from OPG’s house – I was slightly hungover. Bill was the only brother there and he was pretty hungover. Around eight, Bill said he was ‘popping next door for breakfast’. He said he would be five minutes.

Two minutes later, a lad called Gavin entered the store. I knew Gavin. Sort of. He lived in the children’s home around the corner from the shop. Gavin was 16 and a testosterone fuelled ball of evil. He strolled up to the counter and asked me for Ten Benson and Hedges, which I gave him. He then stood down by the magazines and for the next ten minutes he stood there leafing through the top-shelf magazines. It slowly dawned on me that something was going on, Gavin had started making a small pile of magazines. It was clear he was going to make a run for it with the mags.

I managed to position myself between Gavin and the door and as predicted he turned to ran towards the door. Sadly for me, Gavin left his right hand free and he whacked me hard and fast once to the stomach. Which winded me and made me heave up about two pints of lasts night cider.

Sadly for Gavin, he ran straight into the looming figure of Bill, who despite being way more hungover than me, didn’t collapse to the floor after a whack in the belly. I remember Bill grabbing Gavin by the arm and throwing him back into the shop like he was box of biscuits.

Five minutes later, Gavin was in sitting in the back of the shop sobbing, he was unhurt. Bob had arrived with three other lads. Bob looked at me, chucked me a copy of the Mirror and told me to deliver it to Rami’s dad. Rami lived a good thirty-minute walk away. Rami was also one of three guys who turned up with Bob.

An hour later I walked back into the shop. Bill was alone and I asked him what had happened. He looked at me and smiled. I asked again. This is as much of the conversation as I can remember.

“Nothing” he said with a laugh. “The five of us shut the shop, pulled the blinds down and just stood there in silence, arms folded, every now and again Rami would shout something in Punjabi at him. Usually words like ‘Potato’ or ‘chocolate sauce’, we don’t speak much Punjabi really”.

I looked at him, not sure if I believed him or not. Bill went on, taking a huge drag on the cigarette he’d produced from somewhere.

“After about ten minutes Bob and the other three left, leaving just me. I’m the biggest you see. He just kept telling me how sorry he was. So I thought, here’s a good idea. I told him that if he was really sorry he could work for me until he’s paid back the value of what he tried to nick”.

And with that Bill got up and walked to the back of the shop and opened the door. There out the back was Gavin, on New Years Day in the freezing cold, pulling up stinging nettles from the patch of ground between the shop and the fence belonging to the garage.

“We were never to going to hurt him, he’s a kid. So I taught him some respect.”

Bob is now a taxi driver in Chatham. He and his brother sold the shop in 2004. In 2010 a Domino’s Pizza moved into the premises. Bill, moved to Chennai in India in 2006, where he married and now owns a herb farm. Not that type of ‘herb’.

All of which chin-stroking and message giving brings us to the third CD in the nearly finished charity shop challenge, which is of course ‘Handcream For A Generation’, the fourth studio album by Cornershop, and I apologise for the horrific stereotype around Cornershops that I have heavily relied upon above.

‘Handcream… is the album that followed the all-conquering Britpop squashing ‘When I Was Born for the Seventh Time’. It is a huge melting pot of different musical ideas, sounds and blends. Something which we came to expect from Cornershop, around this time. Certainly, it’s a long way from their early punky gigs in which guitars were out of tune, and barely played correctly.

This album goes starts with funky soul and introduces a children’s choir by track two.

mp3: Staging the Plaguing of the Raised Platform – Cornershop

Then before you get halfway you’ve been taken through deep house, reggae, dub and a little bit of indie rock. At times Cornershop appear to be trying to sound like ‘Homework’ era Daft Punk. Trying and succeeding if you ask me. I mean who else apart from Daft Punk could intersperse snippets from an in-flight attendant into a piece of music and make it work?

mp3 – London Radar – Cornershop

The band I think were always expected to produce ‘Brimful of Asha’ part two, a big full on anthem with a sing a long chorus that earns them loads of radio play and all that. But this is Cornershop and they don’t do that.
I suppose there is always this one. (JC interjects…..the one that pays tribute to T.Rex and glam-rock)

mp3: – Lessons Learned from Rocky I to Rocky III – Cornershop

The second half of the album is slightly more psychedelic than the first and no more so than ‘Spectral Mornings’. In which Noel Gallagher is drafted in to channel his inner George Harrison, on a fourteen minute overblown sitar inspired wig out (its easily seven minutes too long). A song that I always expect to see featured on one of the ‘Mondays Long Song’ series that run concurrently across various blogs at the moment.

mp3: Spectral Mornings – Cornershop

I only own two Cornershop albums, the two I have mentioned on this piece. My opinion on them changes on a regular basis. At times I think ‘Handcream…’ is way too clever for its own good, and tracks like ‘Spectral Mornings’ are smug and cumbersome. Today when I’ve spun this in the background whilst writing I think it’s a work of genius, a kind of world music disco intended to make us dance, think and smile.

Apart from ‘Spectral Mornings’ that’s still seven minutes too long.

SWC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #274 : SAUERKRAUT INSTEAD OF PORRIDGE

or
Learn German with Songs: 10 Classic German Music Hits That You Ought To Know!

A guest posting by Dirk (Sexy Loser)

Hello friends,

Well, yes, it took a while, didn’t it? But here it is, yet another ICA from me – and rather a different one perhaps, it must be said.

The reason for the delay was that I had to wait for a re-confirmation from the European Judicial Cooperation Unit in The Hague, Netherlands, to be officially entitled to send it in. Basically they said that as long as the UK’s status within the EU is still unclear it might not comply with legal requirements to have an ICA like this (German tunes only) being issued by a UK blogger before the effective date of the policy endorsement: January 1st, 2021. I assume by now you have already guessed what I am talking about? Right, blame it on Brexit or, if you’d rather, on wunnerful Boris!

On him and on Brexit and on this other issue, Corona. Thankfully we all managed to stay safe and healthy here in Sexyloserland, it has to be said though that with all that home office (i.e. spending half of the day lying virtually motionless on the sofa watching ‘Dr. House’ without cessation), supporting local restaurants (i.e. ordering unhealthy fast food every other day in order to eat it on the sofa whilst watching more ‘Dr. House’) plus having had the strong patriotic feeling that the German beer industry also needed massive support from my side, my obeseness has nearly reached a level which entitles me to join the next season of ‘The Biggest Loser’. Consequentially I went to bed early last year and couldn’t be arsed to spend time in front of the PC, to care for new music or even much of old music a great deal.

But things will change from today on, of course: the new year has begun, the vaccine is available and if the German health minister doesn’t fail completely with its distribution (as of today he certainly does everything to fuck it up big time though, it must be said), there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I mean, whenever people of my age will be able to see said light (read: get the vaccine). Ask me again in a year or so …

But okay, enough of this! This ICA has been spinning around my head for quite a while, but along with never getting around to starting it, I could never decide which songs to include, or rather, to exclude. As mentioned previously, it’s all German bands, all songs sung in German. There’s a shitload of brilliant German bands who sing in English, but those aren’t featured. Also the usual suspects are not featured, so those of you who are already looking forward to krautrock, Kraftwerk or Nena: sorry indeed!

I mean, it’s clear to me that at the end of the day this ICA might very well just meet with the approval of Walter and the rest of you will skip it without hesitation anyway. Then again this might turn out to be a mistake: even though the lyrics will possibly remain a mystery, the songs are worth getting heard, all of them! I could offer translations, but hey, there’s Google Translator for you if you’re interested. Also it will give you a feeling of my 40-year-difficulties in trying to understand what bands from, say, Scotland or Liverpool are trying to tell me.

But enough of that, here we go

S.Y.P.H. – ‘Der Letzte Held’ (’85)

S.Y.P.H. were original German punk contenders, starting in Solingen in 1977. Their founding members later went to form or join other great bands, such as Mittagspause, Propaganda or Die Krupps.

‘Der Letzte Held’ (‘The Last Hero’) tells us the story of a bloke who lives in the city, apparently still following his ideals which seem to be rather outdated though. Although it isn’t being mentioned in the lyrics, he might be an old punk perhaps. People laugh at him because of what he is and stands for and basically he has become a reject of society – he doesn’t realize this though. Or he just doesn’t care.

Über ihn haben alle gelacht, über ihn werden Witze gemacht
Samstagnacht in der Innenstadt isst er sich so richtig satt
Er wartet und muss an allen Ecken hoffen dass andere für ihn verrecken
Greift den Leuten in die Ohren, lässt sich Grimassen in die Ohren bohren
Er schlürft daher mit seinem Gesicht, in den Pfützen sieht er’s nicht
Zieht die Nase durch den Dreck, unser kleiner Bürgerschreck
Er ist der letzte Held auf unseren Straßen, einer von denen, den sie vergaßen
Bei der Reinigung wegzufegen und in den Schrank zurück zu legen
Die Großstadt ist seine Unterkunft, hier schreit er nach einer Unvernunft
Doch die Straßen bleiben still weil keiner davon wissen will
Er kotzt vor jedem deutschen Haus ein Stückchen seiner Kultur heraus
Doch keiner dreht sich um zu seinem Universum
Über ihn haben alle gelacht, über ihn werden Witze gemacht
Samstagnacht in der Innenstadt isst er sich so richtig satt
Er ist der letzte Held auf unseren Straßen, einer von denen, den sie vergaßen
Bei der Reinigung wegzufegen und in den Schrank zurück zu legen
Er ist der letzte Held auf unseren Straßen, einer von denen, den sie vergaßen
Bei der Reinigung wegzufegen und in den Schrank zurück zu legen
Er ist der letzte Held auf unseren Straßen, einer von denen, den sie vergaßen
Bei der Reinigung wegzufegen und in den Schrank zurück zu legen
Zu den Kollegen zurück zu legen
Er ist der letzte Held auf unseren Straßen
Er ist der letzte Held auf unseren Straßen
Einer von denen, den sie vergaßen
Bei der Reinigung wegzufegen und in den Schrank zurück zu legen
Und in die letzte Ecke zu fegen
Er ist der letzte Held

S-Chords – ‚Voran! Voran!‘ (’86)

It is nearly impossible to ascertain any information about the S-Chords on the internet. And this is a real shame, because in my humble opinion this song here might possibly be is my favorite German one. The S-Chords are definitely Düsseldorf’s finest, that’s for sure, and for those of you who expected me to say this about Die Toten Hosen – forget about it: they sucked from their second single on, and this was released back in 1982. Perhaps this song is so good because it was written by Peter Schiffers, ex guitarist from Stunde X, again a superior German outfit.
‘Voran! Voran!’ translates as ‚Ahead! Ahead!’, and by and large this is the song’s only message: never look back, don’t dream about the past and its mistakes, just look ahead because life has to go on:

Der Glanz von einst ist längst verblasst
Doch der neue Anfang ist noch nicht verpasst
Noch bleibt Zeit etwas zu tun
Keine Sekunde uns auszuruhen
Nichts bleibt wie es einmal war
Wir hoffen auf was Neues, doch was, das ist nicht klar
Kein Blick zurück im Zorn
Alle Augen richten sich nach vorn
Dreh‘ dich nicht um, bleib‘ nicht stehen
Schaue nach vorn
Dreh‘ dich nicht um, bleib‘ nicht stehen
Denn es muss weitergehen
Dreh‘ dich nicht um, bleib‘ nicht stehen
Schaue nach vorn
Dreh‘ dich nicht um, bleib‘ nicht stehen
Denn es muss weitergehen
Denn es muss weitergehen
Erinnerungen, Fotos und Nostalgie
Versetzen uns nur in Apathie
Du hast geglaubt es wär‘ vorbei
Was hast du dir bloß gedacht dabei?
Du fragst nach dem Weg, wo geht es lang?
Keine Ahnung – unsere Losung heißt ‚Voran, Voran!‘
Du fragst nach dem Weg, wo geht es lang?
Keine Ahnung – unsere Losung heißt ‚Voran, Voran!‘
Dreh‘ dich nicht um, bleib‘ nicht stehen
Schaue nach vorn
Dreh‘ dich nicht um, bleib‘ nicht stehen
Denn es muss weitergehen
Dreh‘ dich nicht um, bleib‘ nicht stehen
Schaue nach vorn
Dreh‘ dich nicht um, bleib‘ nicht stehen
Denn es muss weitergehen
Denn es muss weitergehen
Voran, Voran! (x 6)
Dreh‘ dich nicht um, bleib‘ nicht stehen
Schaue nach vorn
Dreh‘ dich nicht um, bleib‘ nicht stehen
Denn es muss weitergehen
Dreh‘ dich nicht um, bleib‘ nicht stehen
Schaue nach vorn
Dreh‘ dich nicht um, bleib‘ nicht stehen
Denn es muss weitergehen (x 4)

Die Lassie Singers – ‚P.A.R.A.N.O.I.D.‘ (’92)

Die Lassie Singers came from Berlin and were active from ’88 to ’98. I once saw them live in the early 90’s and what a wonderful gig this was! They were styled ‘the first German girl-band’, and there’s an element of truth in that.
‘P.A.R.A.N.O.I.D.’ comes from their second album, ‚Sei A Go Go‘, which I recommend without any reservation in its entirety. In it, as in most of their songs, they describe boy/girl -relation difficulties, or rather girl/boy – relation difficulties. Here it’s even somewhat different, so much so that Kathrin (on main vocals) heavily complains about her life and men in general, but the other girls, instead of helping her, blame her for her own misery.

100.000 Horrorhelden spielen in mir Stummer Zoo
Gar nicht wahr – du lässt dich gehen
Menschen machen sich Geschenke und ich weiß‘ nicht mal wo
Schau doch nach, schau einfach nach
Ich werd‘ nicht wach, wo soll das enden?
P.a.r.a.n.o.i.d.
Vergesst mich nicht, lasst mich nicht hier
P.a.r.a.n.o.i.d. – P.a.r.a.n.o.i.d.
Was ist los?
Verdammt noch mal, was für ein Hundeleben!
Sei Motor
Was heißt Motor, ich bin so daneben
Du bist ein alter Jammerlappen
Nein
Doch
Nein
Doch
Nein
Scheiss egal
Was heißt egal, ich macht es euch ganz schön leicht
Hör doch mal
Ja, ich hör‘ auf, weil’s mir sowieso reicht
Nebelsumpfgasschabe, du bist p.a.r.a.n.o.i.d.
Alle wollen nur bei mir duschen, seh‘ ich aus wie ein Hotel?
Sei Hotel, sei du Hotel
Dann leihen sie sich Langspielplatten, keiner will was sexuell
Kann nicht sein, das liegt an dir
Alle wollen was von mir haben
P.a.r.a.n.o.i.d.
Keiner will was von mir wissen
P.a.r.a.n.o.i.d. P.a.r.a.n.o.i.d.
Was ist los?
Verdammt noch mal, was für ein Hundeleben!
Sei Motor
Was heißt Motor, ich bin so daneben
Du bist ein alter Jammerlappen
Gar nicht
Doch
Nein
Doch
Nein
Scheiss egal
Was heißt egal, ich macht es euch ganz schön leicht
Hör doch mal
Ja, ich hör‘ auf, weil’s mir sowieso reicht
Nebelsumpfgasschabe, du bist p.a.r.a.n.o.i.d.
klugesau
blödesau
minmeochsau
lassmichinruhe

Alle wollen was von mir haben
P.a.r.a.n.o.i.d.
Keiner will was von mir wissen
P.a.r.a.n.o.i.d. P.a.r.a.n.o.i.d.
Was ist los?
Verdammt noch mal, was für ein Hundeleben!
Sei Motor
Was heißt Motor, ich bin so daneben
Du bist ein alter Jammerlappen
Nöö
Doch
Nöö
Doch
Nein
Scheiss egal
Was heißt egal, ich macht es euch ganz schön leicht
Hör doch mal
Ja, ich hör‘ auf, weil’s mir sowieso reicht
Nebelsumpfgasschabe, du bist p.a.r.a.n.o.i.d.

Die Sterne – ‚Universal Tellerwäscher‘ (Singlemix ’94)

Hamburger Schule for you, friends. Or ‘School of Hamburg’, if you’d rather. This is what ‘this kind of music’ was called at the time, bands didn’t necessarily have to come from Hamburg though (albeit Die Sterne actually came from there): intellectual indie pop with German lyrics was the main criteria in order to become part of Hamburger Schule basically. A great band, clever lyrics, and still active these days.

‘Universal Tellerwäscher’ (‘Universal Dishwasher’) describes how the singer’s life changed from rather good to rather bad, so bad at least that he now works as a dishwasher in the Universal film studios.

Er hat immer Hunger
Er muß immer essen
Er muß wohnen und schlafen
Und vergessen
Dass gestern wie heute wird
Heute wie morgen
Und dass in diesem Laden herzlich wenig passiert
Er drängelt sich in Bahnen
Und schubst sich aus dem Haus
In die Gegend wo man ihn erwartet
Und verbraucht
Er kennt sich schon lange
Und kann sich nicht mehr sehen
Dabei gibt es wirklich 1000 schöne Filme über ihn
Als den Universal Tellerwäscher
In den Studios
Er wäscht wirklich Teller
Er tut nicht so
Ich hatte Haben
Ich hatte Geld gespart
Ich lief durch die Phasen
War im Apparat
In diesem und jenem
Um nicht alle zu nennen
Ich lief auf der Stelle
Und fing an zu rennen
Nichts hat geholfen
Ich hab alles verspielt
Die Tage sehen gleich aus
Es sind zu viel
Jeder Tag ist ein Verfahren
Gegen mich
Ich weiß nicht warum und wer
Sich was davon verspricht
Ich möchte einen Anwalt
Ich will Geld
Und ich möchte Gottverdammtnochmal
Dass jemand sein Versprechen hält
Universal Tellerwäscher
In den Studios
Ich wasche wirklich Teller
Ich tu nicht so
Er hat immer Hunger
Er muß immer essen
Er muß wohnen und schlafen
Und er muss vergessen
Dass gestern wie heute wird
Heute wie morgen
Und dass in diesem Laden herzlich wenig passiert
Er drängelt sich in Bahnen
Und schubst sich aus dem Haus
In die Gegend wo man ihn erwartet
Und verbraucht
Er kennt sich schon lange
Und kann sich nicht mehr sehen
Dabei gibt es wirklich 1000 schöne Filme über ihn
Als den Universal Tellerwäscher
In den Studios
Er wäscht wirklich Teller
Er tut nicht so
Universal Tellerwäscher
In den Studios
Er wäscht wirklich Teller
Er tut nicht so
Universal Tellerwäscher
In den Studios
Er wäscht wirklich Teller
Er tut nicht so
Universal Tellerwäscher
In den Studios
Er wäscht wirklich Teller
Er tut nicht so

Tocotronic – ‚Wir Sind Hier Nicht In Seattle, Dirk‘ (’95)

More Hamburger Schule, and – like Die Sterne – Tocotronic came from Hamburg, too. Also they are still active today, at least as far as I know.

The song (‘We Are Not In Seattle Here, Dirk’) has not been chosen because my name is being mentioned in the title (the singer is called Dirk as well, Dirk von Lowtzow, that’s why). No, I picked it because it’s my favorite from their debut album, ‘Digital Ist Besser’. I say ‘favorite’, but that’s a hard choice, I mean, all songs are wonderful and everyone who sees this album as a milestone of German music history is entirely right, of course.

The lyrics, well, are rather simple: Dirk doubts and/or overestimates his own musical abilities (“ and quite rightly so”, I hear you say: oh, go away!) and his girlfriend tells him not to be so negative about himself: go back to basics, she says, and stop pretending something to yourself which will never happen anyway …

Sie hat zwei Beine
Und sie hat zwei Augen
Und aus denen kann sie schauen
Und sie schaut zu mir
Und ich bin alleine
Und hab’ kein Vertrauen
Und kann Melodien klauen
Und sie sagt zu mir
Wir sind hier nicht in Seattle, Dirk
Und werden es auch niemals sein
Wir sind hier nicht in Seattle, Dirk
Was bildest du dir ein?
Was nicht ist, kann niemals sein
Ich spring’ über meinen Schatten
Und sie hat gut lachen
Was machst du denn für Sachen?
Was kann ich dafür?
Und alles, was wir hatten
Und alles, was wir machen
Schätzchen lass es krachen
Und komm zu mir
Wir sind hier nicht in Seattle, Dirk
Und werden es auch niemals sein
Wir sind hier nicht in Seattle, Dirk
Was bildest du dir ein?
Was nicht ist, kann niemals sein
Wir sind hier nicht in Seattle, Dirk
Und werden es auch niemals sein
Wir sind hier nicht in Seattle, Dirk
Was bildest du dir ein?
Was nicht ist, kann niemals sein
Niemals sein

Ideal – ‚Blaue Augen‘ (live in Aachen ’81)

Back in the early 80’s we had a big problem here in Germany: NDW. This abbreviation stands for ‘Neue Deutsche Welle’ or ‘New German Wave’. Everything was fine with this term until the very early 80’s, basically all good German underground/punk bands were classified as NDW because you could tell that they were partly copying what was coming from the New Wave-side of the UK then, nothing wrong with that by and large. But then a shitload of embarrassing Schlager (pop) – bands appeared on the scene and all of them jumped the NDW – wagon quicker than you were able to realize. A handful of the original NDW bands, once really good bands, smelled the profit they were potentially able to make out of that, they changed their style and it didn’t take long before everything was nothing else but a horrible mix-up.

Ideal – from Berlin – were one of the bands who suffered a lot from the takeover. They had albums in ’80, ’81 and ’82 – all of which are wonderful throughout. Unlike others, they certainly never denied their New Wave roots, still they were never taken as seriously as they should’ve been taken. ‘Blaue Augen’ (‘Blue Eyes’) is from their self-titled debut album and in the lyrics Annette Humpe heavily complains about meaningless things, such as fashion, lifestyle, parties, money – only ‘his’ phenomenal blue eyes mean everything to her.

Ideal und TV
Lässt mich völlig kalt
Und die ganze Szene
Hängt mir aus‘m Hals
Da bleib ich kühl
Kein Gefühl
Grelle Fummels aus den Fifties, Sixties
Alles hohl und hundsgemein
Auf Skoda oder Fiorucci
Flieg ich nicht mehr ein
Da bleib ich kühl
Kein Gefühl
Bloß deine blauen Augen
Machen mich so sentimental
So blaue Augen
Wenn du mich so anschaust
Wird mir alles andere egal
Total egal
Deine blauen Augen
Sind phänomenal
Kaum zu glauben
Was ich dann so fühle
Ist nicht mehr normal
Das ist gefährlich
Lebensgefährlich
Zu viel Gefühl
Insiderfeten, da schlaf ich ein
Ich will auch nicht in London sein
Bei “Sex and drugs and rock’n roll”
Ist das meist ein stumpfer Einfall
Da bleib ich kühl
Kein Gefühl
Der ganze Hassel um die Knete
Macht mich taub und stumm
Für den halben Luxus
Leg ich mich nicht krumm
Nur der Scheich
Ist wirklich reich
Und deine blauen Augen
Machen mich so sentimental
So blaue Augen
Wenn du mich so anschaust
Wird mir alles andere egal
Total egal
Deine blauen Augen
Sind phänomenal
Kaum zu glauben
Was ich dann so fühle
Ist nicht mehr normal
Das ist gefährlich
Lebensgefährlich
Zu viel Gefühl
Ah, deine blauen Augen
Machen mich so sentimental
So blaue Augen
Wenn du mich so anschaust
Wird mir alles andere egal
Total egal
Deine blauen Augen
Sind phänomenal
Kaum zu glauben
Was ich dann so fühle
Ist nicht mehr normal
Nicht mehr normal
Ah, deine blauen Augen
So blaue Augen
Was ich dann so fühle
Ist nicht mehr normal
Nicht mehr normal, ah
Nicht mehr normal
Nicht mehr normal, ah
Nicht mehr normal

Der Moderne Man – ‘Für Frau Krause (Including The Return Of Frau Krause)’ (’83)

If Ideal suffered from the flood of disastrous NDW releases, it cost the life of Hannover’s Der Moderne Man (sic). With several outstanding releases from 1980 on, they had to call it a day in 1984. They and their label simply couldn’t survive any longer. The song I picked comes from their last mini album ‘Neues Aus Hong Kong’ from 1983 and it’s a longer version of ‘Für Frau Krause’ (‘For Mrs. Krause’). And what’s it all about? Well, contrary to Ideal, here the singer is quite fond of his modern lifestyle, he certainly loves the amenities that come along with it. Progress, technique, future is what he wants. Frau Krause seems to be a vague acquaintance, here and then she lends him a Deutschmark and in the final part of the tune (‘The Return Of Frau Krause’, obviously) him and her even leave the pub together, he doesn’t mention though what happens then …

Zum Frühstück kalter Kaffee
Nur Leberwurst aufs Brot
Nichts Neues in der Zeitung
Der Präsident ist tot
Im Kühlschrank gähnende Leere
Ich bin schon wieder blank
Seit Tagen nichts zu saufen
Schnell noch hin zur Bank

Die Welt ist heute praktisch
Die Welt ist so bequem
Ich steh auf Fortschritt, Technik
Die Zukunft will ich seh’n

‚Ne Panne auf dem Schnellweg
Der Motor kocht und stinkt
Ich halt den Daumen raus
Die gute Laune sinkt
Da vorne steht ‚ne Ampel
Jetzt wird sie wieder grün
Es kommt ein gelber Engel
Soll mich zur Werkstatt zieh’n

Die Welt ist heute praktisch
Die Welt ist so bequem
Ich steh auf Fortschritt, Technik
Die Zukunft will ich seh’n

Ich schnorr‘ mir Geld für’s Kino
Frau Krause gibt ‚ne Mark
Ich hab‘ zwar nichts zu Essen
Doch Kino find‘ ich stark
Es läuft grad‘ ‚Krieg der Sterne‘
Und UFO‘s seh‘ ich gern
Ich säh‘ zwar lieber Porno
Am liebsten seh‘ ich fern

Die Welt ist heute praktisch
Die Welt ist so bequem
Ich steh auf Fortschritt, Technik
Die Zukunft will ich seh’n

Ich krieg‘ die letzte U-Bahn
Und werde leicht nervös
Zwei Burschen gucken grimmig
Sind ziemlich muskulös
Um ein Uhr geht’s mir dreckig
Um halb zwei bin ich krank
Um zwei bin ich erledigt
Doch Pillen sind im Schrank

Die Welt ist heute praktisch
Die Welt ist so bequem
Ich steh auf Fortschritt, Technik
Die Zukunft will ich seh’n

Die Welt, die Welt, die Welt ist praktisch
Die Welt, die Welt, die Welt ist praktisch

Die Welt ist heute praktisch
Die Welt ist so bequem
Ich steh auf Fortschritt, Technik
Die Zukunft will ich seh’n

Die Welt, die Welt, die Welt ist bequem
Die Welt, die Welt, die Welt ist bequem

Doch halt: es geht noch weiter
Die Kneipe hat noch auf
Nach fünf, sechs, sieben Halben
Bin ich schon besser drauf
Ich sehe langsam doppelt
Mein Zustand ist schon arg
Ich schnorr‘ mir Geld für’s achte
Frau Krause gibt ‚ne Mark

Die Welt ist heute praktisch
Die Welt ist so bequem
Ich steh auf Fortschritt, Technik
Die Zukunft will ich seh’n

Frau Krause ist nicht häßlich
Sie setzt sich neben mich
Sie trägt zwar eine Brille
Doch trotzdem mag sie mich
‚Erzähl‘ mir was vom Leben‘
‚Frau Krause, du bist schön‘
‚Wir reden morgen weiter,
Laß‘ uns nach Hause geh’n‘

Die Welt ist heute praktisch
Die Welt ist so bequem
Ich steh auf Fortschritt, Technik
Die Zukunft will ich seh’n

Die Welt, die Welt, die Welt ist schön
Die Welt, die Welt, die Welt ist schön

Rockabilly Mafia – ‚Die Nacht War Lau‘(’95)

Some German Rockabilly for you now, normally not a genre I like very much. Rockabilly Mafia from Elmshorn in the north of Germany though are a bit different, because to my best knowledge they wrote all their songs by themselves – and they are doing that from 1985 on! ‘Die Nacht War Lau’ (‘The Night Was Balmy’) is one of their finest. There are a lot of songs, not only German songs, about the pleasures of drinking and probably even more about the pleasures of driving, this one though is about the same topics, but completely and utterly different because it tells the story of a beautiful young girl who his knocked off her bike by a hit and run driver around midnight, the newspaper says it took until the next morning before she died because no-one stopped in order to help her.

Jawoll

Sie war das schönste Mädchen von der Schule
Dabei war sie erst gerade 16 Jahr‘
Bei mir da spielte sie stets nur die coole
Doch Montagmorgen da war sie nicht mehr da

Die Fete Samstagabend war echt öde
Darum ging‘ sie auch schon um zwölf Uhr zehn
Vielleicht waren meine Sprüche auch zu blöde
Ich hab‘ sie niemals mehr geseh’n

Die Nacht war lau und voller Sommerglut
Und die Sterne leuchteten so schön
Und wie so oft wenn sich was Böses tut
Hat niemand irgendwas gesehen

Den Weg nach Haus, den fuhr‘ sie wirklich gerne
Das Licht an ihrem Fahrrad brannte hell
Über ihr da leuchteten die Sterne
Doch er war blau und fuhr viel zu schnell

Und die Nacht war lau und voller Sommerglut
Und die Sterne, die leuchteten so schön
Und der Weg war breit und voll von Menschenblut
Und niemand hat irgendwas gesehen

In der Zeitung stand, sie starb erst am Morgen
Sie war ein junger Traum für jeden Mann
Ihre Schönheit, die vertrieb‘ uns oft die Sorgen
Doch als sie starb hielt keiner für sie an

Oh, die Nacht war lau und voller Sommerglut
Und die Sterne leuchteten so schön
Und wie so oft wenn sich was Böses tut
Hat niemand irgendwas gesehen

Die Nacht war lau, die Nacht war lau, die Nacht war lau …

Die Profis – ‚Der Favorit‘ (’82)

Another band from Düsseldorf, and another one which had a very short life indeed. Die Profis (‘The Professionals’) only had one album, ‘Neue Sensationen’, but what an album this is! Why is it that this other band from Düsseldorf, Die Toten Hosen, have become multi-millionaires by releasing numerous crap albums till today, on all of which they still pray their self-imposed punk attitude, although they have lost it 40 years ago?! Couldn’t have Die Profis had a little share of their success instead?! Oh, life is unfair at times …

‘Der Favorit’ (‘The Favourite’) describes what singing in a band does to the singer’s ego and the loneliness that comes with a certain kind of stardom. Obviously all of this can’t be taken all too serious, bearing the non-success of Die Profis in mind …

Alle Augen sehen mich an, verfolgen jeden Schritt
Sie wissen schon was ich gleich tu‘, ich bin der Favorit
Jedes Mal bin ich nervös, fast wie beim ersten Mal
Spürst du die Hitze und das Licht dort, fast wie ein Wasserfall

Und ich spiele dieses Spiel, hab’s mir ausgesucht
Gefühle gegen schnelles Geld, bin ständig auf der Flucht
Die Liebe, die ich von euch will, eine Frage des Erfolgs
Bitte, wenn das alles ist, bekommt ihr was ihr wollt
Die Liebe, die ich von euch will, gebt ihr nicht umsonst
Ihr wollt dafür ein Stück von mir, ihr wollt dass etwas kommt

Und bin ich gut, am nächsten Tag bin ich mein eigener Feind
Der Motor für die Abschussfahrt ist meine Einsamkeit
Ich such‘ mir eine aus der Menge, schau‘ ihr ins Gesicht
Ich bin mit ihr allein im Raum, die anderen merken’s nicht

Und ich spiele dieses Spiel, hab’s mir ausgesucht
Gefühle gegen schnelles Geld, bin ständig auf der Flucht
Die Liebe, die ich von euch will, eine Frage des Erfolgs
Bitte, wenn das alles ist, bekommt ihr was ihr wollt
Die Liebe, die ich von euch will, gebt ihr nicht umsonst
Ihr wollt dafür ein Stück von mir, ihr wollt dass etwas kommt

Favorit, du bist der Favorit

Und ich spiele dieses Spiel, hab’s mir ausgesucht
Gefühle gegen schnelles Geld, bin ständig auf der Flucht
Die Liebe, die ich von euch will, eine Frage des Erfolgs
Bitte, wenn das alles ist, bekommt ihr was ihr wollt
Die Liebe, die ich von euch will, gebt ihr nicht umsonst
Ihr wollt dafür ein Stück von mir, ihr wollt dass etwas kommt

Zeltinger Band – ‘Mein Vater War Ein Wandersmann’ – ‘Müngersdorfer Stadion’ (live im Bunker, Köln ’79)

Cologne’s finest, to be sure. And Cologne’s heaviest, also to be sure. Google pictures of him and you’ll see what I mean: Jürgen Zeltinger is one of the town’s many originals, as gay as no-one else probably, something he always shows with a certain pride. I have seen him and his band in various line up’s numerous times and it always was a joy. I remember one gig in the early 90’s in a very small village pub where he drank all afternoon with the locals and when it was time for the gig, he was so much out of his head, he played half of the show wearing nothing else but a tiger skin mini slip – not a very nice thing to watch, as you might be able to confirm if you have followed my advice to search for pictures of him.

But the music was great, and the same is true for this track. Sung in Kölsch, Cologne’s dialect (so even Walter – if he’s still reading – might have difficulties in understanding this), my choice starts with his version of an old German folk song (‘My Father Was A Wayfarer’), followed by (Zeltinger’s version of) a tune which should be familiar with all of you. Müngersdorfer Stadion (Müngersdorfer Stadium) is Cologne’s football stadium on the left Rhine-side, next to it is an open air bath and the song describes Zeltinger’s difficulties in getting there from the city for a swim in the summer heat without any money.

Jetz käu ich sigg hüg morge an de Käues eröm,
et wet immer heißer, isch gläuf, ich maach mich dönn.
Die Schlang he am Arbeitsamt nemp och ke Eng,
am beste jank isch schwemme im Stadion.

Erus us de Hus, erus us de Stadt,
aff en de Stadtwald, ich hann et satt,
en Badebux un e ahl Paar Schoh,
jet Ääpelsschlot, Transisterradio…

Müngersdorfer Stadion,
Müngersdorfer Stadion,
Müngersdorfer Stadion,
am beste jon ich schwemme im Stadion.

Müngersdorfer Stadion,
Müngersdorfer Stadion,
Müngersdorfer Stadion,
am beste jon ich schwemme im Stadion.

Ich fahr schwatz met de KVB,
die Markfufzisch dät denne och nit wieh,
ich fahr schwatz mit de KVB,
dä Hals voll krieje de Bonze nie.

Jetz lieje ich sigg hück moje en de Sunn eröm,
dö Sunnebrand brenk misch fass öm,
nom zehnte Bescher Lömmelömm
wed et zick für misch no Hus zo jonn.

Et Schwimmbecke leer, de Täsche leer,
froch nur nit, wo krie ich dann et Fahrjeld her.
Dries jet op dä Dress,
sinn zo, dat de keine vun dä Arschlöcher sist.

Müngersdorfer Stadion,
Müngersdorfer Stadion,
Müngersdorfer Stadion,
am beste jon ich schwemme im Stadion.

Müngersdorfer Stadion,
Müngersdorfer Stadion,
Müngersdorfer Stadion,
am beste jon ich schwemme im Stadion.

Ich fahr schwatz met de KVB,
die Markfufzisch dät denne och nit wieh,
ich fahr schwatz mit de KVB,
dä Hals voll krieje de Bonze nie.

Jetz lieje ich sigg hück moje en de Sunn eröm,
dö Sunnebrand brenk misch fass öm,
nom zehnte Bescher Lömmelömm
wed et zick für misch no Hus zo jonn.

Et Schwimmbecke leer, de Täsche leer,
froch nur nit, wo krie ich dann et Fahrjeld her.
Dries jet op dä Dress,
sinn zo, dat de keine vun dä Arschlöcher sist.

Müngersdorfer Stadion,
Müngersdorfer Stadion,
Müngersdorfer Stadion,
am beste jon ich schwemme im Stadion.

Müngersdorfer Stadion,
Müngersdorfer Stadion,
Müngersdorfer Stadion,
am beste jon ich schwemme im Stadion.

Hi, ha, ho,
jetzt sind wir wieder froh.

Müngersdorfer Stadion,
Müngersdorfer Stadion,
Müngersdorfer Stadion,
am beste jon ich schwemme im Stadion.

Dipel, dipel, dai,
wie wär’s mit uns zwei.

Müngersdorfer Stadion,
Müngersdorfer Stadion,
Müngersdorfer Stadion,
am beste jon ich schwemme im Stadion.

Ippel, dippen, dap
jetz sein wär op de Klap.

Müngersdorfer Stadion,
Müngersdorfer Stadion,
Müngersdorfer Stadion,
am beste jon ich schwemme im Stadion.

Now, that’s it: plenty of fun for you, I’m sure you agree.

Stay safe and: enjoy,

Dirk

JC adds..

Words almost really fail me!  This has clearly been a labour of love and without any question, one of the best and probably the most original posting to appear here in many a year (certianly since the Gang of Four musical).  Sexy Loser is now very much Sexy Genius.

I’ve had the advantage of playing each of the songs for a few days now, and they are all well worth your time and effort.  It makes me pine for the time when we will all be allowed to travel freely and safely again – a trip to Germany is very much near the top of my agenda.

 

 

A REQUEST FROM OUR CHILEAN READER

Now, it may well be that the blog attracts more than one reader from Chile, and if so, then I’m thrilled beyond belief. I do know that Ozzy (or Osvaldo to give him his ‘proper’ name) has been a regular for a few years, sending me the occasional e-mail with thoughts, observations, and the occasional request, such as just before Christmas when he said:-

“Any chance of uploading something by Biff Bang Pow!? I heard ” Hug Me Honey” on 80s forever (an online radio station from Switzerland). The album is Sad-eyed Girl (1990). I got the previous one The Acid House Album. It sounds good.”

I’m always happy to meet requests as best I can, but I only have five songs from Biff Bang Pow! on the hard drive, and all of them have through compilations. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s wiki:-

“Biff Bang Pow! were an indie pop band from London, England, active between 1983 and 1991, centering on Creation Records boss Alan McGee.

McGee had previously been in the band The Laughing Apple, who released three singles in 1981/82. After moving to London, he formed a new band, Biff Bang Pow!, taking their name from a song by one of his favourite bands, The Creation. The first release on Creation Records, “’73 in ’83” by The Legend! came with a flexi-disc featuring Laughing Apple’s “Wouldn’t You”, a song that would later appear on the first Biff Bang Pow! album.

The initial Biff Bang Pow! line-up was McGee on guitar and vocals, with Dick Green on guitar, Joe Foster on bass, and Ken Popple on drums, these recording the first 2 singles “50 Years of Fun” and “There Must Be A Better Life”.

Dave Evans then replaced Foster (who went solo as Slaughter Joe), and guitarist/organist Andrew Innes (later to join Primal Scream) joined on a part-time basis. Debut album Pass The Paintbrush…Honey was released in early 1985, displaying a mixture of mod, psychedelia, and new wave influences. 1986 saw arguably the band’s strongest album The Girl Who Runs The Beat Hotel, which expanded on the first album’s psychedelic and sixties pop influences, and featured collaborations with artist/painter JC Brouchard. This album coincided with the peak of the first wave of indie pop and as this gave way to shoegazing and grunge, Creation Records also moved in that direction, with the label increasingly being associated with artists such as My Bloody Valentine and Ride. With Biff Bang Pow!, however, McGee continued with guitar pop, becoming increasingly melancholy with releases such as Oblivion (1987), Love Is Forever (1988), Songs For The Sad Eyed Girl (1990), and Me (1991), which proved to be the last album proper by the band. Two compilations, L’Amour, Demure, Stenhousemuir and Debasement Tapes were subsequently released on Creation, with Bertula Bop released in 1994 on the Tristar label. A further collection, Waterbomb, compiled by Joe Foster, was released on Rev-Ola in 2003.”

Here’s four of what I have and where they were taken from:-

mp3: Biff Bang Pow! – The Chocolate Elephant Man (from Scared To Get Happy, 2013)
mp3: Biff Bang Pow! – She Paints (from Doing It For The Kids, 1988)
mp3: Biff Bang Pow! – In A Mourning Town (from C87, 2016)
mp3: Biff Bang Pow! – There Must Be A Better Life (from Big Gold Dreams, 2019)

The fifth track appears on a boxset I bought last year, Make More Noise – Women In Independent UK Music 1977-1987. And yet, the wiki bio of the band is exclusively male…..

Here’s the blurb in the boxset:-

Christine Wanless was a veteran of the scene which grew up around Creation Records in the mid-1980sby the time her self-penned ‘If I Die’ appeared on Biff Bang Pow’s The Girl Who Runs The Beat Hotel album in 1987. Having been part of the near mythical Formica Tops, Wanless, who was officially a member of Revolving Paint Dream (who shared members with Biff Bang Pow), had been present on the label’s second single, was involved with label mainstay Andrew Innes and would become Label Manager as the venture grew. if i die was a standout on an album many consider to be Biff Bang Pow’s finest:-

mp3: Biff Bang Pow! – If I Die

Hope that’s put a smile on your face, Ozzy.

JC

GIVING THE PEOPLE EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT: ECHORICH (2)

A GUEST POSTING by ECHORICH

Fine Young Men – An ICA of Opening Tracks

Yup, I have set myself up. Loving the idea of this ICA series, I have to go and challenge myself to give my offerings some sort of thread or connection. This, of course, makes things just a bit more difficult. But on I will proceed…

This ICA of album openers is linked together by the fact that all the tracks included are by artists that have turned my head as solo artists at one time or another. In the case of one of the artists, I can honestly say I’m not really a fan, but the album in question quite impressed me in its audacity and genuine successful execution. Pop, a bit of Leftfield and Alt Rock are represented in here. I have to give myself some credit for not going the easy route, for me at least, and picking tracks by Post Punk artists from the early 80s. I think the oldest track included is from the mid 90s.

FINE YOUNG MEN

Side A:

1. Losing Sleep – Edwyn CollinsLosing Sleep

Five years on from a series of devastating strokes and brain hemorrhages that left him having to relearn how to basically function, a mixture of personal tenaciousness and the love of a good woman, Edwyn Collins returned with his first post-recovery album. Much of the album is autobiographical, but the essence of the album is centered in his innate ability to craft a great Pop song. The title track gets things off to a fast-paced, buzzy start. It’s like the albums manifesto or mission statement.

2. Life And Times – Bob Mould – Life And Times

Being the father of a sound that merged hardcore with Alt Rock, Bob Mould could be excused for not ever traveling far from what made his career in Husker Dü. But he’s never rested on any sort of laurels that were thrown his way. Sugar veered his attentions toward Power Pop and he has explored Electronica more than a bit over the years. Life And Times is my favorite solo Mould album and it gets off to an impressive start with the opening track that is full of personal angst and confusion over the love of another. It’s my favorite Mould solo song.

3. Forever J – Terry HallHome

It’s 1994. Rock + Roll has become a mystery to me. Bands I was really into in the late 80s and early 90s have either fallen by the wayside or changed their sound to survive, first Grunge and then Britpop. Shoegaze was my refuge from Grunge, but it was steady pushed aside or compromised by the new Britpop sound. I couldn’t manage any excitement for Blur and Oasis, Suede was maybe a bright spot in Britpop’s tainted, murky waters. Ian Broudie’s Lightning Seeds managed to hold my attention by not being “scenesters” and staying true to their Pop roots. 1992’s Sense included a number of collaborations with Terry Hall – including that album’s fantastic title track. So when in 1994, Hall released his first proper solo album Home, it was in my possession the day it arrived on this side of the Atlantic. It remains one of my favorite albums of the 90s and that is bolstered by this slightly sad, very reflective opening track.

4. Miami – Baxter DuryPrince Of Tears

Baxter Dury’s musical persona is the equivalent of 007, 15 years on from his last assignment, still scraping by on a reputation as a lady’s man in an age when no one would ever dare use the term, having traded in the crisp black tux for an aging white linen suit. For me, he has released one smashing set of songs after another. 2017’s Prince of Tears might just be the best of the lot. Miami opens the album with a dirty groove that sets the scene while it closes in until right inside you.

5. Welcome To New York – Ryan Adams1989

Ryan Adams – hmmm I really can take him or leave him. When it was announced he was releasing a full album cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989 album, it seemed like an amusing idea and worth seeing just how unlistenable or twisted it might be. Well, shit if I was completely wrong! Adams teases the singer-songwriter quality right out of each and every track on the album. But the most astonishing interpretation is the opener, Welcome To New York. He has somehow turned the track into the song that’s been missing from every Bruce Springsteen album since The River.

Side B:

1. Gradually – Ben WattFever Dream

After a good 15 years creating an producing some brilliant House Music, Ben Watt decided to return to writing and recording Rock based music. His first effort Hendra, in my opinion, was a triumph of very personal, singer/songwriter focused songs that seemed deeply personal, yet very approachable. The follow-up, Fever Dream, expanded on that sound while including some jazzier and familiar Everything But The Girl stylized tracks. The album’s opener, Gradually, is about the intensity of love as a positive and a destructive force. Watt sings with a particular honesty in his voice that gives the track an uncomfortable piercing edge.

2. Make Me An Offer I Can’t Refuse – Sufjan StevensThe Ascension

The opening track of Sufjan Stevens’ latest album The Ascension is a triumph of melding Electronica with the singer/songwriter structure. The album is Stevens once again reinventing himself. It is a 180º turn from the almost harrowing beauty of 2015’s Carrie and Lowell. This opening track ebbs and flows, soars high, glides, and then dives like a magic carpet ride. The final section of the track builds and builds to a spectacular end.

3. Pale Green Ghosts – John GrantPale Green Ghosts

I have a thing for idiosyncratic singer/songwriters, as if that’s not already apparent. John Grant might just be on the top of that list. You can’t pin his sound down and he certainly makes music for his satisfaction and our appreciation. He’s no stranger to a great Pop hook, a sleazy dance beat or a cinematic coda. That’s all here in spades on the title track opener of his 2013 album Pale Green Ghosts.

4. Sandriam – Perry BlakeStill Life

Perry Blake is a personal favorite of mine. He has worked with Steve Jansen of Japan, which is what brought him to my attention. But while Blake is obviously influenced by later Japan/Sylvian, Leonard Cohen and maybe even Nick Drake, there is a sort of grand and dulcet vocal approach that sets him apart. Sandriam opens his second album Still Life and feels like it should be accompanied by images of weather-beaten castles and abbeys or long shots of the sea off of grassy cliffs.

5. Black/Colin Verncombe – The Love ShowBlind Faith

We lost Colin Verncombe just 16 days after David Bowie, in January of 2016, that “annus horribilis” for music. He was a master of his craft who never gave up on his vocation, regardless of whether he had hits or misses. For his last album, Blind Faith, he had returned to his stage name Black. It is a beautiful collection of songs that shows off his adept touch at Pop, Crooning, and acoustic songs. The album opener, The Love Show, is simply a beautiful, intense, symphonic love song. Every time I hear it, the chorus stays with me for hours.

Echorich

And here, as before on Mondays, are both sides of the ICA as stand-alone listens.  70% of this ICA consisted of songs that were previously unkown to me…which meant I wasn’t aware most were opening tracks on albums. I really like the running order that Edchorich has come up with on both sides. (JC)

Fine Young Men: Side A (19:16)
Fine Young Men: Side B (26:32)

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF R.E.M. (Part 27)

The more I listen to these songs from ‘Monster’, the more I love them. 26 years have passed since its release, but I don’t find myself tiring of them one little bit, unlike many of those on the preceding two R.E.M. records. This week’s track was the fourth single from ‘Monster’ and arguably the album’s most obvious single.

On first listen, you could be forgiven for thinking that Strange Currencies is essentially a re-working of Everybody Hurts. Indeed, it nearly didn’t make the cut for ‘Monster’ owing to its similarity to the former hit. But Stipe’s melody was deemed to be too good to eschew, so the rhythm section was redone. There are still obvious parallels – the 6/8 time signature, and Buck’s arpeggios, but if you listen hard enough, there’s a lot more going on here. There’s swathes of feedback floating in and out of the background, the guitars are dirtier, and of course, the emotion of the vocal and subject of the lyrics, couldn’t make this song more different than EH.

Here, Stipe sings of a longing for someone he simply cannot reconcile. His role is ambiguous – is his would-be paramour aware of his adoration, but unwilling to reciprocate? Or is there something more sinister afoot? There’s an air of desperation in his words, and his emotions seem to be getting the better of him. He’s pleading for a sign – “I need a chance, a second chance, a third chance, a fourth chance, a word, a signal, a nod, a little breath, just to fool myself, catch myself, to make it real”. It’s a beautiful line, one of Stipe’s best in my view. But… Peter Buck once explained the song is sung from the point of view of a stalker, which obviously puts a completely different spin on things. The opening line “I don’t know why you’re mean to me / When I call on the telephone” makes complete sense in that regard. In both cases though, it’s a song of (unhealthy?) obsession, and as such, it’s very much a Monster song, and nothing whatsoever like Everybody Hurts.

Musically, it actually sounds like a classic doo-wop or Motown ballad. Listen to the chorus – the syncopation between the vocal and the bass/drums, especially – and you can easily hear a group like the Temptations performing it. (By the way, I can’t take credit for that observation – I read it in a fan forum once, but it stuck with me because it surprised me how true it was.) I also love the bridge – so simple, but oh-so effective in lifting us to a near-crescendo before dropping us back to earth for the final verse.

There will always those who cannot hear beyond the Everybody Hurts comparisons. That’s fine. But to me, Strange Currencies is one of the band’s finest moments, a complex mix of beauty and ugliness, gentleness and brutality, subtlety and brazenness.

While Strange Currencies was played live at every show on the massive Monster Tour, it was then laid off until 2003 when it made occasional appearances. As a single though, it reached #9 in the UK charts, the band’s fourth Top Ten hit. It was released on three formats. The 7” was a numbered limited edition on rather lurid fluorescent green (almost yellow) vinyl and came packaged with a Monster bear-head tie pin-type badge. Along with the cassette, it included an instrumental version of the a-side.

mp3: R.E.M. – Strange Currencies
mp3: R.E.M. – Strange Currencies (instrumental)

The CD single continued the solar-powered concert for Greenpeace that the previous three singles started. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Drive was performed twice so that a good recording could be provided for a Greenpeace charity album. The version that opened the show was not put out as one of these b-sides, so what you’re hearing here is the second version, which is ever so slightly better. Both are radically different to the album version on ‘Automatic For The People’.

Funtime is, of course, the Iggy Pop/David Bowie song that R.E.M. originally recorded for the b-side of Get Up in the States. And Radio Free Europe needs nothing written about it, other than this is a terrific, loud version which closed the show with a bang! And, perhaps as expected, Stipe really cannot remember the words…

mp3: R.E.M. – Drive (live, Greenpeace)
mp3: R.E.M. – Funtime (live, Greenpeace)
mp3: R.E.M. – Radio Free Europe (live, Greenpeace)

And here’s your bonus remix, probably the best of the entire Monster Remix project. This is utterly, utterly gorgeous. Yes, it’s very similar to the original, but my goodness, how the subtle differences transform it! The keyboard part in the final verse is brought closer to the foreground, and Stipe’s vocal is actually a different take than the one used for the original, and it floors me! Without a doubt, Monster [2019 Remix]’s finest moment…..

mp3: R.E.M. – Strange Currencies (remix)

The Robster

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS : (15/15) : FRANZ FERDINAND

Album: Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand
Review: NME, 12 December 2005
Author: Anthony Thornton

It’s the modest ones you’ve got to look out for. Franz Ferdinand‘s aim is to “make records that girls can dance to and to cut through postured crap”. Oh really? After all they sport art-school crops, stripey shirts and the moniker of the archduke whose assassination kick-started the First World War. In short, last time we checked they weren’t quite Jet. So Franz Ferdinand, then: Posturing? Yes. Crap? Well, we’ll get to that.

So they’re smart enough to play a little dumb. And certainly this debut fulfills their modest – but laudable – aim of making girls gyrate. Because, without doubt, this debut is an album packed with tunes that will make anyone with legs dance. At indie discos across the land their first two singles have been packing dancefloors. So, in essence, we have the band equivalent of the smart kid who shoplifts to get popular, who plays down their IQ to fit in.

And why not? There’s a great tradition of smart people at first confusing the world with the apparent simplicity of what they do: Iggy Pop, the Sex Pistols, even The Rolling Stones. Because, the single theme of British music of the last decade has remained constant: no one likes a smart-arse. We all have a giggle at the silly musicians pompously proclaiming their genius. Nothing makes us laugh as much as authors of rock operas, or Metallica‘s dabblings in classical music and, of course, everything that comes out of Brian Molko‘s mouth. Who wouldn’t want to avoid the trap of being seen to be clever-clever? After all, just look what happened to Blur.

But then, of course, it’s Oasis‘s fault that we find ourselves at this juncture. They beat Blur so comprehensively – so completely – that, to be in a band and be smart, to challenge assumptions, or go out on a limb became unthinkable. The amazing lineage of British art-school bands simply fizzled out: The Beatles, The Who, the Stones, Roxy Music, Sex Pistols, Wire, Blur and nothing. Since then, all the new big and important bands have been salt-of-the-earth types (Stereophonics) or sweeping romantics (Coldplay) and they dressed like neglected shelf-fillers.

Franz Ferdinand formed after meeting at Glasgow College of Art, signing in summer 2003 – so they’re settled into a noble and inescapable tradition. The problem is that, despite their self-effacing aims, their records are informed and driven by this tradition. This may be sad for them, but it’s great news for us. Because, however fantastically dancey or lose-yourself a track is, there remains at its core an intelligence that makes it as engaging for the brain as it is for the feet. From the guitar-dicing song arrangements to the cod-German anthemic end to ‘Darts Of Pleasure’, at the heart of Franz there’s an innate need to subvert those tunes and reject cliché.

As critics have noted even the crowd-pleasing top-three sounds they use owe themselves to the informed art-school political disco-assault of early ’80s post-punkers Gang Of Four and Josef K. But where the post-punkers’ caustic tunes were hemmed in by politics, ideology and sloganeering, Franz Ferdinand cloak themselves in love and ambiguity.

Ideas slide in and out of view as they refuse to get tied to anything. If there is one overriding theme it’s that of structure. They appear to have taken the tired grunge blueprint of quiet/loud/quiet/loud and breathed new life into it so that it becomes laconic/dance/laconic/dance.

For when they’re not dancing, they’re revelling in the detached passion of a voyeur. Alex Kapranos‘s attitudes are wrapped up in smudged passion. It’s arch, but revealing. (“I want this fantastic passion/We’ll have fantastic passion” he chimes charmingly in ‘Darts Of Pleasure’) – he’s a lothario with mean intent and knows exactly which buttons to press. But you half suspect that it’s another pose: if actually confronted with heaving passion he’d run a mile. How very British.

This teasing uncertainty lies at the heart of the album. ‘Michael’ may at first appear to be a frank exploration of homoeroticism (“Michael you’re dancing like a beautiful dance whore”) but really Alex is just playing at sexual roles in the same way Morrissey enjoyed 20 years ago.

Alex has two clear voices: a rich, warm, honeyed croon that he employs to devastating effect throughout the laconic sections and a more straight-ahead rock voice. It’s an unsettling effect – not quite Scott Walker playing vocal tag with a rock Bowie but not far off. It’s another example of the bountiful contradictions at the heart of Franz Ferdinand. Of course, on ‘Darts Of Pleasure’ the two voices almost meld as they battle for supremacy – it’s this struggle that makes the song so potent.

But Franz Ferdinand aren’t satisfied with just two voices though, indulging in the twisted absurdist yelp of ‘Tell Her Tonight’‘s verse, coupled with its mannered mid-section, and ‘Darts Of Pleasure’s cod-German energetic outro that’s designed to replicate the moment of orgasm. It’s preferable to screeching “Goal!”, but should your lover ever make the vinegar face and cry out “I’m super fantastic, I drink champagne and salmon” in any language it’s probably advisable to ditch them. Immediately.

What makes this all the more extraordinary is that ‘Take Me Out’ is a typical record executive’s idea of exactly what not to release as a single. It’s essentially two songs spot-welded together like one of those Robin Reliant/BMW conjunctions that Watchdog always gets so annoyed about. Sadly, the more cautious radio presenters have elected to play just the second half, missing that this is an inspired coupling that showcases all Franz Ferdinand’s strengths: staccato guitars, disco rhythms and arch lyrics.

A more pretentious writer would state that the moment the stuttering Strokesy guitars are replaced by the booty-shaking rhythm and disco guitar is the moment that the sun goes down on Julian Casablancas mob. Not me, though. But it’s an intriguing idea.

The two deviations from the messy subject of sex bookend the album. The opener, ‘Jacqueline’ is dazzling. Alex murmurs a tale of 17-year-old office girl exchanging glances, as a guitar hesitantly strums. It’s the most low-key opening of an album in recent memory, but suddenly the insistent bass intrudes, absurdly spiky guitars burst in, the focus pulls back and the remainder of the song is an advert for being on the dole. Alex sneers as though he hates work, but it’s an OK compromise. More importantly, it’s a compromise he’s chosen: “It’s always better on holiday/So much better on holiday/That’s why we only work when/We need the money”. Not quite a philosophy, but a pretty decent way of life.

Ironically the closer ’40 Ft’ with its veiled allusions to death is the song that look to the future. Its ominous references to blood congealing and 40 feet remaining seem transparent references to suicide. The band claim it’s more to do with flinging yourself into a difficult situation than off a railway bridge but its detached delivery and fractured elegance is creepy and mesmerising.

Rarely for a debut, there’s no crap – ‘Cheating On You’ is the closest to giving off the scent of ‘will-this-do?’ but only because its thrills are uncharacteristically one-dimensional. But there is still pleasure aplenty in the way they race through the pointed chorus (“Goodbye girl because it’s only love”) – as if the band member that finishes last is going to have to pick up the bar tab.

This album is the latest and most intoxicating example of the wonderful pushing its way up between the ugly slabs of Pop Idol, nu metal and Britons aping American bands. What these blossoming bands have in common is the absolute conviction that rock ‘n’ roll is more than a career option. They’re bringing an energy and inventiveness and a need to break the rules. From the Franz Ferdinand gigs at the warehouse The Chateau and their bootleg album through to The Libertines‘ constant guerrilla gigging and British Sea Power‘s onstage bear’n’branches antics new British music is exciting again. And although it’s early days there’s a huge bunch of new bands coming up giving two fingers to the man and making extraordinary music.

Emerging now are The ’80s Matchbox B-Line Disaster finally fulfilling their promise, The Duke Spirit whipping up dark pleasures, The Futureheads genetically-mutating rock and there’s a whole art rock scene based around the Angular Records compilation with Bloc Party and Art Brut leading the pack. Now is the greatest time for 25 years to form a band.

With Travis scraping into the charts at 48 while Franz Ferdinand breeze in nonchalantly at three with ‘Take Me Out’, it’s the biggest upheaval since Pulp turned heads when ‘Common People’ went to number two in 1995. It marks the dawning of an era of British music that isn’t just for the casual petrol shop consumer, but stuff so important that you can give yourself to it completely. This is the album that’s going kick open the door for all the great British bands that’ll sweep through in their wake.

And this is a great place to start. Despite what Franz Ferdinand say, this is an album as much about preening and posing as passion, that’ll have you poring over the lyrics for an age. The fear that they couldn’t match their first two singles has proved unfounded. They’ve done it. With style, wit and, well, great posture.

JC adds…….

That’s an awful lot of pressure to place on an album, never mind a debut.  It’s easy to mock now given how wide of the remark the prediction was in that the re-ignition of the interest in art-school, indie-guitar music was temporary, with very few of the bands making it beyond two or three years.

Here’s the thing.  When I turn my mind to the best albums to come out of Scotland in my lifetime, I inevitably go back in time to the previous century with the new wave/post punk of The Skids and The Rezillos, the early stuff from Simple Minds, the Postcard bands, The Associates, Teenage Fanclub, Cocteau Twins, Primal Scream, Close Lobsters, JAMC and Arab Strap; the individual talents of Edwyn, Roddy, Paul H and Paul Q; or else I think of the more recent loves such as Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad and my very soft spot for the genius who is Adam Stafford.  I never factor Franz Ferdinand into the equation which is a huge oversight, as every time I play that debut album, I’m reminded of how damn-near perfect it is with not a duff note from start to end.

Oh, and you can just about always rely on one of their songs to fill the floor at a Simply Thrilled night.

mp3: Franz Ferdinand – Jacqueline
mp3: Franz Ferdinand – Take Me Out
mp3: Franz Ferdinand – Michael
mp3: Franz Ferdinand – Darts of Pleasure

 PS

Many thanks for all the comments over the past couple of weeks….the requests to keep this sort of thing have been duly noted and I’ll try my best to make it more of a regular feature in the weeks and months ahead.

It’s back to normal as of tomorrow beginning, as usual on Sundays, with the R.E.M. series.

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS : (14/15) : THE GIFT

Album: The Gift – The Jam
Review: Uncut, 19 November 2012
Author: John Lewis

The Gift remains a mysteriously unloved part of The Jam canon. For many Jam loyalists it’s a record that’s tainted by Paul Weller’s decision to split the band at the height of their popularity, the headstone to a premature burial.

It’s also a record that, for many, strays a little too far out of The Jam’s comfort zone. While the introductory chimes of the opening track “Happy Together” recall the fractured post-punk of Sound Affects, we’re quickly into the Motown beats, the wah-wah guitars, the big horn sections: the birth of what sneerier commentators later dubbed “soulcialism”.

Lyrically, The Gift does not have the cohesiveness of the two Jam LPs generally regarded as classics – All Mod Cons and Sound Affects – but it certainly has at least as many great songs as either of them. There’s no arguing with the singles “Town Called Malice” (effectively “You Can’t Hurry Love” reimagined by Ken Loach) or “Precious” (hypnotically itchy punk-funk, with a nod to Beggar & Co), but, for all Weller’s professed “anti-rock” agenda of this period, there is plenty here to please any element of The Jam’s fanbase. You want Ray Davies-style kitchen-sink realism? Try the militant vaudevillian turn “Just Who Is The 5 O’Clock Hero”. You want a stunningly poetic ballad with heart-wrenching chord changes? Try “Carnation” (“I am the greed and fear/and every ounce of hate in you”). You want haunting and graceful post-punk? Listen to “Ghosts”, with its elegant horns, fluid bassline and uplifting lyric (“there’s more inside you that you won’t show”).

The first CD contains all 11 LP tracks, along with a further 10 singles, B-sides or covers from this period which didn’t make it onto the album. Weller has always upheld the uniqueness of the flipside (“I always felt the shackles were off,” he says. “You can experiment a bit”), and all of the supplementary tracks on CD1 share that same spirit of adventure, creating a secondary album that’s almost as good as the primary one. Even the covers, which were approached as enthusiastic recreations of the band’s new favourite songs, add a twist to the originals. “Move On Up” replaces Curtis Mayfield’s sweet-voiced earnestness with punky urgency; The Chi-Lites’ “Stoned Out Of My Mind” benefits from Rick Buckler’s heavily syncopated, Afro-Cuban rhythm track.

As well as a riotous live CD, and an excellent DVD of promos and Top Of The Pops appearances, there’s a CD that comprises demos of most of the album tracks and B-sides. It includes early versions of some contemporary sides not included on CD1, such as “Tales From The Riverbank” (here titled “We’ve Only Started”), “Absolute Beginners” (titled “Skirt”), and a Northern soul-style re-reading of the Small Faces “Get Yourself Together”. All of them are multi-tracked solely by Weller on guitars, bass, piano, keyboards and even drums. Unfashionable though it might be to point this kind of thing out, Weller really is an extraordinarily accomplished musician; even his drumming has a certain wonky, Stevie Wonder-ish flair. Some of the demos are virtually identical to the finished versions, only without the horns: a couple (“The Planner’s Dream…”, “Shopping”) sound better. One gets the impression that three or four Wellers might have made a great stadium rock band.

The Jam’s studio versions of “A Solid Bond In Your Heart” (separate mixes of which have previously appeared on The Sound Of The Jam and Direction Reaction Creation) are notably absent from CD1 of this package, although Weller’s drumless original demo does appear on CD2, with a piano-led arrangement that’s almost identical to the version later recorded by The Style Council. There are certainly premonitions of The Style Council all over The Gift, be it the heavy-duty funk workout of “Precious”, the militant call-to-arms of “‘Trans-Global Express’”, or the insistent Northern soul drumbeats on at least half the tracks. And, with veteran Trinidadian percussionist Russ Henderson playing steelpan, “The Planner’s Dream Goes Wrong” is an early example of the outsourcing philosophy that Weller and Mick Talbot would later adopt (the song also shares the same lyrical territory as “Come To Milton Keynes”).

In fact it’s the 10 extra tracks on CD1 that seem to prefigure The Style Council’s revolving door policy. Most of the singles of this period are dominated by hired hands, not least the backing vocals of Jennie McKeown from The Belle Stars (on “The Bitterest Pill”) or future Respond starlet Tracie (who almost steals the show on “Beat Surrender”). “Bitterest Pill”, “Beat Surrender” and “Malice” are all dominated by Peter Wilson’s piano or organ lines; while “Precious” and the three soul covers are dominated by the horns of Steve Nichol and Keith Thomas. Other tracks point out the limitations of the three-piece. A jazz-waltz like “Shopping”, or the off-kilter “The Great Depression” are the kind of beats that Style Council drummer Steve White would breeze through; likewise you could imagine an early incarnation of the Council transforming “Pity Poor Alfie” into a more limber soul gem. And that maybe explains why The Gift rankles a little for certain Jam loyalists: it’s a reminder that Weller really did need to break up the biggest British band since The Beatles to pursue his musical vision.

JC adds…….

The first time around for this festive mini-series back in 2019/20 kicked off with All Mod Cons and I would have finished 2020/21 off with The Gift except for tomorrow being a Saturday and thus set aside for an album from a Scottish singer/band.

The above review is a reminder why Paul Weller, wary of being labelled as one-dimensional, had little option but to kill off The Jam at a time when they were, unarguably, the most popular band in the UK, with the fanbase growing with each album and each tour.

I was gutted when it happened, but as soon as I heard the debut single by The Style Council, I was fully on board with the new direction, albeit it was one that had been well sign-posted. It was a very brave thing to do – he was just 24 years old at the time – and it was an era when he couldn’t have just turned back and asked Foxton and Buckler to get back together again. He was very much all-in.

I liked The Gift at the time, more so in the live setting around the tours in early 82 when the album came out and the farewell shows later that year.  Some of its songs perhaps don’t sound so great almost 40 years on, but it has its fair share of classics:-

mp3: The Jam – Happy Together
mp3: The Jam – Town Called Malice
mp3: The Jam – Ghosts
mp3: The Jam – The Gift

 

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS : (13/15) : DUMMY

Album: Dummy – Portishead
Review: NME, 13 August 1994
Author: Stephen Dalton

Poor Portishead. The town, I mean, not the slo-mo sound sculptors who have made this innocuous seaside hideaway sound so relentlessly tragic. For this is, without question, a sublime debut album. But so very, very sad.

‘Dummy’ unspools with melancholic majesty. From one angle, its languid slowbeat blues clearly occupy similar terrain to soulmates Massive Attack and all of Bristol hip-hop’s extended family. But from another these are avant-garde ambient moonscapes of a ferociously experimental nature. In other words, seriously spooky shit. But terrific shit all the same. Geoff Barrow‘s hugely evocative compositions earn constant comparisons with soundtrack gods Ennio Morricone and John Barry, although this is no smartarse spot-the-reference sample show. Most of these dislocating noises are played directly onto vinyl and then scratched back into the mix, creating deep and textured ambience instead of second-hand special effects.

Besides, it is Beth Gibbons‘ soulful sobs which really put Portishead on the emotional map. She can be Bjork or Billie Holliday, but the numb heartbreak is her recurring theme, culminating in the almost unbearable refrain “nobody loves me” from funereal current single ‘Sour Times’. Both Barrow and Gibbons are products of lonely, loveless childhoods, so titles like ‘Mysterons’ and ‘Wandering Star’ as much products of other-wordly isolation knowing trash-culture obsessions – the shadowy underside of human behaviour distilled into weeping strings, spectral there vibrations and haunting silences.

Portishead’s post-ambient, timelessly organ blues are probably too left-field introspective and downright Bristolian to grab short-term glory as some kind of Next Big Thing. But remember what radical departures ‘Blue Lines’ ‘Ambient Works’ and ‘Debut’ were for the times and make sure you hear this unmissable album. This may not be the future, but it is a future – one where Portishead is a desolate exquisitely beautiful place to visit.

JC adds…….

It’s the fact that Portishead were complete unknowns at the time of the debut release, and also that nobody was fully prepared to tip them for huge success, which leads to what was a very short review in the NME.  It was the same in the other UK weeklies and monthlies, although almost all of the reviews were incredibly positive – it was only as the commercial success began to catch-up with the critical acclaim did Portishead begin to enjoy extensive media coverage, and indeed the album and Beth Gibbons was everywhere come the end of the calendar year and the look back at ‘the best of 94’.

So much of the music from that year and indeed era hasn’t dated all that well, but Dummy is a huge exception.  It remains a wonderful and essential listen, of appeal to fans whose main preferences span many genres, with a production and delivery that still sounds fresh more than 25 years on.  My only gripe is that having delivered something as near perfect as this, it was going to be a huge task to match it with subsequent albums, and Portishead never really kept my interest in later years, not helped much by the fact that having snagged a sought-after ticket for Portishead’s debut Scottish gig in May 1995, the event proved to be very underwhelming and disappointing, thanks in the main to a complete lack of audience interaction from the stage….we’d have been as well sitting at home and playing the album on a big stereo.

mp3: Portishead – Sour Times
mp3: Portishead – Wandering Star
mp3: Portishead – Roads
mp3: Portishead – Glory Box

 

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS : (12/15) : PAUL’S BOUTIQUE

Album: Paul’s Boutique – Beastie Boys
Review: Rolling Stone, 25 July 1989
Author: David Handelman

Like this summer’s block-buster movie sequels, the Beastie Boys’ second album was anticipated with some hope tempered by much dread. On their bratty 1986 debut, Licensed to Ill, the Beasties — Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, Adam “MCA” Yauch and Michael “Mike D” Diamond — established themselves as the Sultans of Swagger. Thanks to the heavy-metallic single “Fight for Your Right (to Party),” the album went multiplatinum and helped bring rap to a wider (whiter) audience.

But Ill was often credited solely to scratch-meister producer Rick Rubin — and seemed destined for the one-shot-wonder bin. When the Boys weren’t being called Monkees for not playing instruments, they were being called Blues Brothers for plundering a black music form and making more louie off it. Compounding the usual pressure of a follow-up, the Beasties split from Rubin and his label, Def Jam, over a royalty dispute and set up shop in L.A., far from the urban blight of New York that fueled the pillage-and-anarchy lyrics of their debut.

Yet with the dense, crafty Paul’s Boutique (produced by the Dust Brothers, including Tone-Loc helmsman Matt Dike), the Beasties reinvent the turntable and prove they’re here to stay. Gone is Rubin’s wailing guitar (and with it, probably, the chance of a crossover hit single), but in its place is a nearly seamless set of provocative samples and rhymes — a rap opera, if you will, complete with an Abbey Road-like multisnippet medley called “B-boy Bouillabaisse.” If the misogyny, hedonism and violence of the first album bothered you, the sequel shows little remorse — merely replacing beer with cheeba — but it’s a much more intricate, less bludgeoning effort.

Paul’s Boutique — named after a Brooklyn store whose radio ad is tossed in the mix and whose picture graces the cover — surprises from the get-go. Instead of opening, as Ill did, with wall-to-wall drum wallops, it creeps up on you like an alley cat: A quiet organ and snare fade up as a mellow DJ voice dedicates the ensuing set to (who else?) the girls of the world. Then, of course, drums rat-a-tat, and we’re back in naughty-boy land. “I rock a house party at the drop of a hat/I beat a biter down with an aluminum bat,” snarls Horovitz on the opener, “Shake Your Rump.” But even in the midst of this obligatory strutting, the Boys slyly acknowledge their tarnished public image: I’m Mike D, and I’m back from the dead,” brags Diamond.

“A puppet on a string, I’m paid to sing or rhyme,” adds Yauch.

That out of the way, they’re back on the streets, dissing and snickering. The next song, “Johnny Ryall,” set against a blues-riff loop and dissonant guitar solo, spray-paints a wry, detailed portrait of a bum living on Mike D’s block. This runs into “Egg Man,” a nightmarish cartoon of shell-cracking hooliganism that starts with the slinky bass line from “Superfly,” features echoey shrieks on the choruses and closes with a slice of the theme from Psycho, which jarringly snaps off like a TV set. (In the midst of the vigilantism, the Boys do sneak in this tip: “You made the mistake you judge a man by his race/You go through life with egg on your face.”)

Each track brims with ideas and references too numerous to catalog, veering in new directions at every verse: “The Sounds of Science” builds from a casual, smartass schoolboy singsong to a breakneck chant against repeated guitar strums from “The End,” by the Beatles. Here and throughout, the songs are buoyed by the deft interplay of the three voices and a poetic tornado of imagery.

In terms of lyrics, the posturing that dominated Licensed to Ill is still in evidence — witness “High Plains Drifter” and “Car Thief” — but it’s been leavened by an approach that’s almost, well, literary. Sure, Paul’s Boutique is littered with bullshit tough-guy bravado, but it’s clever and hilarious bullshit: Who can be put off by claims like “I got more hits than Sadaharu Oh” and “I got more suits than Jacoby and Meyers”? In the catchy, Sly Stone-based “Shadrach,” this would-be terrible trio compares itself to biblical heroes Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

And while the Boys’ rap references range from Magilla Gorilla to Dickens, their musical samples are equally far-flung, including Johnny Cash, Hendrix and Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff.” (Acrostic-minded listeners should know that Jerry Garcia, Sweet and George Carlin are also allegedly in here somewhere.) Though the group seems most proud of the twelve-inch-vinyl version — the cover of the first pressing is an impressive eight-fold wraparound photo — Paul’s Boutique seems mixed especially for a Walkman. The voices shimmer around the listener’s head in an artful dance, and the musical “steals” effected by the Boys and Dust Brothers Matt Dike, John King and Mike Simpson are much more complicated than the first album’s, changing speeds, inverting or abstracting themes until they’re virtually new. If you can recognize them, fine, but they stand on their own; it’s no more thievery than Led Zep’s borrowing from Muddy Waters.

In the works for a year and meticulously constructed, Paul’s Boutique retains a loose, fun feel. The infectious “What Comes Around” (in which they taunt skinheads, rapping, “You’re all mixed up, like pasta primavera/Why’d you throw that chair at Geraldo Rivera?”) winds up with a wild Beastie version of scat humming. The Boys kick off side two by hollering at one another over a hillbilly hoedown called “5-Piece Chicken Dinner.” There are abundant inside jokes — a line delivered by a blow-hard New York TV weatherman, references to close friends and local events like Brooklyn’s Atlantic Antic — but they are never made in an off-putting way. The Boys are just being themselves, thrashing about in a reality ignored by too many mainstream white-rock acts.

In “Three Minute Rule,” Yauch says, “A lot of parents like to think I’m a villain/I’m just chillin’, like Bob Dylan.” May they stay forever def.

JC adds…….

And here was me always believing that Paul’s Boutique had been badly received and/or totally misunderstood back in 1989, only becoming acknowledged as a true classic by the passage of time.

mp3: Beastie Boys – Shake Your Rump
mp3: Beastie Boys – What Comes Around
mp3: Beastie Boys – 3-Minute Rule
mp3: Beastie Boys – Shadrach

 

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS : (11/15) : BUMMED

Album: Bummed – Happy Mondays
Review: Guardian, 14 December 2007
Author: Alex Petrides

Earlier this year, what’s left of Happy Mondays dutifully went on the road in support of a new album that limped to No 73 in the charts. Shaun Ryder sang the hits slumped on the drum riser, a man doomed to spend the rest of his days on the touring treadmill by the kind of business deals that people on too many drugs tend to make, his glory years a distant memory.

Listening to this expanded reissue of their breakthrough album, it seems remarkable that Happy Mondays had any glory years to start with, at least commercially. Almost 20 years on, Bummed sounds extraordinary, but wildly abstruse. If you were making a list of Happy Mondays’ inspirations, you would start with the clattering, syncopated drums and wayward vocals of Tago Mago-era Can, and the phantasmagorical, chemically altered view of northern working-class life found in the Fall‘s lyrics – to which Ryder added his own distinctive spin, not least an unerring ability to make sexual intercourse sound like the most repellent activity known to man. “Come on in, grease up yer skin, bring a friend,” he leers at one juncture.

Elsewhere, you can hear the damaged sprawl of early 70s Funkadelic, Captain Beefheart‘s angular riffs and jarring slide guitars and, buried deep in the mix, the gauche synthesised stabs of early house music. It’s a bizarre stew of influences that would normally have confined a band to a netherworld of Peel Sessions and tiny gigs. Happy Mondays ended up playing stadiums and Top of the Pops.

That they did may have been testament not merely to the quality of their songs, but to the anything-goes musical climate ushered in by ecstasy use: the album was recorded with the E-fuelled “second summer of love” in full swing. But if Bummed benefited from the summer of love’s open-mindedness, it certainly didn’t share its flower-power idealism.

The album is haunted by Nic Roeg‘s Performance, a film that caught the hippy dream curdling into a crepuscular world of violence and insanity. It’s not even Mick Jagger‘s faded rock star character Turner that the album identifies with, but the psychopathic gangsters who invade his home and murder him: Mad Cyril is named after one of them and samples their boss Harry Flowers, while the track Performance seems to be written through the eyes of Chas, the enforcer played by James Fox, whose psychedelic dabbling doesn’t stem his propensity for violence.

For a band usually depicted as troglodytes rendered mentally subnormal by their drug intake – perhaps a consequence of having a keyboard player called Knobhead – this seems a remarkably sharp and cynical take on the prevalent mood of saucer-eyed euphoria. Perhaps, having made his living dealing ecstasy, Ryder had a rather clearer idea of precisely what lurked further up the chain of supply than, say, the beatific denizens of London acid house club Shoom, who ended their evenings with an unironic singalong to Give Peace a Chance.

The album’s sound perfectly complements the mood. Befitting a man with a reputation as the Phil Spector of Manchester, producer Martin Hannett saturated Bummed in reverb and echo; as with Spector’s wall-of-sound productions, it’s almost impossible to make individual instruments out amid the dense swirl. The sound and the sessions that produced it were the result of the copious intake of ecstasy: Ryder later claimed that supplying the alcoholic producer with the drug was the simplest way to stop him drinking. What it captures, however, is not the hug-a-stranger euphoria of the perfect E experience, but the queasy, disorientating claustrophobia of overindulgence. Coupled with the ever-present sense of menace in the lyrics, it makes for an uneasy, but utterly gripping listen.

Among the extra tracks lurks the baffling Lazyitis (One Armed Boxer) a reworking of Bummed’s closing track featuring yodelling cabaret artist Karl Denver. The combination of his vibrato-heavy club-singer voice and Ryder’s hoarse bark makes for what you might politely call a deeply challenging listen. Those looking for evidence of Factory Records‘ celebrated maverick spirit might note that someone at the label thought this would make a good single.

Then again, the single that finally took Happy Mondays on to Top of the Pops is scarcely more radio-friendly, offering two and a half minutes of thundering Can-inspired drums and squealing guitars, a lead vocal that borders on a hoarse, desperate scream, and a variety of thumpingly unsubtle references to heroin in the lyrics. It’s a miracle that the BBC allowed Hallelujah, and the band who made it, past reception.

What happened when Happy Mondays reached the top was impossibly depressing: hard drugs, homophobia, inexorable decline. But, as Bummed proves in all its dark, weirdly prescient glory, the way they got there was unique and strangely magnificent.

JC adds…….

Alexis Petridis has long been a reviewer I’ve admired, not just for his fine taste in music but for the way he writes things up.  Bummed wasn’t ecstatically received at the time of its initial release, with far too many in the UK music press keen to sneer at the Happy Mondays and indeed the direction in which Factory Records was heading back in 1988.  It wouldn’t take that much longer, however, before everyone was proclaiming Madchester as being the greatest thing since the last musical ‘movement’ to get folk awfully excited.

mp3: Happy Mondays – Mad Cyril
mp3: Happy Mondays – Performance
mp3: Happy Mondays – Wrote For Luck
mp3: Happy Mondays – Lazy Itis

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS : (10/15) : MONDAY AT THE HUG AND PINT

Album: Monday at the Hug & Pint – Arab Strap
Review: Pitchfork – 8 May 2003
Author: Chris Ott

Only The Pogues invite more and lazier booze analogies than Arab Strap, so I won’t insult your intelligence by forestalling mine: if their career is the musical equivalent of an alcoholic life – and in all likelihood it is – Monday at the Hug & Pint is Arab Strap’s moment of clarity. It’s an album dominated by regret, frustrated reflection and a desire to move forward, the least bullshitting, most accomplished and first consistently great release from Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton.

Arab Strap enjoyed undue praise for their intrinsic gait, their hollow tunes profiting from the same sheepish Anglophilia that made Irvine Welsh and Belle & Sebastian household names in America, where they can barely tell Scots from Cockney. The signature browbeating and bleating dirges still abound, but there’s an increased focus on songwriting rather than the moping first-person exposition that typified their first few records. Monday at the Hug & Pint doesn’t sound shockingly different from the rest of their catalog, but it’s a crystallization of identity and intent; where they once sprawled – hungover and depressed – Arab Strap have built on last year’s promising, alternately post- and pub-rock The Red Thread, proving they’re capable of taking themselves dead seriously.

Listening to their insecure and uneven beginnings – and ignoring The Red Thread as a bridge – Monday is an auspicious improvement. Though it’s nominally awkward, Depeche Mode‘s unpredictably great last gasp “Dream On” is an instant comparison with “The Shy Retirer”, a string-backed electro-acoustic dance tune with a newly positive nostalgia for the weekend’s pints. Genius lyrics abound – “You know I’m always moanin’/ But you jumpstart my serotonin,” and the somewhat infamous existential metaphor “this cunted circus never ends”– but just as the Matt Johnson (approaching Bono) croon of “Meanwhile at the Bar a Drunkard Muses” forecasts another barely conscious record of surly, sad-sack balladry (and skirts covering Ryan Adams“Come Pick Me Up”), “Fucking Little Bastards” smashes the accepted idea of Arab Strap to bits.

Sounding at first like the Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ rendition of “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, “Fucking Little Bastards” cuts quickly into an overloaded post-rock, post-shoegaze dirge, its cinematic angst underscoring not only that Aidan and Malcolm have been spending a lot of time with Mogwai, but also that violinists Stacey Sievwright and Jenny Reeve have doubled the import of Arab Strap’s maudlin work. The duo’s “fuck it” experimentalism remains intact, tacked on in a closing minute-plus of collapsing loops and telephoned vocals that could have gone on forever as far as I’m concerned.

Returning to the acoustic dance sound that’s earned the group its audience, “Flirt” fails to make the same impression as the record’s opener, mostly because the vocals never dig any hooks in, syncopating with a beat too slow to warrant such interplay. After another typically Strap ballad – “Who Named the Days”– my hopes faded. In the age of compact discs, it’s very difficult to give a record the feel of having two sides, let alone convince a listener there’s hope for something better around the bend. Sigur Rós recently managed it, and Arab Strap one-up them with the dividing “Loch Leven”, a tune that’s structurally typical of the band, but rises above the shirking, impatient post-rock folk of old in its more deliberate craft and inspired performance.

It’s done one better by “Act of War”, where the strings (and horns!) lift into a hitherto unimaginable aggression– “The fact is you’ve always been clumsy!”– possibly due to the involvement of Bright EyesConor Oberst and Mike Mogis, who worked with Moffat and Middleton on much of the record (as did Mogwai’s Barry Burns).

“Serenade” introduces liberal studio layering, overloading reverb, organ and strings and invoking everyone from The Smiths (“Rubber Ring”) to Sparks (“I only go for girls I’ve got no chance with”). Pinpoint samples of bottle rockets whizzing around add space, inferring that the night’s gone on perhaps too long and spilled out onto the lawn. The album ends with a somewhat repetitive appendix (“Pica Luna”), missing the perfect parting shot, a rousing piano sing-along named after their first record.

Though it’s just forty-five minutes long, Arab Strap make Monday at the Hug & Pint feel like an eternity – just like everything else in their catalog. While that was an unbearable aspect of their less considered youth, these days Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton are taking pints slowly, thinking before they speak. The girls go for a sharp wit when it’s doled out in good measure and offset by sensitivity; with any luck, these two won’t be reaching for the Arab Strap this weekend.

JC adds…….

Monday at The Hug & Pint is a very fine record, but I’ve not got it in my Top 3 of Arab Strap albums, having fallen for their ‘insecure and uneven beginnings’.  I was intrigued by this review, not least as it was from an American and I never imagined that the music of Arab Strap would survive any sort of Atlantic Crossing as it is, in many ways, as parochial as you’ll ever find, with the colloquialisms and Scottish humour struggling to be understood or appreciated.

And while I fail to see any resemblance to Depeche Mode, Sparks or a deft b-side to a single by The Smiths, I really like how the reviewer makes allowances for the mid-album dip (one that I’m in full agreement with) and talks up the Loch Leven/Act of War one-two (although they are separated by Glue in the running order) as they are among the duo’s most unexpected moments up to that particular point in time, but with hindsight can be seen as pointing the way for much of Aidan Moffat’s solo career and indeed the other collaborations he would go on to enjoy.

mp3: Arab Strap – The Shy Retirer
mp3: Arab Strap – Fucking Little Bastards
mp3: Arab Strap – Loch Leven
mp3: Arab Strap – The Week Never Starts Round Here

The last of the above features a very rare lead vocal from Malcolm Middleton.

Oh, and while I’m here, the new Arab Strap album and gigs this coming year will go someway to making up for how crap 2020 turned out.

THE FESTIVE SINGLES OF R.E.M (Part 2 of 2)

The posting from last Sunday should have given you all the backstory you need, but I should add that the singles usually came with a few other things in a special package.  For instance, the 1996 Fan Club Package included a 7″ single, a greetings card in an envelope, a 1997 Fan Club calendar, a New Adventures In Hi-Fi sticker & beer mat, all in a specially designed cardboard envelope.

1993 (black vinyl): pressing of 6,000

A: Silver Bells
a song associated with Christmas, popularised in the United States by Bing Crosby‘s duet with Carol Richards (1950)

B: Christmas Time Is Here
an instrumental version of a song from the TV show A Charlie Brown Christmas, first aired in 1965

1994 (black vinyl) : pressing unknown, but it did come in three different-coloured sleeves

A: Sex Bomb
a cover of a song by San Francisco-based hardcore punk band Flipper from their album, Generic (1982)

B: Christmas In Tunisia
a track written by R.E.M., described as a Middle-Eastern influenced instrumental

1995 (black vinyl): pressing unknown, but it did come in two different-coloured sleeves

NB: The first of the giveaways NOT to have a Christmas-themed song on at least one side of the vinyl and thus, setting the theme for the next few years

A: Wicked Game
cover of the 1990 hit single by Chris Isaak

B: Java
cover of a 1963 hit instrumental single for Floyd Cramer, originally written by New Orleans writer and producer Allen Toussaint

1996 (black vinyl): pressing unknown

A: Only In America
originally recorded by Jay & The Americans in 1963; written by legendary songwriters Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil.

B: I Will Survive
Yup.  The very song as made famous by Gloria Gaynor (and which was covered by your humble scribe, live at the Glasgow Pavilion in 1990 – as recalled here)

1997 (black vinyl): pressing unknown

A: Live For Today
previously unreleased original R.E.M. song

B: Happy When I’m Crying
previously unreleased original song written and performed by Pearl Jam

Yup.  A further move away from tradition, with just one side of the vinyl coming from R.E.M. and the other from Eddie Vedder and co. in what, I’m sure is their first-ever appearance on the blog

It’s back to normal next Sunday with Part 27 of the R.E.M. singles series as released here in the UK.  We’re still in the era of Monster……

JC

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS : (9/15) : PSYCHOCANDY

Album: Psychocandy – The Jesus and Mary Chain
Review: Rolling Stone, 27 May 1986
Author: Tim Holmes

The Jesus and Mary Chain is a riddle, a conundrum, a source of confusion and anxiety, a love-’em-or-hate-’em proposition. Obviously schooled in the aesthetics of noise and punk and simpleminded pop, the Jesus and Mary Chain is a perfect recombinant of every Edge City outlaw ethic ever espoused in rock.

With the willful and deliberate abandon of postpunk ghouls, they rape and pillage everything you’ve ever loved: the Phil Spector “Be My Baby” drum tat-too, the sweet abrasion of the Velvet Underground, the velocity and mangled pop of the Ramones, the black-leather sloganeering of Suicide, the lovable incompetence of Sixties garage bands, the shrill, screaming, grinding industrial pandemonium of SPK and Throbbing Gristle. The big question arises: Is the Jesus and Mary Chain the real thing, or is it a shrewd package job for critics and would-be iconoclasts?

The album title Psychocandy sums it up with alarming accuracy. This is the opposite of sugarcoating the pill; it’s like wrapping sandpaper around a Tootsie Pop. The veneer is gritty and inedible, the next layer is hard and crunchy, the core is soft and chewy. These are kids after all, which just might be their saving grace. If indeed they are a superficial and diluted version of the most hard-core and dangerous elements in the rock lexicon, maybe they are too young to care.

For all its chain-saw screech and übermetallic badness, the Jesus and Mary Chain is a pop band with doo-doo-doos and la-la-las, simple melodies and full echoing production around Jim Reid‘s laconic Lou Reed-like monotone. William Reid‘s guitar parts blast shards of maniacal feedback across the underpinnings of Douglas Hart‘s bass lines. And in true Mo Tucker stand-up fashion, Bobby Gillespie keeps the beat uncomplicated and direct.

It’s obvious to the point of inanity that the Velvet Underground is the pure and adult model for the self-consciously evil xerography of the Jesus and Mary Chain. Perhaps these are the days of whining neuroses and the function of the Jesus and Mary Chain is to make ruthless, gut-bending noise safe for the airwaves. But, then again, if they can actually get their holocaustic guitar squall on the radio, maybe they’re doing us all some kind of public service.

JC adds…….

As mentioned in the pre-amble to the first offering in this seasonal mini-series, there are very few reviews from the UK music papers from the 80s available on-line which is why I’m leaning heavily towards what was published in America.  My big surprise here is that someone from Rolling Stone got it right about JAMC, far quicker than many of his UK counterparts, many of whom dismissed them as a gimmick with no shelf-life.

mp3: The Jesus and Mary Chain – Just Like Honey
mp3: The Jesus and Mary Chain – In A Hole
mp3: The Jesus and Mary Chain – Inside Me
mp3: The Jesus and Mary Chain – You Trip Me Up

 

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS : (8/15) : STEVE McQUEEN

Album: Steve McQueen – Prefab Sprout
Review: Uncut – 20 April 2007
Author: Andrew Mueller

The original 1985 release of this, Prefab Sprout’s second album, confirmed what the previous year’s debut, “Swoon”, had hinted: that the firmament had been graced by a star of singular twinkle.

More than two decades on, the material wrought by Paddy McAloon for “Steve McQueen” still has the feel of a masterclass delivered by some amiably eccentric, terrifyingly brilliant Professor of Song. He would go on to wreak further, if infuriatingly intermittent, miracles – “Jordan: The Comeback” and “Andromeda Heights” – but “Steve McQueen” remains as rich and complete a single songbook as has ever been authored.

Though often self-consciously arch, occasionally verging on too-clever-by-half, McAloon never allowed his intelligence to dominate his passions: for all the playful wittiness poured into the music and lyrics, “Steve McQueen” remains a piercingly sincere evocation of heartbreak. The best songs here – and the quality really varies only between a million miles better than average and certifiable thundering genius – are as eloquent as anything by Leonard Cohen, as angry as Elvis Costello at his most spiteful, and accompanied by the melodic grace of Brian Wilson.

“Appetite”, “Goodbye Lucille” and especially “Bonny” are supremely pretty songs, freighting some pretty ugly truths. The career-spanning characterisations of McAloon as some flouncing, floppy-fringed Fotherington-Thomas were only ever the work of people who weren’t listening.

The rawness of the emotions underpinning Thomas Dolby’s deceptively polished production is emphasised on the acoustic recordings of eight of the tracks, which appear as a bonus disc. McAloon’s new versions of “Faron Young” and “When Love Breaks Down”, addressing the romantic folly of his youth with the weary wisdom of his middle-aged voice, are especially baleful and glorious in their desperation and desolation. That key line of “Goodbye Lucille”“Life’s not complete/Till your heart’s missed a beat” – now sounds much more like a promise than a threat.

JC adds…….

The review is spot on in that this re-release, with the additional acoustic versions, somehow managed to improve something that I’d long considered perfect.  Just over five years ago, I pulled together an ICA for Prefab Sprout, and, for the first and only time, I had one side of said ICA as identical to one side of a studio album – Side A of Steve McQueen.

So, it makes sense to start off 2021 with something just a bit different in this series; it’s a special treat for those of you who don’t know them – all eight tracks from the bonus disc of 2007.

mp3: Prefab Sprout – Appetite
mp3: Prefab Sprout – Bonny
mp3: Prefab Sprout – Desire As
mp3: Prefab Sprout – When Love Breaks Down
mp3: Prefab Sprout – Goodbye Lucille #1
mp3: Prefab Sprout – Moving The River
mp3: Prefab Sprout – Faron Young
mp3: Prefab Sprout – When The Angels