THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Fourteen : LET’S MAKE SOME PLANS

I was recently on a Zoom call with Jonny The Friendly Lawyer – it’s my hope that, if the COVID situation improves and travel restrictions begin to get lifted, then a trip to visit him in LA, postponed from last year, will go ahead in a few months time.

The call, as it inevitably does, got onto the subject of music and I made mention of Close Lobsters and how they were one of the most underrated of all the Scottish bands to emerge in the 80s. Jonny expressed a bit of surprise that the band were from around these parts – he knew they were British but hadn’t quite paid attention to exactly where from.  In turn, he surprised me by mentioning that Close Lobsters had enjoyed a fair amount of college radio exposure in the US back in the day – I had always assumed they hadn’t done much, initially, beyond these shores.

The band formed in 1985 in Paisley, a sizable town in Scottish terms, located immediately to the south-west of Glasgow, first coming to prominence the following year via a song being included on the C86 compilation put together by the NME.  They lasted around four years, releasing two albums and a handful of singles on Fire Records, the London-based indie label.  As Jonny informed me, they got a fair bit of attention in the States, helped by a review of the debut album in Rolling Stone Magazine which described it as:-

“first-rate guitar pop from a top-shelf band. Close Lobsters could have been just another jangle group, but they have a lot more going for them than just chiming Rickenbackers.

The band reformed in 2012, and I was lucky enough to get to see one of the comeback gigs at a small and very sticky basement venue in Glasgow where they put on an outstanding show.  A few singles and EPs were then released sporadically and finally, in 2020, there was a new album, released by the excellent team behind the Last Night in Glasgow label.  All being well, there’s a live show or two planned for later in the year, including at a small Glasgow venue quite close to Villain Towers, for which tickets have been bought.

The band have released a lot of great songs over the years, but if you want my opinion, they never bettered their third single, which got to #17 in the UK indie charts in 1987:-

mp3: Close Lobsters – Let’s Make Some Plans

I picked up a second hand copy on 12″ vinyl a good while back, and have just again, using the new(ish) turntable, made a fresh rip at 320kpbs, well above the normal quality on offer at the blog.  And here’s your b-sides:-

mp3: Close Lobsters – In Spite Of These Times
mp3: Close Lobsters – Get What They Deserve

Two tracks that many of their contemporaries would love to have written and released as singles….there really was a plethora of riches from Close Lobsters back in the day.

JC

THE CRAP SOUND OF VINYL

There’s a lot wrong with the world just now, so this grumble somehow feels very insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but still……

It’s now seven months since I retired from full-time employment, and with COVID playing havoc with my plans to see the world, I’ve instead stayed at home and devoted time and money to music, all of which has led me to painfully admit my anorak tendencies do actually extend to me being described, accurately, with an awful word.

Collector.

I’ll admit to it if, for no other reason that a chunk of my redundancy payment has been utilised to go out and find vinyl copies of some of my most cherished CDs.  It’s not that I’ve gone really daft as there are some prices I simply won’t pay – the two Paul Quinn & The Independent Group albums being prime examples – but I have been tempted by a few sellers on Discogs to pay decent sums of money for original pressings of albums such as Seamonsters by The Wedding Present, which I only highlight as at £40, it’s the most I’ve ever spent on a second-hand album unseen, trusting the description of the seller – and it proved to be well worth it as it was in Near Mint condition and the sound was way superior to the CD that I’ve had for nearly 30 years.

Talking of TWP – and this where I will finally get to the point highlighted in the title of today’s posting – I’ve long wanted a copy of Bizarro on vinyl, but there’s never really been a copy on-line that fully caught my attention in terms of asking price and condition.  Instead, I ended up picking up a brand-new re-press that was issued for National Album Day on 20 October 2020 at a cost of £20.  It was like the old days as I returned back home from the record shop, the heart beating that little bit quicker and the anticipation levels increasing with every step.  One of my all-time favourite albums…..on vinyl….at last.

It came, like so many others nowadays, shrinkwrapped, which meant that it was only when I took the vinyl out of the inner sleeve did I discover it was a fairly light piece of plastic.  I knew beforehand it wasn’t a heavy 180-gram press but it was still a surprise to find myself holding something so flimsy.

I placed it down carefully on the turntable and lifted the needle into the groove. The opening notes of Brassneck came out of the speakers.  And they came out very quietly.

This couldn’t be right could it?   Vinyl is supposed to be much superior to CD but this was an occasion when I had to turn the volume button up to ensure it could be heard.  There was also a further sense of disappointment as the sounds coming out of the speaker were nothing special – there was certainly no discernable differences in the bass or the treble.  All in all, it felt really cheap, especially when compared to what I has experience from the second-hand copy of Seamonsters.

And it’s not just Bizarro that I’ve had a poor experience with vinyl in recent weeks. Debut by Bjork was another disappointing piece of vinyl that sounded as it had just been transferred straight from the CD rather than from the original masters.  Likewise, the copy of Murder Ballads by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.  Oh, and just after typing all this up, I’ve come on to add that the album I’ve just listened to, Beautiful Ones 1992-2018, a newly released 2 x vinyl LP featuring twenty-one singles by Suede as another example of a record that is a shoddy cut/press requiring the volume button to be turned way up high.

Not every vinyl for CD replacement has turned out that way.  Paul’s Boutique by The Beasties Boys is a Rolls Royce of a cut with all sorts of things being experienced in a new way, and likewise the 3 x LP re-release of OK Computer in which Radiohead seemingly took direct control of the process and ensured the vinyl would benefit from being mastered and pressed to the highest standard.  It’s against the sound of those records that I judge any re-issued vinyl.

It’s not just the re-issues that are causing grief with a number of brand new albums also being poorly pressed, cut, or mastered.  One of my favourite albums of the year is The Prettiest Curse by Hinds but I’ve had to rely on the download copy to put on the i-pod as the vinyl version suffers from what feels like a very muffled sound, with few peaks or troughs when looked at through the Audacity programme which I use to convert vinyl to mp3 format for different purposes, including the blog.

There is, however, one different thing that’s even more annoying, and that’s taking a brand new record out of its shrink-wrap, knowing that this will be its first-ever play, and discovering it hisses, crackles or pops – or possibly even all three.  Such as this:-

mp3: Matt Berninger – Take Me Out Of Town

This is the second track on Side B of the new and very fine album by the frontman of The National.  It’s a beautifully produced record, with the deft touch of Booker T Jones bringing out a real richness in Matt’s voice.  It’s a slow-to-mid-paced album, one in which you get the feeling every single note matters, no matter how far back it has been put in the mix.  There were absolutely no issues when listening to Side A.  I didn’t initially pick anything up when listening to Side B but then again, its first track is one of the louder songs. I was horrified by the introductory crackles for song two, and more so from the fact they were louder at the end of the track.  And yup, they got increasingly worse through tracks 3-5.

I’ve had this happen quite a few times these past few months.  I do now give every brand new record a clean before but it doesn’t really help all that much.  One of the major bugbears is that I have tried to support independent record stores all across the UK in recent months and so a number of the purchases have been made online and delivered by post, meaning I can’t easily return them and so have to accept poorer quality than I wanted.

I did, however, buy the Matt Berninger album from a shop in Glasgow and I’ll be looking to return it for a replacement copy.  Wish me luck!

Incidentally, it’s not just albums I’m finding issues with.  My copy of the new and magnificent Arab Strap 7″ single isn’t all that great in terms of crackling all the way through,  but particularly at the end, and it was bought from what is regarded as Glasgow’s premier record store.  But I’m not taking it back as this particular store had a number of copies in which the sleeve was signed by Aidan and Malcolm – at least I’ve the consolation of it being one of those rare new pieces of vinyl which comes with a download.

I’ll stop there – there’s another post rattling around my head about how different sellers on Discogs choose to grade their vinyl.  I’ve had some very poor experiences on things that were supposed to be Very Good+ that turned out to be almost unplayable.  Having said that, the vast majority of transactions have been very satisfactory, with the occasional real gem landing in my lap from sellers who have been very conservative with their gradings.

Such as the two sides of this 7″:-

mp3: The Fall – Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul
mp3: The Fall – Fantastic Life

or this 12″:-

mp3: Close Lobsters – Let’s Make Some Plans
mp3: Close Lobsters – In Spite Of These Times
mp3: Close Lobsters – Get What They Deserve

Two pieces of vinyl which date from 1981 and 1987 respectively, with neither remotely showing their age in any shape or form, including the wonderfulness of the songs.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #56/ ICA 103: CLOSE LOBSTERS

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This wasn’t supposed to happen.

The ICA series for 2016 should have bowed out with that superb piece from Swiss Adam that gave us some of the very best of Andrew Weatherall. But then I spotted that Close Lobsters were due up next in the Saturday series and I realised that I would struggle to just pick one song to represent just how good and indeed underrated a band they were. There was also the fact that I could have gone with a cover version to keep the recent theme going but I then made the last-minute call to do an ICA….a lazy one as I won’t say too much about any of the songs other than to indicate which record they can be found on.

Here’s their story, as put together by a real writer over at allmusic:-

An unfortunately short-lived but utterly wonderful neo-psychedelic jangle pop band, Close Lobsters only managed two albums and an EP in their brief career, but all three releases are brilliant, some of the best music of the late-’80s U.K. indie scene.

Close Lobsters were formed in Paisley (prophetically enough, given the band’s psychedelic tendencies) and the adjacent town of Johnstone in 1985 by singer Andrew Burnett and drummer Stewart McFayden. The pair couldn’t decide between the names the Close and the Lobsters and simply combined the two for their nonsensical but evocative handle. Adding guitarists Tom Donnelly and Graeme Wilmington, plus Burnett’s brother Robert on bass, Close Lobsters gained some early notoriety when their song “Fire Station Towers” showed up on the legendary New Musical Express cassette C-86, which lent its name to an entire movement of post-punk guitar bands. Close Lobsters had a greater commitment to melody than most of the C-86 bands, though, as shown on their first single, “Going to Heaven to See If It Rains,” which was released in November 1986. A second single, “Never Seen Before,” appeared in April 1987, with a superior re-recorded version of “Fire Station Towers” and a cover of the Only Ones’ “Wide Waterways” on the flip.

The quintet’s first album, Foxheads Stalk This Land, was released in late 1987 to lukewarm response in a U.K. press already tired of the C-86 propaganda, but its inviting mix of jangle pop, hazy psychedelia, inscrutable lyrics, and monster guitar hooks gained Close Lobsters a small but fervent following on the U.S. college radio scene. A follow-up single, “Let’s Make Some Plans,” came out in early 1988; this new song and four other excellent tracks were collected by Close Lobsters’ American label, Enigma Records, and released as the EP What Is There to Smile About? in the summer of 1988. Simple and direct, without a wasted note, it’s probably the best Close Lobsters release. For the U.K. fans, Strange Fruit released Close Lobsters’ four-song Janice Long Session from July, 1986, including the a-sides of the first two singles, the B-side “Nothing Really Matters” and “Pathetic Trivia,” which would be reworked as “Pathetique” on Foxheads Stalk This Land.

Close Lobsters’ second full album, Headache Rhetoric, was released in March 1989. Darker and less immediately accessible than either of the band’s previous releases, with a druggily psychedelic vibe akin to Love’s best work, it’s the sort of album that takes a while to sink in but packs a mighty wallop once it does. Unfortunately, it sank almost without trace in the U.K., and Enigma Records by this time was undergoing the financial problems that would cause it to fold within the year, so the label was unable to capitalize on the band’s cult success in the states.

After a final EP, Nature Thing, with appropriate covers of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My (Into the Black)” and Leonard Cohen’s “Paper Thin Hotel” on the flip, was released in the spring of 1989, Close Lobsters quietly called it a day.

In 2012, the original band members got back in touch and they decided to reform to play live shows in selected European cities. The response was favorable and the next year the band played the NYC Popfest and released their first new music since 1989, an EP titled Kunstwerk in Spacetime for the Shelflife label.

I can add to the above with the fact that 2016 saw the release of more new material courtesy of the Desire and Signs EP, again on Shelflife Records.

SIDE A

Going To Heaven To See If It Rains

The debut 45 in which they sound very like another new and emerging band of the time called The Wedding Present. It reached #9 in the UK Indie Charts in October 1986.

Let’s Make Some Plans

The third single, released in November 1987; later covered by The Wedding Present as the b-side to California in June 1992

Foxheads

Deliciously danceable title track from the debut LP released in October 1987

Skyscrapers of St Mirin

An ode to the home town of some of the band (St Mirin is the patron saint of Paisley while the local professional football team take the slightly different spelling of Saint Mirren). Originally available as a b-side to What Is There To Smile About? released in August 1988, it was also included on the second LP Headache Rhetoric in March 1989

Never Seen Before

They had a great habit, for the most part of not including their singles or b-sides on albums. This was the second 45 – it’s as perfect a slice of indie-pop from the 86/87/88 era as you could hope to come across, right down to additional female backing vocals  Deserved to be a massive mainstream success.

SIDE B

Just Too Bloody Stupid

Opening track to the debut LP.  By now, you might have spotted that this was a band who more or less recorded minor variations on one tune; but by god, it was a belter of a tune.

What Is There To Smile About?

Flop single #4.  Was there really sixteen better and higher-selling singles in the Indie Charts in August 1988?  I have my doubts….

Hey Hey My My (Into The Black)

As mentioned in the bio above, this was on the Nature Thing single released at the same time as the second album, Headache Rhetoric; one of a number of bands from the West of Scotland who, at the time and in the coming years, would cite Neil Young as a huge influence.

Lovely Little Swan

Opening track on Headache Rhetoric, an album that disappointed a few folk on its release but has undergone a bit of a critical reappraisal over the past quarter of a century.  Parts of this remind me of early-ish R.E.M.

I Kiss The Flowers In Bloom

Another track from Foxheads Stalk This Land that would have made a very fine single except the band preferred not to rip fans off , and a fine way to round things off.

Enjoy.  And Happy New Year when it arrives wherever you live.

NEXT YEAR’S NOSTALGIA FEST (Part 7 of 48)

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For a whole bunch of complicated and related reasons, I sort of lost touch with new music from late 1986 through to early 1990. Thankfully, I’ve been able to plug many of the gaps in my musical knowledge thanks in the main to my dear friend Jacques The Kipper who supplied me with all sorts of C90 cassettes over many years chock-full of great tunes that had passed me by.

By the time I had even heard of Close Lobsters, they had come and gone, breaking up in 1989 and leaving behind a body of work that consisted of 2 LPs and 6 singles. Indeed, the first time I ever got to listen to any of their songs was when The Wedding Present did a cover version on a b-side.

The band formed back in 1985 in Johnstone, which is a small town a few miles to the south-west of Glasgow with a line-up of Andrew Burnett, Bob Burnett, Tom Donnelly, Stuart McFadyen and Graham Wilmington.   One of their songs – Firestation Towers – was included on the original C86 tape and this lead to a deal with Fire Records as well as a major support slot to Jesus & Mary Chain. Bob Burnett left after only a couple of singles and was replaced on bass guitar by Paul Bennett.

It was talking to folk in a pub one night in the early 90s about my recently discovered love of TWP (it took me until the single Kennedy in 1989) that mention was made of Close Lobsters and a couple of folk said they were best described as the Caledonian Weddoes. Intrigued, I tried to track down some of their songs, but wasn’t successful as they had been released on a record label which weren’t the best for re-stocking when a shop had sold out.

So for a number of years it was only through their songs appearing on compilation CDs that I picked up their song….until the advent of ebay which saw some folk sell vinyl copies of the albums and singles.

It is true that their sound was unmistakably of its era….and yes, there’s an awful lot of musical similarity between Close Lobsters and The Wedding Present. Neither of these are things that count against the band.

The song on CD86 is what sounds like an earlier mix and version of the opening track on their debut LP:-

mp3 : Close Lobsters – Just Too Bloody Stupid (CD86 version)

I actually think the LP version is superior:-

mp3 : Close Lobsters – Just Too Bloody Stupid (album version)

In the absence of a b-side to a single I thought I’d offer the bonus of the tremendous track after which the debut LP was named:-

mp3 : Close Lobsters – Foxheads

In March 2012 they came back together to play indie festivals in Madrid and Berlin as well as what can only be described as a triumphant gig in Glasgow where the clock was well and truly turned back. Last year, the band played the Copenhagen Popfest and released rather splendid new material via an E.P. called Kunstwerk in Spacetime which picked up just about exactly where the boys had left off 25 years earlier….

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Parts 28-35)

Back on 8 October 2011, I started a series called ‘Saturday’s Scottish Single’.  The aim was to feature one 45 or CD single by a Scottish singer or band with the proviso that the 45 or CD single was in the collection. I had got to Part 60-something and as far as Kid Canaveral when the rug was pulled out from under TVV.

I’ll catch up soon enough by featuring 5 or more at a time from the archives..

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(28) Butcher Boy – Imperial b/w Juicy Fruit : Damaged Goods 7″ (2011)

One of my all time favourite bands.  That I was able to promote one of their gigs in Glasgow in 2011 will always be a memory to treasure.  

This is the thing they’ve ever made available on vinyl.  Still not prepared to make Juicy Fruit available on the blog as the 500 copies of the single have never sold out….

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(29) Captain America – Flame On b/w Buttermilk b/w Indian Summer : Paperhouse Records CD (1992)

Between calling themselves Captain America and ripping off the logo from a chain store, it can’t come as too much of a surprise that all sorts of injunctions soon forced changes and led to this 1992 single being deleted very very quickly. Captain America arose from the ashes of The Vaselines and sound a bit like the way Teenage Fanclub sounded in 1992.  The name was soon changed to Eugenuis which was the nickname some had given to frontman Eugene Kelly

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(30) Champion Doug Veitch  – Margarita b/w Margarita (Mix Mescales)  b/w One Black Night (remix) : Conga Records 12″ single  (1986)

Read more about Champion Doug Veitch here

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(31) Cinematics – Be In The World (demo) : Promo one-sided 7″ bought at a gig when band supported Editors : (2005)

Read more about  Cinematics here

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(32) Clare Grogan – Love Bomb (extended) b/w Love Bomb (dub) ; Love Bomb b/w I Love The Way You Beg : London Records 12 ” and 7″ singles (1987)

The ill-fated solo single that featured a few times over at the old blog…..and always with an apology.  Written and recorded with the help of Davey Henderson (ex- Fire Engines and Win (etc!!) this was a huge flope and led to an LP that was already in the can being shelved.  That more or less was the end of Clare’s musical career – tv and the stage awaited before the 21st Century phenomena of Rewind Festivals and appearances singing the old hits from the Altered Images days.

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(33) Clean George IV – First Blast Of The Trumpet Against The Monstrous Regiment Of Women b/w The Great Highland Crack Epidemic (Black Spring Recordings 2007)

As written back in 2007 when this single was first mentioned on TVV:-

Clean George IV make a kind of racket they like to call ‘pop-rock’.  Originally from Edinburgh they have been together for around a year (in various guises/lineups), have already supported Babyshambles and Clor and count Bloc Party’s singer, Kele Okereke, and drummer, Matt Tong, among their fans, as well as a veritable legion of other indie players…

They comprise of mainman/flagship George McFall and various musicians stolen from other bands. They say they are equal parts Eno, Devo, Erasure and Country (Big).

It was one of the other bloggers who alerted me to this.  Could very well have been Ed over at 17 Seconds.  Saw it in a shop soon after and bought it.

Hugely misogynist title.  Don’t take it literally……..

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(34) Close Lobsters – Going To Heaven To See If It Rains b/w Boys and Girls : Fire Records 7″ (1986)

I used to have a copy of this 7″ single but alas haven’t seen it in the collection for ages. Must have loaned it out and forgot all about it. I’m terrible for doing that with vinyl and books:- mp3 : The Close Lobsters – Going To Heaven To See If It Rains mp3 : The Close Lobsters – Boys and Girls Released in October 1986, this was the debut single. Still sounds great after all these years. Both sides of the single. Please don’t argue

Read more about Close Lobsters here.

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(35) Cocteau Twins –  Bluebeard b/w Three Swept b/w Ice-Pulse b/w Bluebeard (acoustic) : Fontana CD (1994)

Read more about Cocteau Twins here.

2013 Update

It takes about three times as long to pull out and paste pieces from the archives as it does to put a new post together thanks to the the search engine to the archives taking forever.  This particular post has been a brute.