SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #173 : THE KARELIA

From wiki:-

The Karelia were a Scottish band formed by current Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos, known at the time as Alex Huntley, in 1996. The four original members were Alex Huntley (vocals, guitar, bouzouki and banjolele),Glen Thompson (bass guitar and percussion), Alan Wylie (trumpet) and Thom Falls (drums) – Falls was later replaced by Greek drummer Tassos Bobos.

Their sound has been described as “prog/techno rock with Iggy-voxed overtones”, and “jazzy film-noir lo-fi”. The band’s only album, Divorce At High Noon, was released in 1997 on Sum Records to little acclaim. Produced by Bid of The Monochrome Set, it was an off the wall mix of rock and jazz trumpet with unusual lyrics. The final song, “Garavurghty Butes”, was completely freestyle with improvised lyrics and musical arrangement. The band did not tour and were unknown outside Glasgow. Very few copies of the album sold and the band split in 1998 after contributing to an EP for the Guided Missile label.

Upon the huge success of Franz Ferdinand fans began to exchange originals of Divorce at High Noon for £50-£100. Because of this, the album was re-released in February 2005. It featured all of the previous album and two bonus tracks.

What it didn’t feature was a song The Karelia contributed to The Glasgow EP, four tracks that also featured Mogwai, El Hombre Trajeado and The Yummy Fur, released in 2000 by Plastic Cowboy Records.

mp3 : The Karelia – New Year In New York

The Glasgow EP was one of a collectible series released by the label, with the other cities being London, Liverpool, Oxford and Tokyo, with another devoted to Essex.

JC

SUPERFAST JELLYFISH

Lazy post time.  Got too much to be getting on with preparing for the Simply Thrilled event, taking place from 11pm-3am after The Cure, supported by Mogwai and The Twilight Sad, play an outdoor gig in Glasgow, their first in Scotland for 27 years!

Plastic Beach was the third studio album by Gorillaz, released back in 2010. It featured numerous guest appearances by a diverse range of artists. One of the best tracks featured vocal contributions from De La Soul and Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals.

mp3 : Gorillaz – Superfast Jellyfish

Marvellous stuff.

JC

SOME SONGS ARE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter 23)

It’s been a while since this irregular series last appeared.

The song being featured today is most closely associated with Elvis Presley, but has been covered quite extensively since its first airing in 1969.

As the snow flies
On a cold and grey Chicago mornin’
A poor little baby child is born
In the ghetto

And his mama cries
‘cos if there’s one thing that she don’t need
It’s another hungry mouth to feed
In the ghetto

People, don’t you understand
The child needs a helping hand
Or he’ll grow to be an angry young man some day
Take a look at you and me
Are we too blind to see
Do we simply turn our head and look the other way?

Well the world turns
And a hungry little boy with a runny nose
Plays in the street as the cold wind blows
In the ghetto

And his hunger burns
So he starts to roam the streets at night
And he learns how to steal and he learns how to fight
In the ghetto

Then one night in desperation
The young man breaks away
He buys a gun, steals a car
Tries to run, but he don’t get far
And his mama cries

As a crowd gathers ’round an angry young man
Face down on the street with a gun in his hand
In the ghetto

As her young man dies
On a cold and gray Chicago mornin’
Another little baby child is born
In the ghetto

And his mama cries
In the ghetto

The song’s composer was Mac Davis, a Texas-born songwriter who got his first break working with Nancy Sinatra before gaining fame for his work with the king of rock’n’roll. The original title of the songs was The Vicious Circle, reflecting its narrative of grinding and continuing poverty that inevitable escalates into violence. It’s a heart breaking tale that has come true on far too many occasions in towns and cities across the world, and not merely Chicago.

In The Ghetto provided Elvis Presley with his first hit single in the UK in three years, and likewise in many other parts of the world and, as mentioned earlier, has been recorded by numerous singers over the year and also spawned a number of parody versions.

I have to say that when I first heard the Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds take on it, I wasn’t quite sure it was a tribute or a parody, but given that it was recorded at a time when the singer and his acolytes were almost permanently is a state of substance dependency, it’s hardly a surprise that it turned out the way it did:-

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – In The Ghetto

The single seemingly hit the shops on 18 June 1984, the very day that I celebrated by 21st birthday by getting drunk and playing all the early Smiths songs at full blast in my flat, with Girl Afraid being on very heavy rotation! Who’d have thought back then that Nick Cave would still be alive in 2019 and reaching the level of popularity he is currently enjoying while the lead singer of the Mancunians would be held in such contempt for his statements and political leanings?

JC

AN ALBUM THAT’S COME OF AGE

Philophobia, the second studio album by Arab Strap is now 21 years old.

It’s an impressively ambitious and sprawling record, coming in at 66 minutes, It has thirteen songs, all of which could pass as short stories or poems set to music. It’s never a comfortable listen but it always manages to hold your attention throughout. It’s a brutally candid record, with the protagonist in each song seemingly all too often putting his mouth in motion before properly engaging his brain. It does occasionally seem to sail very close to the wind in terms of misogyny but if the songs are given a concentrated listen, and the lyrics are read closely in the wider context, it won’t take long to come to the realisation that in spitting out such venom, our singer is lashing out as a way to excuse or explain his many physical and social inadequacies.

The lyrics throughout are incredible. Most reviews over the years have homed in on the opening five lines, and rightly so:-

It was the biggest cock you’d ever seen
But you’ve no idea where that cock has been
You said you were careful – you never were with me
I heard you did it four times
But johnnies come in packs of three

If there has ever been a more shocking and heart-wrenchingly opening five lines to any album, then please enlighten me. It’s a song that takes your breath away from the offset and has such a powerful lyric that you are understandably distracted from the wonderfully understated guitar work going on in the background before the final emotional punch in the guts over the final minute and as the melancholic cello kicks in.

mp3 : Arab Strap – Packs Of Three

My own favourite moments come a short time later. The scenario is a lover’s tiff at the end of a night out, probably after both sides have had too much to drink, and most certainly over something completely trivial but right now of such significance that the relationship seems doomed:-

mp3 : Arab Strap – Here We Go

I defy anyone to listen and deny that they’ve never been in a similar situation.  It was there and then that I made my mind up that Aidan Moffat was the greatest Scottish lyricist of my generation, a view I have never wavered from these past two decades.

Philophobia also made my mind up that Malcolm Middleton was the most talented Scottish musician and arranger of my generation. It takes a special sort of skill to come up with music to complement perfectly angst, pain and fear without it being maudlin, downbeat or depressing. The guitar parts are perfectly executed but there is also great use made of keyboards, drum machines, strings and the backing/co-vocals from Adele Bethel, especially on the song which paints a much more realistic post-sex picture than lighting up a cigarette and letting out a contended sigh.

mp3 : Arab Strap – Afterwards

I’ve read that some critics don’t like the one-dimensional pace of Philophobia, with the opinion that an upbeat number or two, along the lines of First Big Weekend of The Summer  would have livened things up for the better.

As you may have guessed by now, it’s not a view that I subscribe to. Arab Strap would in later years write and record some truly astonishing and memorable albums but nothing ever quite came together as majestically as Philophobia.

The sound of being insecure, nervous, scared, frustrated, flawed, bewildered, confused and far from OK has never been bettered.

mp3 : Arab Strap – I Would Have Liked Me A Lot Last Night

PS : The reason I didn’t illustrate the posting with original artwork is that the nudity would have been flagged up by one of social media links for Simply Thrilled and gotten us into trouble!

JC

INDIE TRACKS

Another new name to me via the C88 boxset was Bubblegum Splash!

I’ve done some digging and found that they came from Salisbury and comprised Nikki Barr (vocals), Jim Harrison (guitar), Dave Todd (bass), Marty Cummins (tambourine/backing vocals) and Alan Ware (drums). They weren’t together for any length of time – barely over a year – and the total sum of their contribution to the heritage of indie-pop is just seven songs:-

Splashdown EP (1987): Plastic Smile, Just Walked Away, Fast Of Friends and One Of Those Things
(worth noting that all four songs have a combined length of just over 7-and-a half minutes)

Surfin in the Suburb compilation LP (1987) : Someone Said and The 18:10 to Yeovil Junction

Two Groovy Pop Songs split 7” flexidisc with The Darling Buds (1988): If Only
(given away free with Issue 2 Of “So Naive” Fanzine, printed in Norwich)

Legend has it that the band actually had a total of 13 songs in their repertoire, that they were together for 13 months and they split after an acrimonious 13th live gig.

They were considered decent enough to get a deal with the Subway Organisation, for whom the EP was recorded and on which they also feature via the compilation LP. What little there is out there about Bubblegum Splash! indicates they, like many other bands that burst onto the scene around the same time, were influenced by the likes of Buzzcocks and the Postcard-era Orange Juice. They played on the same bills as the likes of The Pastels, Talulah Gosh, The Primitives, The Darling Buds and The Vaselines, and have some infamy in that Stephen Pastel, in a fanzine interview back in the day, declared:-

“On the minus there are groups like Bubblegum Splash! We played with them in Bristol, and they just summed up everything that’s wrong in music just now. I mean they had one song that went la-la-la like Primal Scream and another with the bum-de-bum drumbeats a la Shop Assistants. It was just a joke.”

Going by the unshabby track that was included on the C88 boxset, that does sound a bit of a harsh and unfair assessment, although there may well be some of you who will not be enamoured by the vocal delivery:-

mp3: Bubblegum Splash! – The 18:10 to Yeovil Junction

Having said that, Nikki Barr in an on-line interview a few years back did concede that Stephen had a point:-

“I joined the band knowing I couldn’t really sing, it was good fun, never thought we would gig let alone release anything. I was very shy and nervous. In band practices I used to sing behind a curtain.”

Judge for yourself as here’s everything else that was ever committed to vinyl:-

mp3: Bubblegum Splash! – Plastic Smile
mp3: Bubblegum Splash! – Just Walked Away
mp3: Bubblegum Splash! – Fast Of Friends
mp3: Bubblegum Splash! – One Of Those Things

mp3: Bubblegum Splash! – Someone Said

mp3: Bubblegum Splash! – If Only

I like them!!!

JC

THE PIXIES SHIRT

A GUEST POSTING by JONNY THE FRIENDLY LAWYER

JC recently re-posted a brilliant story by Tim Badger about ‘Bob’, his beloved “old, battered, baggy and black” sweater (jumper?) which he named after the Cure‘s frontman. Badger loved it, danced to the Pixies in it, tried to impress girls with it. He recounted the rowdy night when he lost Bob, panicked and joyfully reunited with him the next day. The beloved jumper and the mention of the Pixies reminded me of a somewhat similar story of my own, which I offer up in fond tribute to Mr. Badger.

THE PIXIES SHIRT

When Sam the friendly artist was a kid our favorite father-son pastime was going to see shows. One of the most memorable of the 100+ shows we saw was The Pixies at the Greek Theater in LA on [*checks master list*] 22 September 2004. It wasn’t the greatest show, to be honest, but they did play a great new song: “Bam Thwok” sung by the unsinkable Kim Deal. But the night was noteworthy for two particular reasons: First, unbeknownst to us, a writer for the LA Weekly noticed STFA and me buying a t-shirt and made it the basis of his review of the show. Came out like this:

I still get some smirks in the house for having been described as “visibly hip,” but I didn’t care at the time because I was chuffed to be seen as “late 30’s” when in fact I was 41. The second and more important reason was the shirt STFA went home with:

Sam wore that shirt EVERYWHERE. And he was wearing it 10 months later when we drove down to San Diego for a giant festival called Street Scene 2005. Headliners were The White Stripes, The Killers, Black Eyed Peas and Garbage, featuring my old dinner date Shirley Manson. Sam had a great time–sunny day, fab music, and there were loads of radio stations giving away free merch. Sam won a t-shirt from Indie 103.1 FM, the first station to host Jonesy’s Jukebox with the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones. He cranked the Pixies shirt through a belt loop and secured it with a handful of key chains also given away as freebies.

By this time 11-year-old STFA was a concert veteran, having seen [*checks master list again*] 35 shows. He liked to see the big names but what he’d really been looking forward to was crowd surfing. I figured of all the acts that day the most rambunctious was likely to be Flogging Molly. I promised Sam that if it looked like a tight enough crowd he could give it a go. I was a bit alarmed to note that, just 2 songs in, the mosh pit in front of the Celtic punks was already head deep and swirling like a hurricane. But a promise is a promise and, after making Sam swear to never tell his mom, my buddy Mark and I hoisted him up and threw him on top of the mob. I watched him surf over the top for a good 10 seconds or so, and then down he went into the thrashing horde.

I knew I’d never be able find a 4-foot-tall kid in the crowd so we had prearranged to meet at the base of the nearest light tower. Sam dutifully turned up and I was overjoyed to see that he was all in one piece. I thought he’d be jubilant but he was disconsolate. “Dad,” he sniffed, “the Pixies shirt!” It and the belt loop were torn off in the pit. Mark and I looked over at the frantic army that was now positively boiling in front of the stage. I looked at Sam and sighed. Mark looked at me and said, “No fucking way.” But I’m a dedicated and visibly hip dad. I took a deep breath and went in.

I immediately gave up any chance of finding the Pixies shirt by seeing it–it was all I could do to remain upright. I crouched in low with my fists up around my head boxer-style, trying to make a way through the mix. Flogging Molly draws a good crowd at clubs, but this was an outdoor festival in the parking surrounds of Qualcomm Stadium, where the Padres and Chargers played. The mosh pit had hundreds of people in it and I think I took an elbow from every one of them. I couldn’t see anything. I was getting fairly well beaten up. The pit was unusually rough–we were 6 hours into an all-day event and the crowd had been drinking in the hot California sun since the gates opened. I was thinking about an exit strategy when I stepped on something soft. I moved it around with my foot and felt…what? a bottle cap? No! it had to be one of the key rings Sam had tried to secure the shirt with! I swooped down and grabbed it, sodden and stomped flat, still attached to the torn off belt loop by the key ring. I bowled my way back out, knocking over a few people in the process. That seemed fair in light of the beat-down I’d just taken.

Sam was delighted, Mark was incredulous, I was old, battered, baggy and bruised.

When Sam grew out of it the Pixies shirt went up on the wall of our music room. If I remember correctly the next beloved shirt featured the Meat Puppets.

The Pixies: Bam Thwok
Flogging Molly: Devil’s Dance Floor

JTFL

JC adds….I awoke last Saturday morning to find this in my inbox.  About an hour later, I got a further e-mail fully confirming the date and time for tickets for a football match next month over in Barcelona, a match that will be part of a weekend in the city where myself and Rachel (Mrs Villain) will be hooking up Jonny and Goldie the friendly therapist (Mrs JTFL and mother of STFA) as they embark on a short holiday in Spain.  It felt like instant karma.

 

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF (EARLY) SIMPLE MINDS (Parts 11 & 12)

Some six weeks after Promised You A Miracle took its leave of the charts, the follow-up single was released:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Glittering Prize (edit)

Where I’d been a bit iffy about Promised You A Miracle, I pounced on Glittering Prize, telling anyone who cared to listen, that it was a magnificent piece of music whose shimmering majesty, particularly via its Associates-like guitar, bass and keyboard sounds, was the perfect soundtrack to the final few days of what had been the first long summer of my university years….I was happy and this song made me even happier.  I was certain it would be a massive hit, but it was very much a slow-burner, taking what seemed like ages to make its way into the Top 20 and only doing so at the same time as the LP New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84) hit the shops.

Looking back, the lack of b-sides for Glittering Prize didn’t help, with just instrumental versions of different lengths appearing on the 7” and 12” releases, with no new tracks or old live recordings to flesh things out:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Glittering Prize (theme)

The new album went straight into the Top 10 on its release and a week later was Top 3 (the new Dire Straits album, Brothers In Arms, Love Over Gold, went straight in at #1 when New Gold Dream hit its peak).

Virgin Records were desperate to issue a third single from the album but had to hold off until Glittering Prize stopped selling and dropped out of the charts which it did in early November. Just two weeks later, the new single came in at #36,

but to the shock and surprise of all concerned, that’s as high as it got:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Someone Somewhere (In Summerime)

By general consensus, this was the highlight of the album and of the live shows the band were now playing to packed audiences. The 12” version even included a new extended introduction, one which Charlie Burchill had worked up during the live renditions and in doing so turned the song into a six-minute epic (and, although nobody knew it yet, gave an indication of what was about to come round the corner…..hiya U2!!)

mp3 : Simple Minds – Someone Somewhere (In Summertime) (extended)

Fans, however, seemed content with the fact they had bought the album, and perhaps it also suffered from the fact that many were also investing in what was by now an extensive back catalogue.

The band didn’t have much in the way of any new music for the b-side and so, for the 7” it was decided to offer up an early version of another track from New Gold Dream:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – King Is White and In The Crowd (session version)

This had been recorded back in February 1982 and broadcast on the Radio 1 evening show, hosted by David ‘Kid’ Jensen. It’s quite demo like, certainly in comparison to what was issued six months later on the album, providing evidence of the role that producer Pete Walsh had played in the studio.

The 12” did have a previously unreleased track:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Soundtrack For Every Heaven

It later transpired that the music had been worked on for what had hoped would be the tenth track on New Gold Dream but had been abandoned as the band hadn’t been able to do quite get what they were looking for. In effect, what you have, is an unfinished demo……………..

New Gold Dream was placed high in just about every list typed up by the critics in their consideration of the best records of 1982. Simple Minds were now, at long last, a household name, and had even solved their drummer conundrum by keeping session player Mel Gaynor for the live shows and offering him a permanent position for going back into the studio for the follow-up.

JC