LANDFILL INDIE? – A FRESH SERIES FOR MONDAYS (Issue 6)

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The Fratellis.

Formed in Glasgow in March 2005.  Fifteen months later, their debut single, Henrietta, hit the Top 20 in the UK singles charts.  It’s follow-up, Chelsea Dagger, went astronomical, reaching #2 in August 2006 and was quickly adopted as a terrace chant by football fans, helped by the fact that many match-day announcers of the time used it as the noise to celebrate a home goal.

Debut album, Costello Music, charted at #2 in September 2006, all of which led to the band winning a Brit Award for best breakthrough act in March 2007, as voted for by the listeners of BBC Radio One.

It was around this time that I went along to see them, at a dreadful venue in Edinburgh called The Corn Exchange.  I know Mrs V was with me, and I’ve a feeling that we were there with Jacques The Kipper and his missus.  In any roads, JtK, or whichever Edinburgh friends we were with, had bought the tickets, or perhaps had won them in a competition or something, I genuinely don’t know.

The gig is up there in my Top 5 worst of all time.  The band were lousy in a venue where even the very best of them, such as Blur and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, have failed to overcome the awful acoustics.  But in saying that, 99.99% of the audience seemed to be having a good time.

The music is what should be taken into consideration when deciding if a band should be consigned to landfill indie or not.  The fact that the three permanent band members go by the names of Jon Fratelli (vocals, lead guitar), Barry Fratelli (bass, backing vocals) and Mince Fratelli (drums, backing vocals) means I’d be likely to chuck it away even without listening. Oh, and they also have a song called Baby Fratelli….

It has to be admitted that The Fratellis knew how to write and record tunes that sounded great blasting out of a radio or being played on a stage in a field in which thousands of drunk or high punters would go a tad loopy for a bit.  But there’s really no substance to any of it, is there?

mp3: The Fratellis – Whistle For The Choir
mp3: The Fratellis – Henrietta
mp3: The Fratellis – Baby Fratelli

I was surprised, in doing a bit of background research for today, to discover that the band have released a further four albums since Costello Music, with another one due sometime this year, having been held back, along with plans to tour, from 2020 as a result of the pandemic.  Can’t say that any of the subsequent material has ever registered with me.

There are numerous copies of the debut CD available via the second-hand market on Discogs, from as little as 1p (plus postage).  That’s from a seller in Bulgaria; here in the UK, it’s more common to be 25p or 50p (plus postage).

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF R.E.M. (Part 38)

I’ll be brutally honest – if I didn’t have the company of The Robster for this journey, I might well have been tempted to get off the train and simply give you a list of all the R.E.M. singles from 2001 onwards; but his knowledge of the band, and his willingness to be open and honest about what he considers to be a number of failings and disappointments throughout their lengthy and often stellar career, has been and will continue to be the reasons for sticking with us in the last few weeks…

The end of the 20th Century had been a strange time for long-time fans, to say the least. It had been difficult enough to embrace the electronica of Up, but it did contain a handful of songs, none of which were released as singles, to make it an occasionally interesting listen.  Three years later and the fingers, toes and every other possible part of the anatomy were crossed that the new album, Reveal, would re-ignite the passion.

As The Robster highlighted last week, the advance single, Imitation of Life, had been a hit.  My comrade-in-arms was a tad scathing last week in saying that the very familiarity of the song was a let-down as it felt like something from a bygone era when he had always thought of R.E.M. as a band which only looked forwards.

I actually quite like Imitation of Life.  I hoped that it would signal the new album being some sort of return to the poppier side of the band, one which they would take the charts by storm and have all the songs on heavy rotation on whatever radio stations the demographic now listened to. Turned out not to be the case…..

I’m going to use some words from the writer Garry Mulholland who, as part of an Uncut Magazine looking back at the career of R.E.M., had the task of doing the retrospective for Reveal:-

“Reveal reveals exactly where the band as a collective where in 2000-2001, and why they would stay together for another 10 years.  For the first time, R.E.M. do not sound like a group striving for something. They sound content.

Trumpeted, at the time, as a return to former glories…..it’s an elegant melding of the synthetic textures of Up and the quality songwriting style they had developed and gradually perfected over 20 years.

The guitars no longer jangled.  The rhythms refused to drive along the dusty roads of a semi-mystical southern Rockville. The temp was relentlessly slow.  Synthesisers and orchestras overwhelmed those primary drums-bass-guitar colours.  Here were three guys in their forties dealing with a calm after a storm, having come so close to destroying the band that had defined their adult lives.”

It’s a lot of words to describe an album that, quite frankly, is boring for the most part.  And in some places, simply terrible.  For the first ever time, R.E.M. were inessential.  The second single from the album kind of captures what I’m getting at:-

mp3: R.E.M. – All The Way To Reno (You’re Gonna Be A Star)

It’s a song that is slow to get out of the blocks and the pace never picks up.  It was released in July 2001, a couple of months after the album, and it came in at #24. before plummeting to #48 and then #71 before its short stay in the charts was over.  Thank goodness for small mercies.

There were, again, three formats.  CD/cassette/DVD.

There were three tracks that made up the various b-sides, consisting of an instrumental, a cover and a live track.

mp3: R.E.M. – 165 Hillcrest
mp3: R.E.M. – Yellow River
mp3: R.E.M. – Imitation of Live (live)

For once, the instrumental has something to offer. It’s R.E.M as a surf-band and the whole thing is done and dusted in 95 seconds. Just time enough to appreciate it and before it becomes too repetitive. It’s one of those tracks that you’d likely need 20 or 30 goes (at least) before guessing who was behind the music.

The cover version is tragic. It’s R.E.M as a cabaret band on the bill at The Wheeltappers and Shunters Club. And it has Mike Mills on vocal.

The live version at least showed the band’s hearts were still in the right place as it was taken from a live free gig at Trafalgar Square, London on 29 April 2001, at which they were the main musical attraction at the South African Freedom Day, organised to mark the seventh anniversary of free elections. The star of the show, however, was Nelson Mandela…..

There was a third single lifted from Reveal. Feel free to pop-in next week to get The Robster’s thoughts on it.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #252: PORT SULPHUR

A couple of weeks ago, I drew everyone’s attention to what’s on offer via Patreon in respect of Creeping Bent Records, and I hope some of you signed up on the back of the recommendation.

As it so happens, the A-Z run through of singers/band/musicians from Scotland who have one or more track on my hard drive has come round to Port Sulphur, one of the more recent developments under the Creeping Bent umbrella.

Port Sulphur is masterminded by Douglas MacIntyre and consists of a wonderful array of collaborations. There had been a few releases prior to June 2018 when the LP Paranoic Critical hit the shops, but this was my first real exposure to the music. Here’s the promotional blurb:-

PORT SULPHUR, an audio collective that’s co-ordinated and directed by Creeping Bent owner and The Nectarine No9 / Sexual Objects guitarist Douglas MacIntyre, are finally set to release the eagerly awaited debut album.

‘Paranoic Critical’ brings together the collective talents of Vic Godard (Subway Sect), Davy Henderson (Fire Engines), James Kirk (Orange Juice), Gareth Sager (Pop Group) and the late Alan Vega (Suicide) and Jock Scot together with musicians from the contemporary Glasgow scene which is centred around Green Door studio and includes Sam Joseph Smith, Katy Lironi, Graham Wann and Erik Sandberg.

Available digitally and released on limited edition vinyl, the album features ten brand-new tracks including the recent ‘Blow City’ release and the forthcoming single ‘The Lane’ which features the vocals of Davy Henderson and Vic Godard.

The idea for ‘Paranoic Critical’ was conceived when Douglas MacIntyre was going through some old music hard drives he had recorded and since forgotten. Listening again, he found that they contained some sparks of inspiration and these segments became the start-point to begin working under the Port Sulphur moniker. Taking a similar approach to the Luke Rhinehart novel The Dice Man, MacIntyre’s recording decisions were sometimes decided by a roll of the dice, not a million miles away from Brian Eno’s collaborative works in the 1970’s.

Somehow, somewhere along the line the songs were further developed with the help of the aforementioned musical collaborators and they began to form a satisfying whole. The tracks were further dictated by the enforced “only one take” rule, which helped retain spontaneity and invention and the result is a truly innovative collection of songs.

There’s barely a duff minute on Paranoic Critical. The real temptation was to offer up the eight minutes of Alex Discord – on which the late punk-poet Jock Scot provides lead vocals on something which combines Faith Healer by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band with Discord by The Fire Engines; the end result was, in due course, championed on the radio show broadcast by Andrew Weatherall.

But I’ve plumped instead for a track co-written by Douglas MacIntyre and James Kirk with the former OJ man doing the lead vocal, with contributions from Ken McCluskey of The Bluebells on harmonica and Katy Lironi (ex-The Fuzzbombs) and Amelia Lironi MacIntyre (daughter of Douglas and Katy) on backing vocals.

mp3: Port Sulphur – Orient Express

Paranoic Critical was one of my favourite albums of that year, and it has been followed since by Compendium, a 20-song digital release which features just about everything that Port Sulphur has recorded. It’s right here on bandcamp  and is well worthy of an investigation……

JC

SPANISH DANCE TROUPE…FROM CARMATHEN, WALES

I don’t think any of us, this time last year, anticipated that we would be all this time without live music.

My own ‘last’ show was in the unlikely setting of the Strathaven Hotel, some 25 miles south-east of Glasgow, on a wet Friday night. It was the latest in the FRETS set of concerts, promoted by Douglas MacIntyre of Creeping Bent fame. The stars on stage were Norman Blake and Euros Childs.  It was a fantastic night, featuring all sorts of songs including the occasional number they had written and recorded with their respective band with whom they had established themselves.

I often forget how much I love Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci.  I don’t listen as often as I should these days, primarily as everything I have is on CD and I’ve become an even bigger vinyl junkie during lockdown.

But, the other day, I desperately wanted to play one of my favourite singles of theirs, from May 1998, and giving an airing to the b-sides reminded me of how often their music can take a listener by surprise and offer up a lot of sunshine and fun in these grim times:-

mp3: Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – Spanish Dance Troupe
mp3: Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – (Do The) Chicken In The Jungle
mp3: Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – The Johnny Cash Lawsuit Song

Like all other GZM singles, it got no higher than the lower echelons of the charts. This one reached #60.

JC

BONUS POST : IT’S EVEN BETTER THAN I DREAMED IT WOULD BE

It was a couple of years back when I was told, by an impeccable source, that Arab Strap were back in a studio looking at the possibility of making a new album, which would be their first since The Last Romance back in 2005.  I got excited, but then calmed down quite quickly as I didn’t imagine anything ever seeing the light of day, especially with both Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton investing so much time and energy into their solo projects.

The confirmation that things were going well came around this time last year, just before the first lockdown period kicked in, with the same source telling me that the new songs were ‘outstanding’ and would be real treat for those who enjoyed what the duo had been up to in the past decade and a half.  The release in September 2020 of the video for the lead-off single, as mentioned on the blog here, really whetted the appetite.

It’s now been 20 days since As Days Get Dark was given its official release, and I must already be getting close to wearing out my copy from over-playing it.  It is, and I use the word advisedly, a masterpiece.

Arab Strap have made a lot of very good albums over the years along with at least two great LPs, but most times there’s been one or two tracks that dip a bit.  Not, however, on this occasion. The music and lyrics throughout are outstanding; the former in particular, which to my ears leans heavily towards the sort of things that have been coming out via the solo records, and in particular the largely instrumental Human Don’t Be Angry material.

There was a superb review on clashmusic.com, penned/typed by Marianne Gallagher:-

Sex. Death. Tears. Love. The march of time and the flight of foxes.

What couldn’t Arab Strap write a song about? Their seventh studio album, ‘As Days Get Dark’, retains the mordant wit and scrumptious miserabilism that’s kept them the pride of Falkirk.

But don’t arrive expecting the old comedown ballads. Though they were roused back to life by 2016’s heroes-welcomed reunion tour, ‘As Days Get Dark’ doesn’t deal in the old material. It declares its stance from the first lines: “I don’t give a fuck about the past, our glory days gone by / All I care about right now is that wee mole inside your thigh”.

Maturity doesn’t mean mediocrity. It’s turned their focus widescreen, though the beady eye doesn’t spare its glee for the gory details. It’s just bigger, in every way. Musically, texturally, lyrically. Working with long-term production ally Paul Savage of chem19, they’ve infused old templates with fresh instrumentation, pulsating electronics and some mad jazz flourishes.

It’s older and wiser. And that’s trite, but true.

Night’s the filter through which we view the imagined city. ‘Kebabylon’ imagines a happy-hour kingdom where people shed their skins and free themselves,“chasing down the ghosts of indiscretion and lust”. Slashed with strings, tension built through a murk of guitar and electronics, a flurry of free-range trumpet takes us to a chorus you can imagine belted out as someone’s carted home. The “moonlight maids” of cleaners and street-sweeps clear the evidence before morning.

Moffat captures the chancer’s charm of the seasoned Romeo, as he operates under cover of darkness (“a doyenne of deception, sometimes he wonders if he could’ve been on the telly”).

More domestic rituals are observed on the strummed Another Clockwork Day, as a bored man slips from his sleeping wife, treading a well-worn file path to look at his “lo-res memories, buried in folders within folders”.

But humans aren’t the only nocturnal animal, and concerns are more than base.

‘Fable Of The Urban Fox’ is a contemporary Aesop – an allegory of foxes fleeing a cruel country to seek refuge in the city, finding instead a thankless place full of “hostile architecture and hostile faces”. It isn’t too much of a leap to imagine the parallel drawn, especially as a ‘bull-dog’ spits: “Fuck off back to Foxland, these streets are fucking full.” – It’s one of the finest songs they’ve ever written. Sensitively orchestrated, the hurried, frantic violin line symbolic of the hunt to find a place that’s home.

‘Tears On Tour’ sets glacial 80s goth electronics behind a Moffat monologue, listing all the times he’s cried. “What do you call the opposite of a comedian? That’s what I wanted to be…I even planned the merchandise: 100% cotton handkerchiefs, embroidered with tour dates.” Twinned vocal and guitar lines build to crescendo, before an angsty solo steals the show. Middleton has never sounded better.

The singles are enormous: the insidious riff of ‘Compersion P1’. burrows into the brain; ‘Here Comes Comus!’ demolishes its swaggering central barfly – a man who promises you the night, if only you’d follow your nose.

But ‘The Turning of Our Bones’ is where the real spirit lurks. A four-minute rhapsody on love, death, resurrection and shagging, where bongos beat and sax squalls add to the melee.

Willing of flesh and weary in spirit, Moffat encourages us to embrace the freedom of revelry: “Take my hand and be brave, we’ll say goodbye to this grave/ Tonight we salsa, we rave/ We are upcycled and saved!”

The marriage is back on the table, and lessons have been learned. Taking the time apart (“it was great to split up”, said Middleton, wryly) gave them space to reassess their back catalogue and refine their individual talents. Reunited, each is the perfect foil for the other.

Arab Strap are back with a vengeance. And it’s fucking glorious.

Fable of The Urban Fox is, as the reviewer has said, one of the finest songs they’ve ever recorded, and while the story has (spoiler alert) a sad and indeed tragic ending, it is delivered with acidic wit taking a swipe at the those in the middle and privileged classes who don’t exactly practice what they preach.  Put the words ‘Jolyon Maughan’ and ‘foxes’ into an Internet search engine to get the gory details……

It’s too soon after the release of the album to offer up any mp3s, and I’ve already posted the video to Turning Of Our Bones.  Here’s what the duo have made available via video channels:-

I was stunned to see that part of the Comus video was filmed just a few hundred yards from Villain Towers…..I’ll never be able to walk under that bridge again without humming or singing the tune.

Album of the year?  Absolutely.

JC

THE NIGHT THE DJ FOOLED THE DANCERS

Strathclyde Students Union.  A Thursday night.  The DJ rarely said anything, preferring to let the music speak for itself.

But on this occasion he said he had an exclusive white-label remix of New Order‘s best known song.  The floor filled…..but it turned out he was having a laugh at the expense of us so-called cool indie kids who only realised they had been caught out when the vocals kicked in:-

mp3: Divine – Love Reaction

As our great friend and font of all knowledge, Post Punk Monk said on his blog back in 2014,

The development of Divine into a disco star was not an event that I ever would have predicted. But as sure as it happened, his initial brace of singles made with hi-NRG maven Bobby Orlando were enough to get him a club following where his notoriety was all of the publicity that his fans needed to give him a second career as a recording artist.

“Love Reaction” was an astonishing lift of the “Blue Monday” sound via what sounded like a slightly pitch-shifted sampling of the New Order record with Divine providing the rudimentary vocals and a cursory synth lead line providing a bolted-on melody to lend it its only differentiation from “Blue Monday.”

Love Reaction is bit of fun, not to be taken seriously in the slightest.  I’m only surprised that New Order didn’t sue, but I’m guessing that the Factory bosses all thought it was a fabulous tribute, given what they were trying to do with the Hacienda.

The instrumental b-side is even more of a homage:-

mp3: Divine – Love Reaction (instrumental)

Wiki advises that Love Reaction went Top 30 in the Dutch charts…….

JC

BURNING BADGERS VINYL (Part 17): COMPULSION

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Burning Badgers Vinyl – The Lost EP’s #5 – Casserole EP – Compulsion (Fabulon Records 1993)

“So why do they call you Badger then?” the woman asks a tea sipping Badger in the lounge of a hotel in Worcester. We are all at a conference in Worcester, it is the first break and we have hot footed it to the lounge to get the comfy seats. I look at Badger and I see a plan forming in his head. He’s trying to work out which story to tell this woman. He usually opts for one of three tried and tested stories. He rarely opts for option four, which is the true reason – the last person he told that to was KT and he was drunk then.

The first story is that Badger has a secret badger hide in his garden, there every day at dusk he wanders down to it and throws peanuts, monkey nuts and jaffa cakes (because badgers love the smashing orange-y bit) on to the ground and watches gleefully as the badgers emerge from the ground and frolic playfully in his garden. People tend to believe this, but they always question the jaffa cake bit, I’ve told him to change it to digestive biscuits as I can totally imagine a badger eating a digestive biscuit.

The second is that Badger once played the part of Badger in a stage version of The Wind in the Willows and loved the costume so much that he kept it and now performs at children’s parties as ‘Super Badger’. His wife having lovingly sewed a giant ‘SB’ on to the front of the costume. He tends to tell visitors from America this version of events. No idea why.

The third reason is that he had a dog when he was a child called Badger and his dad was fonder of the dog that he was of Tim. So when the dog passed away, his dad started calling Tim, Badger and it just sort of stuck. That one to be fair is a conversation stopper and usually reserved for people he doesn’t like.

“Well…” he says, giving the woman a pearly white smile, who is called Pauline and is from Blackburn, and is totally flirting with Badger by the way (Ten hours later in the bar about four minutes walk from the hotel where we are sat, she will whisper something suggestive into Badgers ear, and then get up and nip to the ladies. Badger will then down his pint, grab me by the arm and say “we are leaving. Now.”).

” it’s because at the bottom of my garden…..” he looks at me and I, knowing my cue, come in all prepared “Are those Badgers still eating jaffa cakes..?” I say.

About three minutes later, a bald man chips into the conversation, he wasn’t asked to comment but kind of seized on a dramatic pause. He also from Blackburn and is called Derek. “You ever eaten badger…?” he asks. I nearly choke on my Twinnings Earl Grey and Badger looks amazed. “Well, no, I haven’t, I mean bearing in mind, I basically consider the ones in the garden to be pets” he says, hoping that will finish off that conversation. It doesn’t, however stop Derek.

“Rather like beef” he says, “we found one on a road over the moor at Ilkely once, freshly killed, by a car, so the wife and I popped it in the back of the pickup, took it to a butcher friend of ours and made a casserole out of it, it were very nice” he says.

At this revolting thought people start to drift away from the lounge and back to the relative comfort of the conference room. Badger looks at me and says “Should have gone with the dog, then again Derek has probably eaten one of those as well”. This sadly is true, as Derek tells us later on that evening. He munched on a poodle called Fido (probably) in Vietnam, it was a bit like chicken apparently. In case you were wondering his favourite road kill treat is ‘squirrel’.

All of which decent reasons for turning vegan lead us the last of the Lost EP’s found in Badger’s box and it once that fills my ears with joy because it’s the second EP released by brilliant Irish punk poppers Compulsion.

To say that I loved Compulsion is something of an understatement – I once went to see them at a venue called The Forum in Tunbridge Wells (which literally used to be a public toilet), with my mate Dave. After the gig we legged it to the train station and arrived there exhausted to see the last time slowly chugging its way out of the station. Drunk on cider and the thrills of seeing a wonderful band we decided to walk home, in the dark, fuelled on Lion Bars and Paprika flavoured Kettle Chips, not realising, or rather not caring really, that it was nine miles.

I can’t believe that Badger had this incredible piece of music and didn’t tell me about it. I used to bang on about Compulsion all the bloody time to him. For the record, not once did he turn round and say “You know what I’ve got one of their early and pretty rare EPs stashed away in my garage, nestled in between an old Daisy Chainsaw 12” (more of them in a later piece) and something by long forgotten shouty industrial types Nitzerebb, come round and I’ll let you have it” (it was genuinely housed in between the two bands I have mentioned above, and no I won’t be posting the Nitzerebb tracks because they are utterly useless) .

Compulsion split in 1997 I think, two of the members went on to far greater success, Garrett Lee who played guitar (I think) went to release cool coffee table drum and bass as Spring Heel Jack and then reinvent himself as uber producer Jacknife Lee.

Sid Rainey who played bass (I think) went on to write children’s stories and his books ‘Underground Ernie’ are very popular with Cbeebies viewers everywhere. I think they may even be voiced by the leader of the Labour Party, Gary Lineker.

Josephmary the shouty singer disappeared from the music scene when the band split and now lives in Ireland. I hope he’s well, because he was brilliant.

‘Casserole’ is incredible, six tracks of frantic pop punk that if I was thirty years younger would make me throw myself around the lounge, especially the first two tracks. The lead track is this

mp3: Compulsion – Accident Ahead

Which has possibly the best opening line in musical history,

“looks like raw liver, her face….”.

It also has a tremendous riff running through and a stupendously catchy chorus which will stick in your brains for days.

Track 2, starts, almost as brilliantly as ‘Accident Ahead’. The opening line goes

“Professor Green was the author of everything, his students claim”.

It’s far more poppy than ‘Accident Ahead’ and less angry as well. In fact this is almost certainly the bands finest moment, apart from ‘Mall Monarchy’ that is.

mp3: Compulsion – Yabba Yabba Yes Yes

Here are the rest of the tracks that make up the ‘Casserole EP’.

mp3: Compulsion – Crying
mp3: Compulsion – How Do I Breathe?
mp3: Compulsion – Here Comes Ambrose Beasley

I did hope this would be a tribute to the character from Emmerdale who used to run the Woolpack pub, but obviously that was Amos Brearly, not Ambrose Beasley, who as far as can tell, has never appeared in Emmerdale.

mp3: Compulsion – Security

SWC

JC adds……

Up until this point in time, I only had one track in the collection by Compulsion, and it is the aforementioned very minor hit single which was part of one of the indie CD compilations back in the day:-

mp3: Compulsion – Mall Monarchy

This was released in March 1987 and reached the giddy heights of #87.

Oh and for any of our overseas readers who didn’t quite understand the cultural references:-

jaffa cakes

Underground Ernie

cbeebies

The Leader of the Labour Party (Not, Gary Lineker)

Emmerdale

The Woolpack Pub

Amos Brearly

SOME SONGS ARE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter 45)

from wiki:-

“Is That All There Is?”, a song written by American songwriting team Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller during the 1960s, became a hit for American singer Peggy Lee and an award winner from her album of the same title in November 1969. The song was originally performed by Georgia Brown in May 1967 for a television special. It was first recorded by disc jockey Dan Daniel in March 1968, but this was an unauthorized recording that, while played on Daniels’ own radio show, went unissued at the songwriters’ request. The first authorized recording was by Leslie Uggams in August 1968. Then came the hit Peggy Lee version in August 1969, followed by Guy Lombardo in 1969 and Tony Bennett on 22 December 1969.

Peggy Lee’s version reached number 11 on the U.S. pop singles chart — becoming her first Top 40 pop hit since “Fever” eleven years earlier—and doing even better on the adult contemporary scene, topping that Billboard chart. It also reached number six in Canada. It won Lee the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, and then later was named to the Grammy Hall of Fame.

The lyrics of this song are written from the point of view of a person who is disillusioned with events in life that are supposedly unique experiences. The singer tells of witnessing her family’s house on fire when she was a little girl, seeing the circus, and falling in love for the first time. After each recital, she expresses her disappointment in the experience. She suggests that we “break out the booze and have a ball—if that’s all there is,” instead of worrying about life. She explains that she’ll never kill herself either because she knows that death will be a disappointment as well. The verses of the song are spoken, rather than sung. Only the refrain of the song is sung.

My personal introduction to this song came via a minimal, haunting cover, released in 1996 (but which I didn’t pick up until maybe three or four years later when the CD album was reduced in price in a sale):-

mp3: John Parish and Polly Jean Harvey – Is That All There Is?

I remember when I was a girl, our house caught on fire
And I’ll never forget the look on my father’s face as he gathered me in his arms
And raced through the burning building out on the pavement
And I stood there shivering
And watched the whole world go up in flames
And when it was all over I said to myself
Is that all there is to a fire?

Is that all there is, is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is

And when I was twelve years old
My daddy took me to the circus, the greatest show on Earth
There were clowns, elephants, dancing bears
And a beautiful lady in pink tights flew high above our heads
And as I sat there watching
I had the feeling that something was missing
I don’t know what, but when it was over I said to myself
Is that all there is to the circus?

Is that all there is, is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is

And then I fell in love
With the most wonderful boy in the world
We’d take long walks by the river
Or just sit for hours gazing into each other’s eyes
We were so very much in love
And then one day he went away and I thought I’d die, but I didn’t
And when I didn’t I said to myself
Is that all there is to love?

Is that all there is, is that all there is?
If that’s all there is, my friends, then let’s keep…

I know what you must be saying to yourselves
If that’s the way she feels about it then why doesn’t she just end it all?
Oh, no, not me, I’m not ready for that final disappointment
Cos I know just as well as I’m standing here talking to you
That when that final moment comes and I’m breathing my last breath
I know what I’ll be saying to myself is that all there is.

Is that all there is, is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is

It’s the tenth track out of twelve on Dance Hall At Louse Point, an album that confounded folk on its release, including your humble scribe. It was quite different from the previous year’s To Bring You My Love, the breakthrough album, in commercial terms, for PJ Harvey. Its sparse and blues-like arrangements, combined with an inconsistent LOUDquietLOUDquiet approach across the tracks, making it something of a difficult listen. Most fans shunned it on the back of some of the the reviews – I recall one magazine describing it as ‘avant-garde’ which was enough to put me off – although it does actually appear that many of the things written at the time were positive. PJ didn’t, however, do much in the way of promotion and so it was mostly sidebar reviews rather than splashes.

Interestingly, the next PJ Harvey album, Is This Desire? (1998) took a lot of inspiration from the work done on Dance Hall At Louse Point, but having got it all out of her system, there would be a return to the commercial stuff on Stories From the City, Stories From The Sea in 2000.

But that’s a posting for another day…

JC

 

LANDFILL INDIE? – A FRESH SERIES FOR MONDAYS (Issue 5)

From The Guardian newspaper of 18 May 2007:-

If you’re wondering whatever happened to the lovelorn pop teens of the 1960s, then wonder no more. It turns out they’ve been recast as a swooning rock’n’roll five-piece from Yorkshire.

Updating the drama-infused trials and tribulations of the likes of the Shangri-Las by stacking their tunes high with unrelenting guitar riffage, shouted blokey harmonies and a barricade of sound that never slips below 11, the Pigeon Detectives look set to follow the Kaiser Chiefs and the Arctic Monkeys to indie domination.

The album’s 12 songs are all based around being unlucky in love, with I Found Out’s tale of finding out the girl you like is going out with someone else, Take Her Back about a failed age-difference romance and Caught in Your Trap, with its shimmering Elvis Costello-type sheen, telling the story of obsessive crushes. Like the problem page of a male version of Just Seventeen set to music, and all the better for it.

That sounds really promising…..best check it out….

mp3: The Pigeon Detectives – I Found Out
mp3: The Pigeon Detectives – Take Her Back
mp3: The Pigeon Detectives – Caught In Your Trap

Oh, and what about the one that gave them a #12 hit in the UK singles chart in June 20007

mp3: The Pigeon Detectives – I’m Not Sorry

Nearly 250,000 copies of the debut album were sold; thankfully, a fair number were of the digital variety and so the impact on the landfill quarry isn’t quite as awful as it would otherwise be.

For what it’s worth, the band are still on the go today, five albums in, the most recent of which was in 2017, while a UK tour planned for last year was, like all others, postponed as a result of the pandemic.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF R.E.M. (Part 37)

The previous decade had seen R.E.M. rise to previously unfathomable heights before tailing off. While ‘Up’ signalled a downturn in R.E.M.’s commercial fortunes, hopes were still high among fans for the band’s 12th album ‘Reveal’, released late Spring 2001. Preceding it by a few weeks was its lead single:-

mp3: R.E.M. – Imitation Of Life

For some fans who were still tuning in, Imitation Of Life was reassuringly familiar. But I had a big problem with the song when I first heard it, and I still do 20 years on. The fact it sounds like it could have fitted on Automatic For The People may have had something to do with it. R.E.M. was never a band who looked back, only forwards, but his song felt a bit like a Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite moment, and you know how I feel about that one!

Of course, R.E.M. being the environmentalists they were, loved to recycle, but this is basically a (badly) rehashed Driver 8 – same chords, same tempo. It’s almost as if they deliberately set about to write a template R.E.M. song, which was NEVER something they’d ever strived for previously.

On first listen though, it wasn’t even the fact it sounded so derivative. To me, Imitation Of Life sounds like two totally different songs they couldn’t finish, so they welded the verse of one to the chorus of the other and Hey Presto! Instant hit! That last, elongated syllable in the verse kind of gives it away to me. “Hold it there Michael, we just need to find a way to link the two bits together…”

Talking of Stipe, this really has one of the most annoying lyrics you’ll ever hear from him. Again, it sounds like Stipe is actually trying to write lyrics that only Michael Stipe would write. They sound like a parody, especially the excruciating line: “You want the greatest thing / The greatest thing since bread came sliced.” All of a sudden, Stand sounds somewhat existentialist.

And then… just as you get to grips with the fact that this really isn’t one of R.E.M.’s greatest works, you have to contend with the mix. It’s just so sludgy and crammed so full of stuff, you can barely breathe. Acoustic guitars, electric guitars, keyboards, electronic gadgetry, strings… all of it thrown in without measure and stirred until it resembles something you’d repair a road with. So even if there was a half-decent song to be made out of Imitation Of Life, the mix pretty much killed it stone dead.

No surprise then that it became another big hit – the band’s 9th top ten smash – reaching #6 in the last April chart of 2001. There were three formats – the CD single contained alternative versions of songs that would appear on the new album. Despite the a-side, I had quite high hopes for Reveal on hearing the ‘original version’ of The Lifting (a prequel to Daysleeper, apparently). It struck me as being far superior to Imitation of Life, so I hoped it was more representative of the album as a whole. Sadly, the album version was appalling – another shockingly bad mix and sped up. This is definitely the version you want/need.

mp3: R.E.M. – The Lifting [original version]

Also on the CD was a demo of Beat A Drum. This version is also less cluttered than its album take, and sounds more sombre and sad. To be honest, this is the first time in years I’ve listened to either version and I’m no more taken with them now as I was when I first heard them, but if I had to pick between them, needless to say this demo version wins out.

mp3: R.E.M. – Beat A Drum [Dalkey demo]

In what I believe was a first for R.E.M., a DVD single was also released. Now there’s a format we all wanted and needed, said absolutely no one ever. Alongside the quite brilliant Imitation Of Life video (a single 20-second shot playing backwards and forwards repeatedly, zooming in on different characters throughout) and the audio of The Lifting, it also contained an unreleased studio track called 2JN.

Yep, you’ve guessed it, it’s one of those silly instrumental oddities they insisted on foisting upon us. 2JN also appeared on the third format released in the UK, the dreaded cassette single.

mp3: R.E.M. – 2JN

In spite of my dislike of the lead single, I went into Reveal hopeful and open-minded. I bought it on the day of its release and played it that evening. When it finished, I said: “Well. That was shit!”

MrsRobster gasped. I was angry. I felt completely let down by the band that had meant so much to me for nearly 14 years. I’d stood by them, defended them, godammit, I still LOVED them even when things were getting tough. But that was the moment I knew I needed a break; I needed someone other than R.E.M. in my life. The spark was no longer there. We’d drifted apart – but it wasn’t me, it was them. And it was around that time that an exciting, young, good-looking duo from Detroit made eyes at me in a local record shop…

A few weeks later, I heard the strains of Imitation Of Life coming at me through my TV. No, it wasn’t a music show, it was an ad break, and Paul Gambaccini was telling me that R.E.M.’s new album Reveal was a “stunning return to form.” And that merely confirmed it for me – if Paul Gambaccini does an ad telling me something is “stunning”, I’ll most definitely pass, thank you very much!

The Robster

PS : For those who haven’t seen the promo :-

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #251: THE PORCH SONG ANTHOLOGY

From the bandcamp page:-

Based in Glasgow, Scotland, The Porch Song Anthology are a half-Irish, half-Scottish folk-country four-piece lightly coated in pop influences and rock sensibilities.

Formed in 2005 by three former members of 1990s post-rockers TELSTAR PONIES, Rachel Devine, Gavin Laird and Raymond Prior – JC Devine joined the line-up in 2006 – the Porch Song Anthology released their critically acclaimed debut album The Spell of the Trembling Earth in 2006.

After a three-year hiatus to concentrate on other projects, the various members returned to the fold in 2010 to work on new material. A return to the studio and to the live stage, most recently at the Glasgow Americana Festival with Atlanta-based folk-pop outfit GIRLYMAN, signalled a new chapter for the band. The introduction of a violin player and the absence of a drummer on this new material marked a move towards a more stripped back, harmony driven sound evidenced by forthcoming EP The Late Mournings, a three-song ode to heartbreak and longing. Possibly.

The band’s second album is scheduled for release in autumn of 2011.

Sadly, the second album didn’t ever appear and it seems as if The Porch Song Anthology went on an extended hiatus around the beginning of 2012, albeit there’s still a Facebook page in which the individual members provide info about what they are up to and make recommendations about music they are enjoying.  Having said that, the FB page hasn’t been update in more than three years…..

The opening track on The Spell Of The Trembling Earth has been described as

“a big, doomy lament about what is quite clearly a bonkers girl who has done her man seriously wrong – it’s as good a song about deception, infidelity and capital punishment as you’ll ever hear in your lifetime.”

mp3: The Porch Song Anthology – Hang Me Good

It’s a song I’ve long meant to post on the blog – it reminds in places of the immense Country Feedback by R.E.M. – and it leads into an album that has many wonderful moments.

If you like it, I’d recommend picking up a digital copy of the LP, which comes complete with 14 extra tracks, including demos, live versions, non-album singles and b-sides. An absolute bargain for £5….Click here.

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (53)

May 1983. A debut single from a band out of Sheffield, England. It’s on Red Rhino Records, an indie-label based some 50-odd miles away in York. Red Rhino has, like Rough Trade in London, developed out of a record shop and is a vital part of the Cartel, a co-operative record distribution organisation set up by a number of small independent record labels.

The label hasn’t quite hit the heights with any of its acts but there’s been a far bit of support in the music papers for some of them, such as The Mekons and Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry, the latter of whom would become a staple feature in the indie charts throughout the 80s.

The latest release has the catalogue number RED 32, although such are the quirks of the numbering system, and that fact that some intended releases never saw the light of day, is in fact the 26th single to come out on Red Rhino. It sells dismally….not helped by the fact that the music papers were fairly dismissive of the band and the music they make, thinking it just perhaps a bit too derivative of the sort of acoustic mid-paced stuff of the era.

mp3: Pulp – My Lighthouse
mp3: Pulp – Looking For Life

I don’t think anyone giving it a spin would have imagined, almost 40 years on, that the singer would be regarded as a national treasure having enjoyed a substantial career, and that the band, albeit with a substantially different line-up, would headline Glastonbury to huge acclaim.

Pulp would release just the two singles and one album on Red Rhino before inking a deal with Fire Records, one which they would come to regret for all sorts of reasons, especially when the fame and fortune eventually arrived in the early 90s.

It might well be a debut that didn’t set the heather on fire, and of course there would be many better 45s released in later years.  But it’s actually a very listenable and enjoyable effort, one which fits in well with the sort of tunes being played by the DJs hosting evening or weekend afternoon shows on BBC Radio 1 back in 1983…

Oh, and if you happen to be lucky enough to own a good copy of My Lighthouse, then you can expect it to fetch about £150 on the second-hand market if you were interested in moving it on……

JC

IF YOU’RE SEEKING OUT VALUE FOR MONEY….(2)

After the recent posting about Creeping Bent and the great value for money Patreon model it has recently introduced, I want to now draw your attention to another fantastic venture that’s been underway round these parts for a few years.

The thing is, I reckon a fair number of you will already be aware of the great work being done by Last Night From Glasgow, as a few of the local bloggers, such as Charity Chic, have been on board from the outset and have written about it on a number of occasions.

Let me quote from the website:-

Last Night From Glasgow (LNFG) operates as a non-profit patronage. This means that we use all memberships and donations to fund manufacture, distribution and promotion so our artists do not have to.

A conventional independent model will see a label fronting all costs and then once those costs are recovered, splitting the profits 50/50. In LNFG we do not recover the costs, but we split the proceeds 75/25. The 25% we retain is then reinvested in other bands.

When costs are recoverable it makes it very easy for labels to inflate those costs, incur additional expenses and out source services for fees. Why worry about the expenses when they don’t affect your bottom line?

At LNFG any additional services we provide (external plugging and press, studio facilities or photography) are also paid for by the label.

Let’s break this down for you to give you an idea of the impact.

The standard costs to release, market, plug, promote and distribute with new photo sessions and provide new videos for an LP and CD release would, at the very bottom end, set you back around £4500.00. That means that before you make a penny of income, as an artist, you need to sell £4501 of records. Now if the label assumes that 50% of all income is theirs, that means you need to generate £9000 of sales to break even. That’s close to all of the units you’ve manufactured having to sell, just to break even. So the label have made £4500 and you’ve broken even. Hardly seems fair does it?*

With LNFG – on that cost basis – an artist makes a profit the moment they sell one record as 75% of proceeds are theirs.

How do we do this? By being accomplished business people who value the arts, by building a structure and support that means we can administer the finances in a way that benefits all artists and patrons. By securing the vast bulk of our funding at the start of the year, we can plan, budget and acquire the facilities we will need.”

LNFG has been on the go since 2016, founded by Ian Smith.  I was told about it in advance of the launch – one of the barbers in the city centre shop I go to has been part of the backroom team since the pre-planning stage, and given my love for music he thought it would be right up my street.  My hesitation and reluctance to sign up was down to the fact that this blog gets all sorts of requests, almost on a daily basis, for support and patronage and I have a blanket policy of gently declining on the basis that 90%+ of stuff on here is retro….

I’ve since watched on in admiration at how LNFG has become a mainstay of the local music scene in so many different ways, and of course last year, being like no other, they turned out to be something of a godsend for many singers and bands.

It made my mind up to arrive late at the party and take out a membership for 2021, and in doing so, pick up a few albums, of those still available, that had been released in previous years.  As with Creeping Bent, not everything that comes out on the label or its subsidiaries, is right up my street, but there’s more than enough great music to make it incredibly worthy of support.  I can’t see me ever giving up my membership in future years….

Please click here to be taken to the website where you can browse and navigate at your leisure.  There’s loads to enjoy.

One of the items I picked up from the back catalogue was an album released in July 2020.  Again, from the LNFG website:-

Released on July 3rd 2020, Made For Each Other, the long awaited debut album from Paisley’s Muldoons is a glorious jangly guitar lovers dream. The album originally pressed on both Black and Red Vinyl sold out within weeks.

Now re-released on a random selection of coloured vinyl for your delight.

The music will excite lovers of Lou Reed, Lloyd Cole, Lawrence and of course, the sound of Johnny Marr’s guitar. The Muldoons are inspired by bands like the Brilliant Corners, The Bodines, June Brides and all the great indie outfits who might have graced John Peels evening shows.

I really didn’t think the album would be capable of living up to such hype. But then again, I hadn’t banked on the fact that The Muldoons originally formed as students in the 90s, having grown up with, and been hugely influenced by, the indie-pop sounds of the late 80s. The five members of the band are Gerry Mullen (guitar, vocals), Bobby Corrigan (lead guitar), Andy McPake (drums, backing vocals), Greg Bolland (trumpet, melodica, backing vocals) and Davy Brook (bass).

It really is everything and more, with all ten of its tracks guaranteed to take you back in time, smiling, to an era when everyone was younger, fitter, thinner and had lots more hair. Here’s but one example:-

mp3: The Muldoons – Lovely Things

Now if that doesn’t make the TVV regulars sit up and take notice, I really am getting out of touch…

As my great friend Dirk would say, ENJOY!!!!!!!!!

JC

PS :

The long-running Scottish Songs on Saturday series recently featured The Poems.   I was bemoaning that their sole album, Young America, released in 2006 in the USA and 2008 in the UK, was a hard one to track down.  Unbeknown to me, LNFG was at an advanced stage of discussions to have the album re-released on vinyl, and announced its intentions just a few days after my posting (the timings were purely a coincidence).

I’ve placed my pre-order for the album, and it should be getting delivered in late October 2021.  And having recently been lucky enough to have been given a CD copy of the album by Drew, it’s one that I’m looking forward to having the chance to put on the turntable.

RIPPING BADGERS CDs (Parts 5a and 5b): THE FLAMING LIPS and FRANZ FERDINAND

#5a – Ego Tripping At The Gates of Hell – The Flaming Lips (Warner Bros, 2003)

#5b – Tonight – Franz Ferdinand (Domino Records, 2009)

#5a bought – Rowcroft Hospice Boutique, Wellswood, Torquay for £1.
#5b bought – Rowcroft Hospice Boutique, Wellswood, Torquay for £1

The ladies are looking at Badger and I as if we are weirdos. We are to be honest a little out of place. Essentially Badger and I have walked into a ladies dress boutique thinking that it was a charity shop. It clearly stated ‘Rowcroft Hospice Charity…’ on the front of the shop. We have ambled on in expecting to find a treasure trove of CDs and vinyl but find ourselves face to face with a Margaret Thatcher look alike who is a wearing twin set and pearls and is enjoying Radio 3 in the background. Let me explain…..

Some of you may remember that when Badger, KT and I were writing The Sound of Being Ok Blog (TSOBO) we drew up a manifesto, which we tried wherever we could to put it to the test-o. The manifesto contained at the end 62 rules, which, if followed, would make your life easier and much more enriched. We added to them all the time.

Some were daft:-

TSOBO Rule #28 for instance was ‘Never Leave the Biscuit Barrell empty’.

Some were eminently sensible

TSOBO Rule #12 was ‘Never shop in Tesco (unless you have to)’ and TSOBO Rule #17 ‘Keep Left (always)’.

TSOBO Rule #3 was of course, ‘Never walk past a Charity Shop if its Open’

…….which is why Badger and I are standing inside a small room about to ask this lady if they sell CDs. She is possibly the poshest lady I have ever spoken to, she pulls her glasses, which are on a string of, up over her nose and stares at us, when Tim asks her “Do you sell music in here, love?”.

The lady looks at Tim and there is a sort of disappointed look on her face, we have perhaps dashed a fantasy of hers of us being high class transsexuals. “There is an old box in the back room, next to the staff bathroom, we are sending them down to the town shop, as we really only sell high class fashions in this…emporium.” The words ‘town shop’ is almost spat out in disgust. Tim retorts “It is a very nice charity shop, love”.

I should explain a bit more…

The shop we are standing in is in Wellswood, an upmarket suburb of Torquay (unbelievably), an area where there are no Costa Coffees or Greggs, but Ecuadorian Coffee Emporiums, and Artisan Bakeries that also sell home made artwork for stupidly pricey sums. We didn’t see the word ‘Boutique’ artistically calligraphed onto the shop sign before we went in but on reflection we should have guessed.

We ambled across to the back room and find the box. A sad looking old lady moves a book of the top of the box, the book has Princess Diana on its cover, one assumes she has been spared the indignity of being sent to the town shop. There are about 100 CDs in the box, mostly rubbish but there nestled amongst the James Last CDs and the Greatest Hits of Ken Dodd, is where Badger picks up these two absolute gems. There is also an Ocean Colour Scene CD but we leave that well alone. I toy with the idea of buying the slightly battered copy of ‘Full House’ by Fairport Convention on vinyl that I spy peeking out from behind a scary looking tailors dummy, but I can feel the eyes of the Margaret Thatcher clone boring into my skull, so I leave well alone.

All of which lower middle class oikery brings us nicely to the CDs, the first one is “Ego Tripping At the Gates of Hell’ by the Flaming Lips, an extended EP of sorts that straddled the lull between “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots” and “At War with the Mystics”. It contained four new tracks two remixes of the title track and an appalling version of “Do You Realize?”, which spoils what was a beautiful song.

mp3: The Flaming Lips – Assassination of the Sun

“Assassination of the Sun” is pretty fantastic. There is something rather lovely about an earnest sounding Wayne Coyne chirruping away about millions of stars forming a sun machine that churns out pain, if you ask me. Two of the other new tracks are worth your attention, if only because they are slightly different from your average Flaming Lips track.

mp3: The Flaming Lips – I’m A Fly in a Sunbeam (Following The Funeral Procession Of A Stranger)
mp3: The Flaming Lips – Sunship Balloons

The first is an instrumental which has wonderfully mellow piano floating through it before it goes full on with the breakbeats and that. Its weirdly hypnotic. The second sees Coyne channelling his inner Nelly and going all R&B on ya ass, and requesting that we ‘Do it all night until the sunrise comes….’. The saucy monkey.

I won’t trouble your ears with the remixes. Instead, lets talk about Franz Ferdinand.

“Tonight” was the third album by Franz Ferdinand and was somehow overlooked by me when it first came out. It came out three years after the brilliant second album “You Could Have It So Much Better” and whilst I was expecting more of the same off kilter post punk art pop, what you get is something very different, well sort of…

‘Tonight’ is much more experimental than the two albums that preceded and those that succeeded it come to think of it. The archetypical ‘difficult’ third album if you like. It’s a bit hit-and-miss if you ask me. Let’s deal with a couple of the hits.

mp3: Franz Ferdinand – Lucid Dreams

‘Lucid Dreams’ is brilliant, an eight minute synth inspired that roughly halfway through it transforms (totally unexpectedly) into a full on disco stomp monster. Which immediately makes you think, how incredible an entire Franz Ferdinand electroclash inspired disco album would be. If you need further proof of how good that would be then listen to:-

mp3: Franz Ferdinand – Dream Again

Which is in a similar vein to ‘Lucid Dream’ in that it heavily relies on electronics, it sounds rather like ‘Novocaine for the Soul’ by Eels on a first listen, which is of course a good thing.

SWC

 

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #280 : STEVE LILLYWHITE

I think this is a first…..an ICA in which the common link is the producer.

Steve Lillywhite celebrated his 66th birthday yesterday. He’s been working in the music industry since 1972, learning his craft initially as a tape operator, mixer and engineer.  By the late 70s, he had emerged as an upcoming name for his work with a number of new wave/post-punk acts, but arguably his breakthrough, in terms of being a producer-in-demand, came in 1980 when he worked with U2, XTC and The Psychedelic Furs, as well as what seemed like a futuristic and innovative production effort on the third solo album by Peter Gabriel.

He’s now been credited in some shape or form on more than 500 records, and is estimated to have a net worth of more than $40 million (US), much of it made via various roles in senior management at labels such as Universal and Columbia. It’s fair to say that he’s worked with a lot of rock’n’roll dinosaurs over the years and there’s probably been more records to endure rather than enjoy.  But there was a spell particularly in the late 70s and 80s, when his singular approach to production duties brought huge success to a lot of acts who are looked on favourably in TVV-land. Here’s a few examples:-

SIDE ONE

1.  A New England (12″ version) – Kirsty MacColl

Steve Lillywhite was married to Kirsty MacColl for ten years between 1984 and 1994, and they enjoyed a fabulous professional as well as personal relationship.  Her career had stalled somewhat after the initial successes in the early 80s, and she found herself dropped by Polydor Records, necessitating a return to the world of indies via Stiff Records.  Her take on the wonderful Billy Bragg song, on which there are all sorts of multi-tracking backing vocals, remains her biggest ever hit (#7, 1985). It’s worth mentioning that Stiff Records went bankrupt the following year, leaving Kirsty in limbo as her contract was in the hands of the official receiver, but she was able to obtain a lot of work as a backing or co-vocalist on records being produced by her husband, not least with The Pogues with the perennial Xmas favourite, Fairytale of New York.

2. The Sound of The Suburbs – The Members

The Members were one of those bands who emerged from the London pub circuit just as new wave became a thing, and having been given some early airplay by John Peel, they were, like a number of their contemporaries, snapped up by the fast-growing Virgin Records.  Steve Lillywhite had produced much of their early stuff for inclusion on punk compilation albums, getting the job as he came cheap, doing it for ‘mates rates’ as his older brother Adrian was the band’s drummer. When the time came to record the debut album, the band were keen to engage him, albeit it was easy enough for Virgin to agree given that he’d already made something of a name for himself in the post-punk world (see Side A, Track 4).  I think this is the first big hit single with which he was associated, reaching #12 in 1979.  It’s rough and ready and of its time, but huge fun.

3. Feelin’ – The La’s

It’s something of an understatement to say that the recording process for The La’s only studio album was a drawn-out affair.  The songs were written in 1986/87, but the album didn’t see light of day until 1990 as there were at least 12 different sessions with as many as eight different producers, with nobody able to deliver exactly what singer and lead songwriter, Lee Mavers, was striving for.  Steve Lillywhite worked on the final sessions, in December 1989, February 1990 and April 1990 at Eden Studios, London, producing some 15 tracks in total, before heading to one of his favourite locations, the Town House, again in London, for mixing work.  This was the band’s last ever single, charting at #43 in 1991.  And at under two minutes in length, it is a fine example of a producer keeping things tight and relatively straightforward.

4. Metal Postcard (Mittagiessen) – Siouxsie and The Banshees

Maybe a wee bit of a cheat including this as it’s technically a co-production by Steve Lillywhite/Siouxsie and The Banshees. Released in November 1978, The Scream is one of his earliest efforts and I think it’s fair to say his first masterpiece, one that acted as something of a calling card and which grabbed the attention of the former frontman of Genesis.

5. No Self Control – Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel was the name given to the first three of the solo albums,  Steve Lillywhite was the producer of the third of them, recorded in 1979 and released in 1980, and which proved to the album that stopped him being pigeon-holed as one simply for the post-punk/new wave acts.  It was an astounding sounding record back in the day, and more than 40 years later it still holds up really well.  This track was released as a single, and features Kate Bush on backing vocals, and I’ve often wondered if the results were partly the inspiration for the producer’s many works with Kirsty MacColl in later years.

SIDE TWO

1. Making Plans For Nigel – XTC

At the same time as he was working with Peter Gabriel, our producer was also in a studio with XTC, the fruits of which would result in Drums and Wires, which is most famous for its lead-off single, Making Plans For Nigel.  This album was recorded in what was then a relatively new studio – The Town House in Shepherd’s Bush, London, built by Richard Branson in 1978 as an affordable but modern location mainly for acts on Virgin Records, such as XTC, but which over the years until its closure in 2008 would be used by just about anyone who had a big hit in the UK.  It’s interesting to listen closely to Drums and Wires and Peter Gabriel 3, for there’s a number of production techniques which are common to both.

2. Angle Park – Big Country

Did Stuart Adamson really ask his producer to make his guitars sound like the bagpipes?  If so, the studio wizard certainly achieved it on the debut album, and accompanying b-sides, such as Angle Park, with which Big Country took the UK and further afield by storm in 1983.  Steve Lillywhite had really made it huge in the early 80s with U2, with the trio of Boy, October and War taking them into increasingly into the stratosphere.  Every band with ambitions of making it big wanted to use the template and while many put in the phone calls, not everyone got a positive response.  Big Country did, as indeed did another of Scotland’s biggest acts of the decade…..

3. Speed Your Love To Me (12″ version) – Simple Minds

Those who want to criticise Steve Lillywhite – and there are many – will point to the triple-headed beast of U2, Big Country and Simple Minds and say that much of what went wrong in the 80s can be traced back to his work with each of them.  It was Simple Minds who wanted to work with Lillywhite on their sixth studio album, which would be released as Sparkle In The Rain, and indeed the producer was keen to work with the Glaswegians, dropping other planned activities to head into a couple of studios, including The Town House, in late 1983.  The results were big, booming and, yes, anthemic, a long way removed from the sounds of what had come before.  It wasn’t totally a bad thing and I’d argue there are still some great moments on the album, such as this hit single on which Kirsty MacColl’s contribution is immense.  It was when the American producers got hold of Simple Minds afterwards that things went awry….

4. Sister Europe – The Psychedelic Furs

The bombastic stuff on this ICA has peaked and it’s time to head back to a new wave classics from the earlier period when Steve Lillywhite was working his magic, but the commercial success wasn’t forthcoming. A number of different producers worked on the self-titled debut album by The Psychedelic Furs, including Martin Hannett who is of course best known for his work with Joy Division and various Factory Records bands (and who, incidentally, also worked with U2 as they were emerging).  Sister Europe is one of the highlights of the album and is one attributed solely to Lillywhite.  An edited version was released as a single in February 1980 but failed to chart.

5. Days – Kirsty MacColl

I make no apologies for closing with a second track on this ICA from Kirsty MacColl.  Released as a single in June 1989, it really is hard to believe that it’s a cover of a song by The Kinks, dating back to 1968.  It has all her trademarks and it is perfectly produced.  To those who chide Steve Lillywhite for his Celtic-era work, I simply ask that you give this a listen, preferably on a good system or through headphones to hear what he really could do. I’ve even ripped the song at 320 kpbs from the 12″ single for the purpose…….(as indeed, I’ve also done for the opening track on this ICA)

JC

LANDFILL INDIE? – A FRESH SERIES FOR MONDAYS (Issue 4)

Those of you with a decent enough memory should know where this one is heading……that is, if you recall the occasion, in December 2016, when I pulled together a short piece about The Rakes:-

Back in 2004/2005, the UK charts were seemingly dominated by a plethora of emerging guitar-led bands, very few of whom lasted the course beyond the debut LP. One of my favourite records from the period has turned out to be Capture/Release, the debut LP by The Rakes. Now I’ve tried over the years to be an avid reader of blogs, but I haven’t read too many pieces that have mentioned far less praised this particular record. Which is a bit of an oversight in my humble opinion…..

The Rakes never really fitted in with any genre – some thought they were from the post-punk art scene like Franz Ferdinand, Maximo Park or Bloc Party, while others thought they were just another London band like Razorlight or The Libertines who owed their success to a lazy, fawning media.

I first heard the band through seeing some of their videos on MTV2 and thinking that they were infectiously catchy songs. I’ll be honest and admit I never rushed out and bought anything right away, nor did I go along and catch them playing live. But in due course, maybe about a year after it came out, I picked up a second-hand copy of their debut LP and gave it a listen. Eleven brilliant pop songs in just over 30 minutes – and a record that really should have gotten a lot more critical acclaim at the time.

I bought follow-up LP Ten New Messages not long after it was released in March 2007, and it too became a bit of a favourite, although like a lot of records that I bought in 2007 wasn’t listened to all that often as I spent a fair chunk of the year working in Canada and far away from the record collection. And then blogging sort of took over and bands like The Rakes, The Libertines and The Futureheads, all of whom had released some cracking stuff over a two-year period, were sort of forgotten about as I delved further and further back in time and listened to loads of old vinyl for the first time in years.

The band released their third LP in 2009 – Klang – but it proved to be a flop and they called it a day soon after. But The Rakes, I would argue, were far better at what they did than many others who made more money and managed to eke out a longer career.”

Which is why, some four and a bit years on, I have no hesitation in refusing to have any of the Rakes CDs or 7″ singles put out with the rubbish.

Indeed, if I happened to be passing a landfill site and saw any of their material as part of it, I would quite probably climb the fence and do a bit of rescuing – especially if I’d been drinking.

Last time round, I featured the singles Strasbourg, Retreat, 22 Grand Job and Work, Work, Work (Pub, Club, Sleep), all from the debut album. Here’s a couple more singles, this time lifted from the second album:-

mp3: The Rakes – The World Was A Mess But His Hair Was Perfect
mp3: The Rakes – We Danced Together

And ,also from the same release back in 2007, a track on which there are a number of guest vocalists, including the soon to-be-famous folksinger, Laura Marling:-

mp3: The Rakes – Suspicious Eyes

I think this all demonstrates they were a cut above the norm, but feel free to differ.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF R.E.M. (Part 36)

It’s interesting to ponder whether the 1999 film Man On The Moon would have been given the green light by Hollywood if it hadn’t been for the fact that R.E.M. had enjoyed a huge hit single some seven years earlier, and in many ways re-igniting interest in the comedian, Andy Kaufman.

It did therefore make sense that the moguls turned to the band to work on the score to accompany the movie, with the fruits of their labour appearing as orchestral music on a soundtrack album in November 1999, alongside contributions from Kaufman himself and Jim Carrey as Kaufman.

It’s worth interjecting at this point that Man on The Moon is more than a decent watch, but whether you love it or loath it will largely depend on two things;

(i) does the surreal/childish/challenging humour utilised by Kaufman make you laugh or cringe? ; and

(ii) do you think Jim Carrey is a genius or a dickhead?

The latter is important as he really is at the centre of the film, in just about every single scene.

What I will say, is that you should make time to watch Jim & Andy – The Great Beyond, a 2017 documentary which basically is a behind the scenes look at the making of Man on The Moon. Without giving too much away, Carrey remains in character as Kaufman at all times, leading to all sorts of manic behaviour and chaos on the set and the surrounding environs. Michael Stipe makes an appearance in the documentary, clearly bemused by what he was finding during a visit to the set. It’s available on Netflix.

In addition to the score, the band wrote one entirely new song, which would feature (as these things tend to do) as the credits rolled.  It was included on the soundtrack, and in late January 2000 just after the Xmas market had died down, it was issued as a single.  Incredibly, this stand-alone effort provided R.E.M. with their biggest ever hit  in the UK, coming in at #3, eventually spending ten weeks in the Top 75:-

mp3: R.E.M. – The Great Beyond

This chart performance was in complete contrast to the singles lifted from Up, with The Robster over the past few weeks highlighting that even those which did chart tended to drop out pretty quickly.

The reason is quite simple in that The Great Beyond remained part of the radio playlists for weeks as this was the R.E.M. that the producers and DJs wanted, and given the fact it sold consistently for a couple of months, it was what the public wanted.

Let’s face it. The Great Beyond is Man On The Moon (the hit single) Part 2. It had the same sort of feel, sound, energy and sentiment about it. It really was R.E.M. for the masses, yeah yeah, yeah, yeah.

I mentioned previously that I’m not a huge lover of Man On The Moon and likewise, I’ve the same ‘meh’ feeling about The Great Beyond. It kind of sounds as if the three remaining members of the band, having listened to the criticism given to Up, decided to prove just how easy it would be to go back to the Automatic era and churn out something with one hand tied behind their collective backs and with their eyes closed. The interesting thing was whether this would be the sort of songs to appear on the next studio album or would they go back to the more challenging and experimental stuff? That’s all for the next three editions of this series……..

Incidentally, I thought that the #3 result for The Great Beyond was partly down to it being tied in with the release of the film, and that people might be buying it after a visit to the cinema. I was very wrong as Man On The Moon, while released in theatres in the USA at the end of 1999, didn’t premiere over here until May 2000, by which time the single was long out of the charts.

Nor was it the result of multi-formatting. One CD and one cassette release only, each with the same bonus tracks, aimed straight at those who hadn’t bought any R.E.M. since the early 90s but still went along to the gigs to hear the old stuff:-

mp3: R.E.M. – Everybody Hurts (live at Glastonbury, June 1999)
mp3: R.E.M. – The One I Love (live at Glastonbury, June 1999)

95,000 singing along…..it really was a far cry from the IRS days.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #250: POPUP

I wrote previously about PopUp, just the once, and it was back in May 2014.  As I mentioned, they had been really active from about 2006-2008 when the debut album appeared, of which this was one of many highlights:-

mp3: Popup – Chinese Burn

Not afraid whatsoever to sing in a local accent, they were also a great act in the live setting.  I mentioned last time out that the band’s twitter account had been inactive since December 2012 which would indicate they have broken up.

But 2020 was a strange year for many reasons, not least this, on Facebook last April-

Whimpers is Popup’s second album. The songs were written and recorded shortly after the release of A Time and a Place in 2008, and a number of them featured heavily in Popup’s live sets around that time.

For the most part, it was recorded and mixed by Gal (Paul Gallagher) at his studios at 4th Street and then at the Glenwood Studio. A couple of tracks were recorded in Popup’s old rehearsal studio, either by themselves or by their dear friend Mark Amery-Behr. They just preferred those versions to the ones from the studio.

It was mastered by Sam Smith at Green Door studio in Glasgow.

Around 2011, Popup stopped playing shows and the album had not been released. Time passed, children were born etc.

At a friend’s wedding in 2017, the four members of Popup found themselves chatting, and the idea of putting the second album out came up. This is them just getting round to that.

The members of Popup remain friends and still muck around making music, sometimes with each other. They may release more music in the future, though not necessarily as Popup.

It’s available for just £5 from bandcamp as well as via all sorts of other download streaming services.  Maybe someone will pick it up and give it a physical release…..

The only downside is that the lockdown situation prevented any thoughts of the band coming together for a live show or two to highlight the fact there was a new release all these years later.

mp3: Popup – Sinatra

JC

 

WATCH IT DOUBLE IN PRICE ON-LINE IN NOVEMBER

Today’s posting should have been from SWC, but I’ve elbowed it into next week so that I can have a wee rant.

I love books almost as much as I do music.  I’ve well over 500 of the things lying around various corners of Villain Towers, constantly resisting the urges of Mrs V to get rid of some of them.  I’ve a fondness, you won’t be surprised to learn, for books about music, musicians and pop/rock history.  There’s nearly 200 of these in the collection, of which around half are biographies or memoirs.

Hearing the news that Bobby Gillespie is about to have his story published was quite exciting, and discovering that the book is being published on 28 October 2021 means it’s a no-brainer for being added to the next Santa list.  The fact it’s only taking things up to the release of Screamadelica is even better news as it will inevitably have a huge focus on my home city and the environs in which Bobby grew up.

The info came via one of the few social media things I keep up with and clicking on the link led to an immediate increase in my blood pressure.

Tenement Kid can be pre-ordered just now from a number of places, including Waterstones, the largest book chain in the UK, where the asking price is £20 for a signed copy.

The publisher, White Rabbit, has this info on line:-

As well as publishing in hardback, ebook and audio – all of which are available to pre-order now – TENEMENT KID will be available in two special collector’s editions:

It turns out that one is an ‘Independent Record Store Special Edition’, consisting of 500 copies which will be signed, numbered and stamped, in a bespoke Green slipcase, for which the price is £49.99

The second is a ‘Rough Trade Store Special Edition’, consisting of 1000 copies, again all to be signed, numbered and stamped, but this time in in a bespoke Red slipcase, for which the price is, again, £49.99.

Fair enough if you’re a big fan, but not enough to make me justify the additional £30 for something that I won’t have in my hands for another seven-and-a-bit months.

Here’s the thing….five Independent Record Stores have links available for the pre-order. Drift Records in Totnes (which is SWC country), Resident Music in Brighton, Norman Records in Leeds, Piccadilly Records in Manchester and Monorail Records in Glasgow. Two of the pre-orders, in Manchester and Glasgow, are already sold out.

Now, I may be wrong, and they have been snapped up by fans who have something to really look forward to, but I can’t help but be cynical and reckon folk are just taking a punt on the fact there are only 500 of things and have a plan to put their copy up on-line in early November in which they will seek to make a tidy profit. It’s the sort of behaviour that quickly put me off Record Store Day when the shops would be teeming, not with fans but with speculators, and has become increasingly common as singers/bands/labels put out limited edition copies of albums, usually at a premium, which quickly sell out before all too soon appearing on Discogs or the likes.

To illustrate…..

Monorail had a limited exclusive edition of As Days Get Dark, the new Arab Strap album, which came out just seven days ago. It included a bonus flexi disc, signed by Aidan and Malcolm and the flexi discs were limited to 600 in total. The asking price was £22.99 and unsurprisingly, given their popularity round these parts, it sold out in the blink of an eye…..to the extent that I missed out and had to settle for a copy without the flexi at £2 cheaper.

This special edition with the flexi is already on Discogs.

There are three on offer.

£80, £95 and £129 are the asking prices.

All described as mint, sealed/shrink wrapped and unplayed which means these fucking parasites paid £23 for something they had no intention of ever playing just so that they could look to make a killing.

Now, do you think I might be right about Bobby Gillespie’s book?

mp3: Primal Scream – If They Move, Kill ‘Em

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF ZIP (Part One)

A GUEST POSTING by KHAYEM

Yes, it’s a tongue-in-cheek title: Zip only released one record. It also turned out to be the only time I got to see Pete Shelley live in concert and by accident, at that.

It’s May 1988, I’ve recently dropped out of college and got a full-time job and suddenly I have money for drinking and gigs. Unfortunately, whilst my friends have a passion for the former (especially if their newly minted mate is buying the rounds), few share my taste (or financial means) for the latter. So, I frequently found myself in a trade off, going to see bands that I had little or no interest in, in order to see a band I really wanted to see. This particular gig swap in 1988 was Siouxsie & The Banshees (me) and Erasure (my mate Paul).

Paul was a college friend and his enthusiasm for hip hop and rap (and James Brown) was infectious. It’s fair to say that Erasure was a bit of an unexpected suggestion from him, but I went along with it. I’d enjoyed Vince Clarke’s musical excursions with Depeche Mode and Yazoo and bought his one-off collaborations with Paul Quinn and Feargal Sharkey, as well as some of the early Erasure singles. By the time of The Innocents tour in 1988, I wasn’t a fan but I really wanted to see Siouxsie & The Banshees so needs must…

The gig was at the Colston Hall in Bristol and we had seats in row V, the ‘rear stalls’ about 17 back from the stage, far from an up front and personal experience.

There was no information on the support act, but the merchandise tables proclaimed ‘Zip’, whoever they might be. From our distant seats, even the sight of the three men in black taking to the stage didn’t elicit any recognition. However, the moment the voice started, a “What the…?!” moment triggered. My brother had Buzzcocks’ Singles Going Steady and it was a regular Friday/Saturday getting-ready-for-going-out soundtrack, so I could hear it was Pete Shelley, even if I couldn’t see him clearly. But… what was this?

I’ll be honest and say I don’t remember all that much about the gig (and browsing the internet, I don’t seem to be alone). Apart from the single A & B sides, I’ve no idea what other songs were on the setlist. I’ve got a vague recollection that they may have played Ever Fallen In Love… (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve?) but that may just be a retrospective false memory. What I do recall was that Zip’s music was frenetic if a bit tinny, Shelley’s vocals sounded higher pitched than expected and it was all a bit…well, disappointing, really.

I didn’t see Zip’s debut single Your Love/Give It To Me around at the time and I wouldn’t have been moved to buy it following the Bristol gig. Thanks to the internet, I managed to hear the songs many years later and they’re actually not all that bad. Give It To Me actually first appeared as a B-side to Pete Shelley’s 1984 single Never Again and the better of the two Zip versions is the extended mix on the 12” single. Likewise, in my opinion, the remixed version of Your Love is superior. I don’t recall either getting airplay on Radio 1 though I do remember the following year hearing the similarly sounding remix of Homosapien II on the Annie Nightingale show. I’m guessing this too was short-lived as it was also in 1989 that Buzzcocks reformed. Never one to let a good song go to waste, in 1996 both songs were re-recorded for Buzzcocks’ All Set album, sounding as if they were always meant to sound that way.

There’s very little information about Zip available on the internet, but there’s an interesting article from The List magazine, promoting Zip’s support slot on Erasure’s The Innocents tour

https://archive.list.co.uk/the-list/1988-04-15/34/

Here is Zip’s sole 12” single from 1988:

Zip – Your Love (Single Version)
Zip – Your Love (Ext)
Zip – Give It To Me (Ext)

plus the various other versions of the A & B sides:

Pete Shelley – Give It To Me (Single Version) (1984)
Zip – Give It To Me (Single Version) (1987)
Buzzcocks – Your Love (1996)
Buzzcocks – Give It To Me (1996)

And the Erasure gig? It was okay, but it was the early 1990s before I really started enjoying their singles again. The Siouxsie & The Banshees gig followed in September 1988 and I thought it was great, Paul less so.

But this is where it gets weird for me. I remember that Siouxsie spent the whole concert sitting on a stool because she had injured her leg. However, all of the online info I can find mentions a broken leg during the 1985 tour, which I couldn’t possibly have been to. If anyone else attended the Peep Show tour in 1988 and can ease my addled mind, please let me know!

KHAYEM