ALL YOU CAN DO IS STEP (FURTHER) BACK IN TIME

January 2018 was when I posted Delilah Sands by The Brilliant Corners. It was my introduction to the band and at the end of the piece I made a plea for an ICA on account of how much I had enjoyed this initial exposure.

The challenge was taken up by Eric from Oakland. He began what was an outstanding effort with the following words:-

I really struggled between two concepts on this one. Career retrospective, or just my favorite songs? The first record I have is Growing Up Absurd, so I never really listened to the first 3 singles (She’s Got a Fever, Big Hip, and My Baby in Black) before this week. Then there is a clear point in 1989 when the sound changes considerably (most notably by the absence of trumpet). While there are some good post-trumpet songs, none of it would make it into my top 10. In the end I decided that this ICA would be the ICA of The Brilliant Corners as I remember them – ‘85-88′.

A while back, I found while browsing the second-hand record store a slightly tattered copy of one of the early singles that Eric hadn’t really listened to. It was the band’s sophomore effort, on their very own SS20 Records. The reverse of the sleeve makes for a fun read (although I have no idea what line three is referring to!!):-

Well here we are again, four red-eyed gookies with treats galore!
Here to speculate and emancipate (an unhappy pastime if ever there was)
Here to shake the coxa, bong the breeble, and go-go C.P
Trash it!!
BIG HIP hands helping (ho hum) ‘trust me’ he says.
Rasping, violent, beautiful, incoherent.
And for diversity a chocolate head Everly TANGLED UP IN BLUE.
Let lovers lie (dead) said the boy
But remember, if these grooves fail you,
take it and throw it at the fanatical diplomat,
and be sure we are happy!
Keep close to the pavement.

CHIEF IRONSIDE, April 1984

mp3 : The Brilliant Corners – Big Hip
mp3 : The Brilliant Corners – Tangled Up In Blue

The two tracks, between them, last a combined 4 mins and 21 seconds. which means a fraction just under a pound per minute for my tattered copy.  Still decent value if you want my opinion.

JC

SOME EXTENDED CUTS (with apologies…)

I’m quite bad for buying records with the intention of posting on the blog and then forgetting all about it.

It was way back in September 2018 that I last visited Toronto, and I did come home with a few bits of second-hand vinyl, one of which was a 12″ Blancmange single, with b-sides that were sort-of unique to the North American market.

mp3 : Blancmange – Living On The Ceiling (extended version)
mp3 : Blancmange – Feel Me (extended vocal version)
mp3 : Blancmange – Feel Me (instrumental)

I know from the one previous occasion when the duo featured on the blog that there’s a fair bit of love, particularly for the early material.

Living On The Ceiling was the huge hit over here, reaching #7 in the singles chart. It was the band’s third 45. with Feel Me having been their second (it had reached #46)

Over in the States and Canada, it appears that Catalogue# LDSX202, from which these three tracks are lifted, was the first single by the band.

Doing a bit of research, it does seem that this version of Living On The Ceiling is the same as the UK 12″ and the two versions of Feel Me are those which were on the UK 12″….but it’s handy to have them rolled up on to one piece of plastic.

The apology is for the delay, and also that there are slight skips on occasion towards the end of the lead track (not too surprising given the vinyl is 37 years old!!). I hope it doesn’t detract too much from your enjoyment.

JC

A REVIEW FROM 20 YEARS AGO (3)

#3 : 13 by BLUR (Pitchfork, 23 March 1999 – Brent DiCrescenzo)

Six albums into their envious career, Blur have finally found a sound to match their name. I’m sure the name initially came from the donut- stuffed mouth of Virgin A&R; reps who feared selling a band called “Seymour” to the Teens UK. “Blur” fits the mold of the monosyllabic, schwa- voweled noun system of Brit-rock nomenclature– Pulp, Bush, Lush, Suede. Now, after nearly a decade, Blur have grown comfortable with their image and talents. From now on, it’s their mission to make ears and speakers uncomfortable. With producer William Orbit spreading gobs of digital fuzz, guitar wash, and deep- space bleeps in heavy strokes with William De Kooning- esque glee, the tracks on 13 bounce between studio walls, planets, and effects pedals until slowly unraveling and releasing with mercurian flashes and cherubic keyboard. It all… well… blurs.

The more Guitar God status fans and critics throw on Graham Coxon, the more Coxon attempts to vigorously destroy such notions with feedback, drilling, and controlled crust, which in turn just makes the fans and critics swoon even more. From the wandering melodies that twang and fall apart in “Tender” to the tongue- in- cheek metal- solo, vacuum theremin freakout, and surf- boogie ending in “Bugman,” to the crescendoing strums of “1992,” Coxon drops creative brain- blowers all over 13. Yet, the album sounds nothing like the band’s last self- titled LP. These days, Coxon’s guitars are manipulated to sound unlike guitars. Plus, layers of organs and loops balance out the intoxicating mix. But it’s Orbit’s UFO studio tricks make 13 a much more cohesive and consistant record than the eponymous LP.

Despite Graham Coxon’s fingerprints, 13 is Damon Albarn’s record from start to finish. From the opening epic, “Tender,” in which Albarn delivers the line “Love’s the greatest thing that we have” with a sarcastic croon after admiting that his heart screwed up his life, to the beautiful, stripped closer, “No Distance Left to Run,” in which he sighs with resignation, “It’s over/ You don’t need to tell me/ I hope you’re with someone who makes you feel safe in your sleep,” Albarn opens his veins over 13’s DAT tapes. Sort of. On “Swamp Song,” though, he goes all Iggy Pop, grabbing the mic with sass and pose. And “B.L.U.R.E.M.I.” could be a Brainiac song, the closest tune here to attaining the backlashed “Whoo-Hoo!”

Despite all the knob- twiddling and pedal- kicking, 13 contains several surprisingly subtle songs. “Trim Tramm” bobs along to quiet chords before kicking in the jets, and “Mellow Song” lets dainty moon- cocktail piano lines and hollow chimes swirl around lovely acoustic plucking. Each song is unique, yet fits perfectly into the overall hungover, psychedelic, 2001 mood. Once again, Blur has kept one step ahead of expectations (well, okay, they didn’t with The Great Escape, but that was still a great record) and continued to impress. In a way, Blur is one of the last big old- school “album” bands, a band more concerned with their entire career than radio singles, more concerned with “album” than “song.” The Beatles made a dozen albums in the ’60s and continually progressed. The reason why is simple: when a band is really, really good, they consistently make good records. Duh.

JC writes:-

I’ve always had more than a soft spot for Blur. I liked the baggy-era beginnings but there was nothing at the time that really indicated they would not only be able to stand out from the crowd but enjoy a near 30-year career that would see them sell out stadiums in the UK and arenas in many other places. I fell for them big time in the run-up to and release of the sophomore album, Modern Life Is Rubbish before Parklife and The Great Escape turned them into massive stars, achieving what had long seemed impossible with gaggles of screaming teenybop fans at gigs alongside chin-stroking musos and those of us who just wanted to do whatever dance was appropriate. I stuck by them and was rewarded in 1997 with the self-titled fifth album, one which I feel contains or leads to many of their best moments thanks to the remixes which sneaked out under the cover of the Japanese-only release Bustin’ and Dronin’ the following year.

William Orbit had contributed four of the nine remixes and this, as much as his work with others, led to him being taken on to work on what would become 13, recorded from June to October 1998 in London and Reykjavík.

I think it’s fair to say that 13 was unlike any of the band’s previous efforts but in this instance it proved to be an immediate strength; indeed the diversity of songs and sounds on offer make it an album which is still a joy to listen to, not burdened down by familiarity. I contrast it with Parklife, another excellent record with many diverse songs and sounds but one I can’t but help associate with the time and place of its release and success and the fact that Blur gigs, out of the blue, became gigantic sing-alongs.

In terms of the songs, I really don’t have much to add to what Brent DiCresenzo said all those years ago when he awarded the album a 9.1 rating. There are beautiful and heart-felt ballads, there are tracks which would be nigh-on impossible to reproduce in the live setting and there’s also the most wonderful and radio friendly pop-song on which Graham Coxon took centre stage, assisted ably on backing vocals and harmonies by Damon Albarn:-

mp3 : Blur – Coffee and TV

In later years, it would be revealed that 13 was made at a time of real stress for the band:-

William Orbit – “There was a battle between Damon’s more experimental direction, and Graham’s punk one, and Graham prevailed. If that tension had been growing on previous LPs, it came to a head here”

Dave Rowntree – “Things were starting to fall apart between the four of us; It was quite a sad process making it. People were not turning up to the sessions, or turning up drunk, being abusive and storming off.”

Alex James – “I had songs; I played them to William. He liked them. But I was sulking. I didn’t play them to the others… Now I know how George Harrison felt.”

Graham Coxon – “I was really out there around 13, which made for some pretty great noise but I was probably a bit of a crap to be around.”

Coxon is bang on the money:-

mp3 : Blur – B.L.U.R.E.M.I
mp3 : Blur – Trimm Trabb

13, in summary, is a noisy, abstract and rather experimental album, one which challenged everyone, long-time fans and casual listeners alike. Twenty years on, it’s the album I would contend has proven to be their masterpiece – not the one that most remember above all others, but the one which really does stand repeated listens.

JC

THE GRINDERMAN SINGLES

My unwillingness to get involved in the shenanigans around Record Store Day means that this is the only physical copy of a Grinderman single not in the collection. There are copies available via Discogs, but it’s daft money that’s being asked for.

Palaces of Montezuma was one of the softer tracks on Grinderman 2, which had been released in September 2010. The band announced, in early 2011, that it would be issued, with new mixes, as a digital download and then as a ‘limited to 1000 copies’ 12″ release as part of Record Store Day on 16 April 2011.

It turned out there were two new mixes added in along with the album version and a remix of a further track from Grinderman 2:-

mp3 : Grinderman – Palaces of Montezuma (Cenzo mix)
mp3 : Grinderman – Palaces of Montezuma (Barry Adamson remix)
mp3 : Grinderman – Palaces of Montezuma (album mix)
mp3 : Grinderman – When My Baby Comes (Cat’s Eyes remix)

The Barry Adamson remix is the one that does it for me on this occasion. It was great to see how he and Nick Cave could still work so well together after so many years.

The remix of When My Baby Comes is of real interest.

Cat’s Eyes are a duo comprising Faris Badwan, lead vocalist with The Horrors, and Rachel Zeffira, a Canadian-born Canadian soprano, composer and multi-instrumentalist. The duo are quite unconventional but have gained ever-increasing critical acclaim in recent years, culminating in awards for their film score for the 2014 art-house release The Duke of Burgundy.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF MARC ALMOND (Part 7)

In June 1986, Marc Almond, backed as usual by his Willing Sinners released a seven-track EP consisting entirely of cover versions. The lead track, which had originally been recorded in the mid 70s by Cher, having been penned by Nino Tempo, April Stephens and Phil Spector, was also released as a stand-alone 7″ single:-

mp3 : Marc Almond – A Woman’s Story

The full title of the EP was A Woman’s Story (Some Songs To Take To The Tomb – Compilation One). Sadly, Compilation Two was never released.

The single reached #41 in the charts. I haven’t heard the original, but going by Marc’s vocal delivery, I’m guessing it won’t be too dissimilar.  If it had been a hit, it would be a karaoke klassik…..

The b-side of the single was also taken from the EP and it’s one originally written and recorded by Lee Hazelwood:-

mp3 : Marc Almond – For One Moment

JC

 

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #156 : THE JASMINE MINKS

It’s just over four years since the only previous occasion The Jasmine Minks featured – it was a reasonably comprehensive feature as part of the look at the tracks on CD86…..I’ll just cu’n’paste from it:-

One of the best tracks on CD86 is Cut Me Deep by The Jasmine Minks. However, it is a bit of a cheat that it is included as the song wasn’t released until 1988 as a track on Another Age, an LP that came out on Creation Records which was of course a central part of the C86 movement.

By this point in time, the band – originally from Aberdeen – had been with the label for four years and in an effort to become pop stars had relocated to London. Sadly, they were just one of many talented bands from the era who never made the breakthrough and they disbanded before the decade was over, suffering in part from Alan McGhee‘s preoccupation with the Jesus and Mary Chain which meant all the other bands on his roster took a seat away at the very back of the room.

The lead vocal on Cut Me Deep is courtesy of Jim Shepherd who had only taken on that role on the departure in 1986 of one of the other founder-members of the band Adam Sanderson. It was Sanderson who sang on what turned out to be the band’s best-selling single, Cold Heart, released in April 1986 and also available on their self-titled debut LP released a couple of months later.

The Jasmine Minks reunited in 2000, releasing the album Veritas, before the band signed to McGee’s Poptones label for the release of Popartglory (2001) and then after another lengthy hiatus, 4 track EP, Poppy White, was released on the Oatcake Records label in 2012 the same year they appeared at the 2012 Indietracks festival in the original 1984 lineup.

In 2014, the band celebrated their 30th anniversary with the release of Cut Me Deep – The Anthology 1984 – 2014 with 48 tracks spread over 2 x CDs.

2019 update

Unsurprisingly, The Jasmine Minks are one of the 115 acts to be include on the recently issued Big Gold Dreams boxset, courtesy of Cherry Red Record. The words ‘a frenetic roar of intent’ were used to describe this, their 1984 debut on Creation Records:-

mp3 : The Jasmine Minks – Think!

I was waiting on either Edwyn Collins or James Kirk to start singing after that inital 20-second burst of energy. Can’t understand why I can’t recall hearing this back in the day and why I didn’t seek it out.

I’ve tracked down the more than decent b-side:-

mp3 : The Jasmine Minks – Work For Nothing

JC