• THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 48)

    We’ve reached 2011.

    The Fall seem to have a very settled line-up, with MES being alongside Peter Greenway (guitars), David Spurr (bass), Kieron Melling (drums) and Eleni Poulou (keyboards). Having taken leve of Domino, the band ink a new deal with Cherry Red Records, a London-based independent label dating back to 1978, which, in addition to releasing new music by a wide range of acts which can often best be described as maverick/left-of-centre, (Luke Haines has been part of the label for a long while), has become a specialist for all sorts of re-releases, particularly CD box sets containing previously unreleased or hard-to-find material. It was actually something of a misnomer that The Fall hadn’t previously been part of the roster, and it proved to be a happy and fruitful partnership, with the label being responsible for all the band’s releases between 2011 and 2017.

    First up was this single, on 7 November 2011:-

    mp3: The Fall – Laptog Dog
    mp3: The Fall – Cosmos 7
    mp3: The Fall – Monocard (Lunatic Mix)

    It was something of a low-key release, limited in numbers, and therefore something of a rarity on the second-hand market. The label was much more interested in the release, just seven days later, of the album Ersatz GB, a ten-track LP which came out on vinyl and CD. It was the band’s 28th studio album but, and this probably won’t come as a surprise, was the first ever time three successive studio albums had been recorded with the same-line up. As I say, no surprise, but at the same time quite an astounding fact.

    The album reached the lower end of the UK charts which was deemed a satisfactory outcome by all concerned, given it was released to what can best be described as mixed reviews, while a number of the live shows to support the impending release of the album were dogged by MES sloping off-stage mid-set; leaving Eleni to take the vocals. Here’s one fan’s take on things on what proved to be something of a notorious gig in Edinburgh on 3 November:-

    Who would be Mark E. Smith’s wife? Last night Fall fans were treated to simultaneously one of the worst and best gigs of the year, as the majority of the proceedings were left to Mrs. E Smith to fill in the gaps after Mark exited the stage.

    Things started promisingly: the band in great form and the new songs (we heard perhaps two of them) sounding excellent. Then Smith disappeared off stage (nothing unusual about that); spookily however, his voice remained. Was he perhaps paving the way for his own demise, when the band will have to tour to backing tapes of his lyrics? Soon the voice disappeared too, leaving us to endure the longest ever version of ‘I’ve Been Duped’, sung without apparent irony by Mrs. Smith.

    As far as a group of people in their 40s and 50s could be said to be restless, there was a certain fractious mood abroad in the crowd: a few squidgy plastic pint glasses were thrown towards the stage (emptied of the £4 contents); Mrs. Smith ill-advisedly greeted this with outstretched arms in a ‘come-ahead’ gesture. She explained before walking off that “Mark has terrible voondz (wounds) on iz feet and haz to walk up five flights ov stairs to get to zee stage” when this with greeted some derision from certain elements in the crowd, she replied “What? Are you a doctor?” before leaving to boos. Suddenly we were reminded just how young Mrs. Smith really is: her possibly misguided loyalty deserves the highest praise.

    To their credit the band took to the stage again to launch into an instrumental ‘Reformation’; Mrs. Smith was about to offer the mic to the crowd when suddenly, a fellow wearing a combat jacket, silk scarf and a handlebar moustache, leapt to the stage; at first it seemed to be all part of a huge practical joke, as the uninvited lead singer with admirable chutzpah, extemporized lyrics about going to see The Fall and Mark not being there. This was brought to a premature end as he was approached by a large shaven headed bouncer. Before we could chorus “he’s behind you” our unknown Bob Calvert impersonator was led away, looking crestfallen. On the back of the bouncer’s neon-yellow t-shirt was the ominous message: ‘Stage Security, here to assist you’. More boos followed, but immediately gave way to cheers as none other than Mark E. Smith was led on stage supported on either side like King Lear by two stage hands. He sang the rest of ‘Reformation’ (sort of) before delivering a superb version of ‘Mr. Pharmacist’, complete with keyboard solo. Then it was all over.

    Did I ask for a refund on my ticket? Did I throw a pint glass? No. My only thought was ‘I hope his feet get better.’ Misguided loyalty is clearly infectious.

    It’s really no wonder that by now I had given up on things….I never did buy anything that came out on Cherry Red, and digging out the tunes for today’s posting will be the first time I’ve heard them. They’re not the worst – the single is a sort of plodding, middling thing but very clearly the sound of The Fall, while the b-sides offer a mix of fat electronica rockabilly (yes, really!!) and an eight-minute Krautrock effort, if that happens to be your thing.

    JC

  • SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #308: SONG, BY TOAD

    Meursault, the Edinburgh-based band, were invited to take part in the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas in 2014. This was on the back of three critically acclaimed albums on the Song, By Toad label, which had been the brainchild of Matthew Young, a long-time friend of this blog and whose own former blog, also called Song, By Toad, brought great delight to readers the world over.

    The band and label came up with an ingenious way to crowdfund the trip, onto which was attached a short tour of east coast cities in the USA, all of which would mark the American live debut of Meursault.

    A Kickstarter campaign was devised, but with the twist that anyone making a pledge could suggest up to five songs that they would like to hear on a specially produced CD album, which would be made available to subscribers with a few additional copies going on general sale.  In the end, more than 300 backers raised over £5,000, in just sixteen days, to make the project a reality, with the recording sessions taking place in the studio located in Matthew’s home where bands had recorded sessions for his blog.

    The Organ Grinder’s Monkey was released in February 2014.  The info on the back of the cardboard sleeve indicated there were 14 songs to listen to, consisting of ten covers along with four new versions of Meursault songs.

    But this was a wee bit of a fib, as the CD also contained two hidden tracks neither of which were listed.  It might well have been that they didn’t get clearance, and/or they were tagged on as something of an in-joke.  The second certainly seems that way.  It’s worth recalling what had been said in the Kickstarter campaign:-

    Pledge £150 or more – Your choice of cover song definitely on the album, and a live video made of the recording process.

    Sadly, to avoid pranks, this will be finalised on the basis of dialogue – you don’t get to just demand a performance of something by Newton fucking Faulkner – but we will do our very best to accommodate you, and sometimes the silliest ideas are the best, so go for it.

    Only one space was allowed for this particular pledge, and I’m guessing it resulted in the second and final hidden track:-

    mp3: Thou Shalt Always Kill

    Neil Pennycook of Meursault does not provide the vocal on this one. It’s all down to Matthew Young, making his debut in the recording studio – and to the best of my knowledge he hasn’t been allowed near a microphone since, and that’s why I’m attributing it to Song, By Toad and not Meursault.

    It’s a rollicking and fun version – some of the lyrics have been changed to be more appropriate to Matthew’s tastes and outlook on life. And yes, he does have quite a magnificently posh way of swearing!

    Matthew has more or less given up the music industry, but he and his family are currently involved in a hugely ambitious project to restore an old mansion and botanical garden in a rural location on the west coast of Scotland. I was lucky enough to pay him a visit last year, and it is going to be truly something to behold, with the aim, within the next couple of years to have the gardens open again to the public.  The best way to keep up with progress, and to enjoy Matthew’s idiosyncratic way of describing the joys of such a unique restoration project, is to follow Linn Botanical Gardens on Instagram.   There’s nearly 1100 of us currently doing so…..

    JC

  • MORE GREAT POP FROM GLASGOW

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    I really have taken far too long to draw this one to your attention.

    Life Model have been making music for quite a while, having been named as ‘one to watch’ in 2018 by BBC Radio Scotland.  But it took till 2021 for the debut album to come out, on Last Night From Glasgow, whose website provides as good a summary as you could ask for:-

    Life Model are a 5-piece dream pop band from Glasgow, made up of Sophie Evans (vocals and guitar), Chris Smith (guitar), Helen Farrow-Thoms (keys and backing vocals), Cameron McDougall (bass) and Michael McDonald (drums). The band mixes classic indie and pop of the likes of The Sundays and Belle and Sebastian with the noisier leanings of bands like Sonic Youth.

    The debut album, Lost On Weekdays, Lonely By Sunday, contains ten recordings, but only five songs as one side consists of band versions while the other side consists of acoustic performances.

    mp3: Life Model – Sit Still

    The opening track, and the one whose lyric provides the title for the debut album.  It’s an excellent and consistently strong offering, and given that the songs offer a wonderful summery vibe, it’s one that I’ve been playing a lot as the days get longer.

    Highly recommended.  And it would be nice if you bought it direct from the label, as that way, more money goes direct to the musicians. Click here.

    JC

  • FAC 4 : EVENTS POSTER

    Continuing a rummage through the contents of the Use Hearing Protection box set.

    This is another design by Peter Saville, which takes elements of his FAC1 and FAC 3 posters, to publicise all eight events that were scheduled for the Russell Club in December 1978.  As far as I’m aware, the poster was never readily available to the public, with a single run readied, printed, and used in its entirety, for fly-posting across the Greater Manchester area.

    It’s interesting all these years later to realise that some of the bands booked to appear would enjoy more than a fair degree of commercial and critical success, while others disappeared seemingly without a trace.  I’ve dug out my deerstalker and magnifying glass to try and bring you some info:-

    Distractions

    Distractions were a power-pop/punk band from Manchester whose debut EP, You’re Not Going Out Dressed Like That, was released on local label TJM Records, around the time they were billed to headline The Factory on 8 December 1978.  Here’s the lead track from said EP:-

    mp3: Distractions – It Doesn’t Bother Me

    Tony Wilson decided that Distractions would be a good addition to the Factory roster, and the follow-up single was released, in September 1979, as FAC12:-

    mp3: Distractions – Time Goes By So Slow

    Prior to the release of FAC12, the band signed to major label Island Records, with the first release being a re-recorded version of It Doesn’t Bother Me. A couple more singles and an album would follow, but to almost complete indifference from the general public, and the band called it a day in 1981.

    The postscript is that Distractions would reform many years later, and there has been a steady diet of singles and albums since 2010.

    The Doomed

    With apologies if you already know the background to this one, but it wasn’t something I’d previously been aware of.

    The Damned broke up in February 1978 only for most of them to get back together again later in the year – the only member not interested was Brian James.   Worried about any legal percussions of using the band name, Dave Vanian, Captain Sensible and Rat Scabies decided to play as The Doomed, supplementing themselves as required, including drafting in Lemmy from Motorhead for a London show in September 1978.  This Manchester appearance would have been one of the last shows as The Doomed as The Damned was back in use from January 1979 onwards.

    Messagana

    It would appear that Messagana were a Manchester-based reggae band, but I’ve not been able to track down any recordings, and there’s nothing kicking around on Discogs.  They certainly seemed to be popular with the folk at Factory as the name would appear as a support act on some occasions, including October 1980 when they opened a show whose headliners were New Order and The Durutti Column.

    Alpha Omega

    I’ve drawn a blank in this instance.  It’s a name that’s been used by a number of bands, across all sorts of genres, over the years.  Discogs lists a few of them on its site, including an Australian jazz combo whose sole album was released in 1976, while there is currently a hard rock band, from Norwich, England, performing under that moniker.

    Christmas Party

    Sadly, not the name of a band who were booked for The Factory Club, but an event at which I think, among others, Generation X made an appearance.

    Now here’s the thing.  I’ve found an alternative poster to promote the events for The Factory at The Russell Club throughout December 1978.  I’m not sure if it pre-dated the Saville design or whether it was hastily put together once the Saville poster, in the time-held tradition of fly posting, had been obscured by others vying for attention.

    There are a number of reasons I think this might have been a later production.

    First, and most obvious, is the fact that shows by 999 the week after the Christmas Party are mentioned.

    Secondly, it can be seen that Scritti Politti are given a listing for the show on 8 December.  I’m assuming that Distractions, being a local band, had already served the purpose of selling tickets to those who watched them wherever and whenever, so the highlighting of a group from elsewhere, who were already being name checked in the music papers, seems to be a bit of additional marketing.

    Thirdly, there’s no mention of the shows on 15th and 16th December, and given the headliners were Human League and Magazine, there’s every possibility the tickets had already sold out, so there’s no point in drawing attention to them.

    Finally, given that Peter Saville wasn’t known for the speedy nature of his productions, it is likely that Wilson & co just arranged for something cheap, cheerful and typical of the design of its day to make a further push for ticket sales and never came to regard it as an official release for inclusion in the Factory catalogue.

    I’m pleased to say that FAC5, when I get round to it, will be a much more straightforward piece.

    JC

  • IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (64)

    It wasn’t regarded as being all that cracking back in May 1985.  Indeed, it was regarded as something of a joke, as indeed were the band.  It’s since become a staple at every indie/twee disco across the planet, and the tune something of a template for many badge-wearing boys and girls who wanted to sing quietly into a microphone.  I’ve a feeling the modern-day Primal Scream wouldn’t be able to keep a straight face if they tried to play this live these days.

    mp3: Primal Scream – All Fall Down

    The indie kids of the era have long said that they preferred its b-side.  It certainly does fill floors whenever it gets aired.

    mp3: Primal Scream – It Happens

    All told, the two songs have a combined running length of not too much more than four minutes.  It could be argued, with merit, that other bands were better at this sort of thing than Primal Scream, and it was best for all concerned when Andrew Weatherall got his hands on their material and changed things forever.  But there’s something very innocent and charming about this 45, and indeed its follow-up Crystal Crescent (b/w) Velocity Girl, which make the songs an enjoyable and enduring listen all these years later.

    JC

  • FROM PARIS, VIA GLASGOW

    Daft Punk – a French electronic music duo formed in 1993 in Paris by Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter.

    Soma Records – an independent label based in Glasgow which was co-founded in 1991 by the electronic music duo Slam

    It was on said Glasgow label that Daft Punk released all their earliest singles. The legend (and maybe even the truth) is that Guy, Thomas and Stuart McMillan of Slam met while enjoying themselves at a rave at Euro Disney in September 1993. The third single, in May 1995, was Da Funk, a slow-burning hit in clubs before receiving a big exposure when Chemical Brothers began incorporating it in their DJ sets at festivals.

    The interest in the tune, and indeed in Daft Punk themselves, led to something of a bidding war which was eventually won by Virgin Records. Da Funk was re-released, aided and abetted by a hugely innovative promo directed by Spike Jonze, and went straight into the Top 10 in the first week after its re-release in February 1997.

    This version is taken from the duo’s debut album, Homework:-

    mp3: Daft Punk – Da Funk

    Still sounds ridiculously fresh to me.

    Oh, and here’s the video. Keep an eye out for the bit at 2 mins 31 seconds as it hold the key as to why it couldn’t have a happy ending…….

    JC