Thursday, March 30, 2006
Hardly the friendliest looking bunch you've ever seen are they? Collectively they were known as the Wolfhounds, a highly suitable name as it turned out for this band that served as a tool for Dave Callahan's songwriting skills. This east London group first came to our attention as one of the participants on the NME produced C86 cassette, a set celebrating white guitar based indie music and featuring acts such as Primal Scream, Wedding Present, the Soup Dragons and McCarthy. They seemed even at the time out of step with the other artists as their sound was much more abrasive and aggressive than that of their twee jangly cousins. Despite the success of C86 the Wolfhounds continued to pursue their own agenda, that of a noise pop group exploring a darker and more experimental approach. It took them two years to reach the summit and 1988 was to be their year, as they released 'Bright and Guilty' their finest hour that included the incredibly caustic and funky 'Son Of Nothing'. A song savaged by the wha wha pedal with a highly catchy child like chorus. This song along with another that I remember well from this period 'Rent Act' are to be found on the Cherry Red produced compilation 'Lost But Happy' where you can sample other fines examples from Callahan's sarcastic pen with a typically challenging musical tapestry. No wonder that they have been described as England's answer to Sonic Youth, and that Richie Edwards, Manic street Preachers, has cited them as a major inlfuence and motivational force. Since their conception there had been internal tensions leading to various personnel changes that came to a head in 1990 while recording their last album 'Attitude', already intended as a contract filler, and so the Wolfhounds were to fall to pieces in the studio.
Apart from Callahan who went on to greater things but more about that another day, the Wolfhounds counted amongst their ranks at one time or another the late Mary Hansen who later played an important role in Stereolab and Matt Deighton who for a two year spell was Paul Weller's choice of Rhythm guitarist.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
I have always adhered to the idea that we are a sum of our experiences, so in my case this includes my adolescence in London, the two years I spent In Italy in my early 20's and my living in France for the last 18 odd years. It is therefore only natural that I pay homage to some French music from time to time. Back in Montpellier in the 90's when I was still active in the biz there were two types of group that you could call upon when you were looking for a support act. The first weren't particularly good but needed the gig so bad that they'd play for free. The second were the real good bands that actually had a fan base albeit small, and were always a pleasure to have on stage. Otis Wood belonged to the second type and as such opened for such heavy weights as Inspiral Carpets, Radiohead and Pulp. I always thought that the name sounded very rhythm and blues but no not at all the Otis were one of France's secret weapons in the indie pop wars, so often considered to be an Anglo Saxon stronghold.
Like many youngsters Florian Brinker chose to move town and broaden his horizons when the time came to further his studies, and so it was at the end of the 80's that he arrived in Montpellier from Toulouse. Rapidly his interest in music overtook that of his studies and it was a meeting with Ludovic Severac that led to the formation of the group. At the beginning they were very much rough diamonds but were to mature as musicians together while at the same time Florian served his apprenticeship as a songwriter greatly influenced by the UK indie scene and Peter Astor in particular. By 1993 they had found their stable and classic line up with the addition of local drummer Philippe Gaubert and had changed into a power pop trio par excellence. Here in France it is very difficult to get signed if you have not already ridiculed yourself by appearing on a 'reality' talent show and singing in English did nothing to increase your chances so the band seemed to be forever chasing a pipe dream. It wasn't until 1998 that they were signed by French indie Spirit who probably promised them the moon but delivered a lot less. Their Album 'Weirder' was recorded in their spiritual home town, Manchester at the Cutting Rooms this was finished by mid 1998, but due to label problems was not to arrive in the shops until 2000! A very powerful album with solid production and intelligent songs making good use of the grunge style quiet loud structure. Weirder remains today a rewarding listen with Ludo's great rolling bass lines, Philippe's solid, simple yet inventive beat and not forgetting Florian's plaintive vocals and his sonic guitar playing as to be heard on 'Surfin' On U' and the albums title track. While waiting for the album to be released the band continued gigging. Florian's reputation as a guitarist was such that he was invited to join the ranks of Rhinoceroce, it was maybe due to this conflict of interests and the lack of any real progress for Otis Wood that led to them falling apart in 2001. Ironically when Weirder was finally released it received favorable reviews from the specialist press but it was too late! The album is no longer on catalog but you can often pick up a copy on the French site Price Minister.
And today ? Florian is still guitarist with Rhinocerose while waiting for his solo career to take off. Ludo is the official photographer for the Mayor of Montpellier. Philippe I believe is still hitting his drums for different groups. I still bump into them from time to time generally at a gig at the Rockstore, where we first met all those years ago.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Bush War Blues
I got an e-mail yesterday from the Billy Bragg web site informing me that the Barking boy has posted a mp3 recorded on his sold out north American tour at Ann Arbor, Michigan. It is a topical adaptation of the often copied Leadbelly original 'bourgeois Blues' that Billy has rewritten as 'Bush War Blues' using it as tool to criticize GW and TB for Iraq situation. According to Billy it features his 'new croaky Johnny Cash persona', I don't quite see this myself, Still it's well worth the download and a listen.
Not much else to say today, so how about a little bonus mp3 the very first recorded effort by Bill Bragg when he was part of the punk combo Riff Raff, the A side of their one and only single 'Cosmonaut' which was released just before Billy signed up for the UK army. At under 90 seconds it is an average slice of left leaning punk pop from 1978, released on Ted Carrol's Chiswick Records. If you do feel like investigating Riff Raff any further there is a compilation for sale on Billy's site. The above photo is of a Riff Raff gig and the guitar hero behind Billy is indeed Wiggy, who I believe is still working with Billy to this day. As for the venue it is noneother than London's Red Cow pub, a fixture of the pub Rock circuit that could be found a short walk from the grander Hamersmith Odeon. You could probably squeeze in no more than 100 people, so you can imagine many a sweaty night was had there, still the beer was good, Fullers if my memory serves me well.
World Domination Enterprises
World Domination Enterprises are a band that I must confess to not knowing much about and a web search hasn't come up with much either so does anyone know of them? Back at the end of the eighties I was living in Toulouse, it was there that one day while browsing through the racks of my local indie store I came across an album that grabbed my attention, it was 'Lets Play Domination'. So much was I impressed by their name and the sleeve that I bought it there and then. No regrets. One hell of an album, an amazing mash up of sounds, maybe due in part to their Ladbroke Grove roots. Apart from their cover versions of LL Cool J's 'I Can't Live Without My Radio' and Lipp, Inc's 'Funky Town' it was a song penned by guitarist/singer Keith Dobson 'Asbestos Lead Asbestos ' that grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and made me pay attention. A number that turns out to be highly political in lyrical content, Thatcher had just been re-elected and discontent amongst the squatting community was at an all time high. A dub bass intro to lull you into a false sense of security before your ears are assaulted by great big slabs of distorted rusty string guitar riffing, pure musical mayhem, chaos at its most inventive, pain has never been so pleasurable.
As everyone knows the early 90's heralded in the CD revolution and I must admit that the practicality of the medium seduced me as much as the next boy. By the end of the century my record deck had long given up on me and for different reasons had not been replaced so I found myself with loads of vinyl and nothing to listen to it with. As time has gone by I have either sold off or given away the lions share of my collection.This I do regret, and so it is much to my chagrin I no longer own 'Let's Play Domination' and would dearly like to replace it on CD, as I believe it was released on this medium though I myself have never seen a copy. According to AMG they went on to release a second album 'Love From Lead City' in 1989 and maybe a compilation entitled 'Asbestos Lead Asbestos' on Caroline in 1993, if anyone can shed some light on these releases I would be grateful.
Visibly today's mp3 is the only available song by World Domination Enterprises and can be found on the excellent Rough Trade compilation 'Post Punk vol 1' where it is in the company of many other nuggets from this productive period. Maybe Rough Trade could do us the service of getting together a World Domination Enterprises compilation or at least a 'Post Punk vol 2'?
Monday, March 27, 2006
Peel Sessions 1
I'm feeling quite good today Sound of the Suburbs is one month old and my girlfriend hasn't left me yet! I've been thinking about putting a little bit of structure into the blog and have come up with the idea of making the weeks first post (generally Monday's but who knows) a track taken from a Peel session. I would being lying to you if I said that I had listened to the man religiously, I was more often than not out a gig somewhere or the other, but if I was at home or near a radio I would tune in and listen. As with many people of my generation I owe the man a great debt for what he helped me to discover and what he turned me on to and so helping to make me the man I am today. Having said that I would certainly not suggest that his broadcasts were perfect, far from it, in technical terms he was often sloppy, true this added to his charm as did his sometimes doubtable music taste, who ever really enjoyed the likes of Napalm Death?
So first up the Buzzcocks, with 'What Do I Get' taken from the first of four sessions they recorded, put down on tape 07/09/77, just months after the departure of Howard Devoto. The Buzzcocks remain a legend for their short sharp ambiguous pop punk nuggets, a number of which graced the UK charts. Their recorded output from this period 3 studio albums, a compilation to kill for, 'Singles Going Steady', some live cuts and odds and ends have been put together as the 3 CD 'Product' and at less than Â£20 no home should be without a copy. The band originally spilt in 1981 citing disagreements with their label as the reason. They reformed in 1989 to tour the states and have been an on going concern ever since even going as far as releasing studio albums! Their 8th such outing 'Flat Pack Philosophy' has recently been released by Cooking Vinyl, and with 14 songs clocking in at just 36 minutes it is probably the shortest album of their career.
little pointer for you here the Buzzcocks have second web site called Secret Public, if you are ok with signing up with them there is an albums worth of live mp3s to be downloaded, sadly only 128kbps.
A foot note for today linking Peelie with the Buzzcocks, a charity single was released last year in aid of Amnesty International. It was a re recording of 'Ever Fallen In Love With Someone', apparently one of John's favorite songs, by such punk legends as Robert Plant and Roger Daltry, I somehow doubt the great man would have graced his programs with this version!
Saturday, March 25, 2006
New Fast Automatic Daffodils
Those of you that have read the side bar will know that I spent six years promoting gigs. This came about very much by chance, at the time I was a dj for a radio station that was part of a concert hall/disco. One day while hanging around in the office a fax came through from a national promoter trying to sell a date for the New Fast Automatic Daffodils, having read the fax and knowing the band very well, I was smitten by the idea, I could already see my self promoting U2 in the years to come! What did in fact happen over the next six years was that I lost more money than I owned but had some wonderful times, met some great people and stocked loads of good memories in my brain. We chose a name to operate under, Luna Tic, anyway we thought it was good, and off we went on a long voyage of learning all about the ups and down of entertainment business.
So what made us trust the New Fads? it was 1992 and they were touring to support their second album. Having formed in Manchester at the tail end of the eighties after meeting at that city's Polytechnic poetry society, their name is taken from a poem by Liverpool's Adrian Henri. They were much more serious and less hedonist than their peers at the time and this attitude was rapidly rewarded by a contract with the Belgian label Play It Again Sam, us europeans have always loved 'Cassablanca'. Their debut single 'Big' set their manifesto with this infectious slice of dub influenced goove toped by singer Andy Spearpoint's melodica and odd lyrics. 'Pigionhole' was to to be their first album, in 1990, Strongly praised by the press for its strong spoken word vocals over fast and furious rhythms, subject mater was influenced by their interest in history and philosophy, and you could dance to it, just listen to 'Get Better'. The band set off touring the album while at the same time preparing the songs for 1992's 'Body Exit Mind' an altogether moodier and more caustic affair but a very strong album all the same kicking off with 'Bong' which was also a single that for some unfathomable reason failed to ignite the charts. Their final LP 'Love It All' was to see day in 1994, the bands interest in new music technology was aided by the albums producer Jeremy Allom (Massive Attack), a satisfactory album that lacked the little bit extra that made its two predecessors so interesting. One of my favorites from this album is 'Left Right', give it a spin. Their by then accustomary good reviews failed to have any effect on record sales and I'm sad to say that the New Fads, they abbreviated their name for their last album, have disappeared from the musical radar.
What I can tell you is that they stood out from the pack with their distinctive attitude and edgy sound and that they deserved more, if you don't already know them do your self a favour and check them out. There are actually no tangible New Fads records on catalogue but PIAS have firmly embraced the digital age and 'Body Exit Mind' is available in downloadable form from a number of sites I can Recommend emusic, who have a very large and diverse independent label based catalog. If you can't live without the original cd or vinyl I'm afraid it must be a search through the usual sites or shops, good luck.
As for the gig, well despite their being only around 150 people we enjoyed ourselves so much that we were to promote them two years later. I can remember talking to the band after the second gig and asking them how they managed to get by financially, to which they laughed and said all this was paid for by a publishing advance that they had no idea how they would pay back!
Friday, March 24, 2006
Straight From The desk
I'm going to very self indulgent today and start off with a short story about myself. In 1978 I was still living with my parents in Bakingside, Essex just a stones throw from Gants Hill. At this time I was attending Redbridge Technical College and I must admit spending much more time on drink and music than my so called studies. There was a small group of us that went to more gigs than we did our courses. Never being anything to see in our neck of the woods we were forever traveling to Finsbury Park, Hamersmith or wherever the latest cool venue was. It was much to our surprise when we heard that local boy made good Ian Dury was going to grace us with a concert at our local cinema the gnats Hill Odeon sitting there on the infamous Eastern Avenue. I don't know if we were the first to buy our tickets but we didn't hang around! When the big night came round, we were real exited, already knowing every song on 'New Boots & Panties' by heart. I was just 18 by a few days, so this gig from heaven was to be a birthday and christmas present for me, as for the Blockheads it was the last date of a long tour, so fiesta for everyone. We met up at the ajoining pub and were well merry by the time our tickets were checked at the entrance to the hall. The truth is I can remember very little out the gig, it was almost 30 years ago, except that we had a great and sweaty time and that the venues floor was left with a great big hole! Though what I do remember well is what followed after the gig: a friend and I went back to the pub until closing time when we decided to check out if there was any action backstage. Much to our drunken surprise not long after arriving, the doors opened and a pair of roadies invited the ten or so of us that were there inside. We finished our evening off on the stage of the Gants Hill Odeon partying with Ian Dury & the Blockheads! Imagine the disbelieving faces of our friends the next day as through our hangovers we recounted the night before.
You will now be able to understand how amazed I was the other week when I found an album of this very gig while surfing the web. Three or four clicks later and it was ordered. The recording that gave us 'Straight From The Desk' were never intended for commercial release, but nevertheless serves as a very respectable record of this historic moment. It is very much a fans record, the quality being that of a superior bootleg, so if you own everything by Ian, were there or just appreciate these tracks 'Billericay Dickie' and 'Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick' you can buy it here. I would like to point out that the gig though being advertised as at the Ilford Odeon, as is the CD is also billed, it was in fact Gants Hill.
IAN DURY 1942-2000, cheers mate!
Footnote: I failed my exams!
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
In A Field Of Their Own part 2
And now for a little bit of history the first Glastonbury festival was held in September 1970 the day after Jimi Hendrix checked out. It was a two day event organised by Michael Eavis, the same person that runs the festival to this day. 1,500 people paid the sum of £1.00 to see acts including Marc Bolan and Al Stewart, the ticket price included as much milk as you could drink, Eavis's day job was as it still is that of a dairy farmer. Having been bitten by the bug but unable to wait a full 12 months the following years event was held at the end of June featuring Hawkwind and David Bowie amongst others. Exactly why I don't know but the next festival wasn't to be untill 1978 and was an impromptu event organised by travelers. Michael Eavis was back in control for 1979 and this was to be the last event going under the banner of Glastonbury Fayre as 1981's CND fund raiser was to be the first Glastonbury Festival. The festival has been held each year ever since excepting the years 1988 and 1981 due to their failure to obtain a license, and the 2006 event which has not been programmed for more personal reasons. From its humble origins the festival has grown to be a 153,000 person sell out event raising £1,350,000 for the benefit of local, national and international charities. It would be stupid and very train spotting of me to list all of those that have played, needless to say for any music fan there are literally thousands of artists you wouldn't mind seeing. So back to 1992 Eavis thought that with the end of the cold war CND were no longer such an urgent cause and so the donation went to Greenpeace and Oxfam. 70,000 lucky people paid £49 to see the likes of Primal Scream, PJ Harvey, the Levellers , Tom Jones ............ and there was no free milk!
My chosen extracts for today come from the major league, first up Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, who were at their zenith during this period and I certainly hope that an introduction will not necessary. Jim Bob, Fruit Bat, two old guitars, some samples and an ancient drum machine in front of an adoring and highly appreciative crowd giving us a version to kill for of 'Sheriff Fatman', muthafucka indeed. Takes me back to the good old days when I was a dj on a Montpellier radio station, I played my copy to death, just. Just as they had promised themselves way back at the begining that they would call it day when playing together stopped being fun well this came to be in 1997 and so Carter USM are no more. As to their current activities Jim Bob you can catch up with on his site and Fruit Bat put together Abdou or as they are now called iDou. Enough of Carter for now as I think there's an above average chance we shall revisit these two south London wideboys another day.
Last up on our Glastonbury round up Blur, wow what a big band you may be thinking but with hardly a glimse of boys and girls on the horizon back in '92 it was sill the small time for Damon and co. We are talking about pre 'Modern Life Is Rubbish' days and the track 'Sunday Sunday' was a little taster from their 1993 breakthrough album. Just to show how things change Carter were playing way up on the main stage while Blur's performance was on the much more intimate NME stage.
So any one who fancies purchasing 'In A Field Of Their Own' should either rummage through the bacs of their local second hand record store or else try out............... where the going rate would appear to be about $15. And if you're in a generous mood you can always check out the charity sites I've linked. Giving to a worthy cause does make you feel as good as listening to good music.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
In A Field Of Their Own part 1
Glastonbury is the traditional high point of the UK festival season, perversely enough the festival is situated on the final week end of June and as so is one of the first events each year. I must confess that being someone who would not enjoy spending a week end knee deep in mud to having never attended myself, my own festival experiences began and ended with Reading 1978. Indeed I had many friend that went every year and I seem to remember them coming back ill as a dog afterwards but they always swore they hed a great time . I must admit the thought of going has often seemed tempting, classic event, good line up, money going to a worthy cause. So maybe the nearest I have ever got to Glastonbury is being the owner of the NME produced 'In A Field Of Their Own', a 2cd record of the 1992 festival. 1992 must have been a particularly good year as the cd makes for an excellent listening experience when compared to that of your average compilation. So the first of two tracks for today comes from the Breeders with 'Iris'. The Breeders were at the time the side project for Kim Deal (Pixies) and Tanya Donelly (Throwing Muses), formed in 1990 their first album 'Pod', successfully mixed the sound of their other bands and meet with much critical acclaim. I'm not quite sure if Donelly was still with the band when they played Glastonbury as it was around this time she left to form Belly, and of course the following year was to see the re birth of the Breeders as fully blown pop stars thanks to 'Cannonball'. I know a lot of people who saw the Breeders post 'Cannonball' all of whom have said they were terrible live, well on the proof of this recording that was not always the case.
Second up is the wonderfully named Dr Phibes & the House of Wax Equations with 'Hazy Lazy Hologram'. Dr Phibes were from Liverpool in the early 90's, a psychedelic rock band led by Howard King jnr. Their drug influenced feed back laden effect heavy songs performed freeform style were very much tailor made for festival goers. The band split in 1995 and there is little chance they will get back together again as King was sentenced to a custodial term for the murder of his mother in 1997. They released two albums 1991's 'Whirlpool' and 1993's 'Hynotwister' both of which are highly recommended though you have to search them on gemm or some where similar.
France is burning again as students have taken to the streets to demonstrate against government reforms concerning youth employment. This got me thinking about a very dark period in England's recent history where one woman took on the might of the trade union movements. Her name was of course Thatcher and the union in question was that of the miners, what followed was a long violent and bitter confrontation between the striking miners and the forces of law and order. During this period there were many a benefit gig to support the strikers and their families financially, one band that was very much aligned with this was the Redskins. Formed in Leeds at the start of the eighties, their image and music were out of favour at the time though the band managed to stir up some interest releasing their debut single 'Peasant Army' on the Leeds independent label CNT. In all honesty media interest was probably greatly helped by the fact that the bands leader Chris Dean was the working as a journalist for the NME under the pen name X Moore. Back then in the early eighties such in your face politics was largely thought to be a hang over from the seventies, and then the miners went on strike and political debate became cool again as did wearing displaying ones colours. It was in 1984 that the band signed on with London records, for whom they delivered their only studio album the 1996 'Neither Washington Nor Moscow'. The album serves very as a greatest hits collection containing no less than six singles including their only top 40 hit 'Bring It Down! (This Insane Thing)'. Television appearances were to follow, Top of The Pops, the Tube where they invited striking miners up on stage to deliver a speech during a song, not bad going for live TV. The Redskins called it quits in September 1986, I think that their decision probably had a lot to do with the problems they had coming to terms with working inside such a rigidly capitalist structure as a major label. Thankfully they have left us behind an excellent album where they were augmented by a small brass section to give the songs that little extra punch one of by favorites is 'Bring It Down' and their superb cover of '99 And A Half Won't Do' originally the b side of a single but can be now found on the re-edited version of their album available from 101cd for the ridiculous price of £3.99. Dojo released 'Redskins Live' in 1984 which very much duplicated the album set list, to find this one you much search your second hand dealers.
If I were to describe the Redskins in one sentence it would be of them being a Stax influenced skinhead boys band with a political conscience to make even Marx jealous.
The last sighting of Chris 'Tamla Motormouth' Dean was in Paris where he was then living so maybe he was down there on the frontline with the students!
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Thank You Mr & Mrs Henderson
today's title refers to the parents of one Davey Henderson, so why all this gratitude, simple really he is one of the great unsung heroes of modern music. Rising from the ashes of the original punk scene Henderson formed the Fire Engines in 1980. Based in Edinburgh they were linked to the post punk movement and the Post Card family of artists, though the Fire Engines had different inluences such as the Voidoids and James Chance. Their self produced debut 45t 'Get Up And Use Me' was a reflection of their early gigs, a short sharp shock of sreamed vocals over over jagged guitars and a frantic drum beat. They were quickly snapped up by the new Fast label (also home to early recordings by Gang of Four and the Mekons), the fruit of this association was their first and only long player 'Lubricate Your Living Room' which came packaged in a custom made plastic carrier bag as opposed to the more traditional cardboard sleeve. Their new single the more pop inflected 'Candyskin' was to be their biggest (indie) hit, but this success was not to be consolidated and by the end of 1981 one of Scotland's most inventive and original bands was to be no more after two brief years of existence. Fire Engine's product is rather hard to come by, Domino have compiled a live and early version disc called 'Codex Teenage Premonition' though sadly the excellent and much sought after round up of their studio works 'Fond' has long been unavailable.
Henderson Came bouncing back in 1983 forming Win with ex Fire Engines drummer Russell Burn. Much more pop orientated and so more accessible for the masses, they never the less failed in commercial terms. They were to release two albums on two different labels, the first of which 'Uh! Tears Baby' did not see the light of day until 1987 and contained a local hit single 'You've Got The Power' which was helped along by being used in a Scottish beer advert. Two years later their final album was unveiled 'Freaky Trigger', despite rave reviews and sublime slices of modern pop such as 'Love Units' they failed to motivate the public and dully called it a day before the decade was out. If You fancy buying anything by Win your best chances are with eBay and Gemm.
After Having been so well received by the public you would expect Davey Henderson to take up a day job as an accountant or something, but no 1991 saw the birth of his new project Nectarine No 9.
His new combo kept the pop sensibilities of Win and conjugated them with the more avant garde leanings of the Fire Engines, thus Henderson came up with another winning formula as for as the critics were concerned. Nectarine No 9 have been described in many ways but maybe my favorite is of them being in a "Beeffheart/Zappa vein, though more modern, swathed in a layer of effects and samples'. The band are currently resident on Beggars Banquet who released 2004's 'I Love Total Destruction' to the usual lack of interest from the record buyers. One of my personal fave songs is 'Constellatons of a Vanity' from 'received Trangressed and Transmitted'.
It would appear that Nectarine No 9 are actually inactive, but who can tell with Davey Henderson what he'll do next. March 4, 2006 saw him play a session for BBC6 with the Fire Engines in Manchester where they also played a gig the same night. There was also the split Fire Engines/Franz Ferdinand single sort of teacher/pupil thing where they each covered one of each others songs. I for one would be very happy see Fond re-edited then you treat yourselves without forking out a fortune!
Friday, March 17, 2006
Any way by the time it was finished so was I for the day.
To continue with our last theme of NME produced discs, today's effort was a cover mounted freebie from 1998 entitled 'Clean Sweep' consisting of 15 tracks recorded live at London's Astoria in January of that year. If I'm to be honest it is not the most interesting of their compilations, though there are two tracks that always manage to make my ears buzz. The first is from Scotland's finest sonic math rock band Mogwai. a fine live rendering of 'Ex Cowboy', a taste of their as then unreleased second album 'Come On Die Young'. For an instrumental group Mogwai are proving to have excellent staying power, having just released album no.5 'Mr Beast' from which 'Folk Death 95' is taken.
The real treasure for me in this collection is a collaboration between Spiritualised and Suicide on the latter's 'Rocket USA'. Depending on your musical taste this is either a marriage made in heaven or hell, but for my ears, even clocking in at the 10 minute mark, a masterpiece. Jason Pierce's drone rock combo hitched up with NYC's finest noise terrorist duo from the good old 1970's. Need I say More.
Interesting link between todays two bands, London's Royal Albert Hall, Spiritualised played there in 1997 fresh on the heels of their classic album 'Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Outerspace' and Mogwai are going to play there September 22 of this year as the last date of their current world tour.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Wow I seem to be on a bit of a roll here, 5th post in as many days, I think my keyboard is starting to tire! Not only do I spend my time writing and researching my posts but I pass many an hour checking out other peoples blogs. The other day I read a post on The Face of Today about an album called 'Stg Pepper Knew My Father' a straight cover version rerecording by hip artists at the time of the Beatles original put together by those nice people at NME. This got me thinking as the NME has a fair track record for putting compilations of various sorts together, it was indeed the title of one of these that gave the name to the C86 movement.
I've since had a little search in my rather disorganized record collection, I still stay record even if 90% is now on CD or heaven forbid digital format, and came across several of these audio gems. Today we're going to be looking at Viva Eight which was a series of gigs organized by the NME at Londons Town & Country Club. As in with many of these type of records it serves very much as a snap shot of a particular time ie what was cool, so this concerns the year 1992. Certain acts such as Balloon and Revolver can only keep the majority of us guessing, but there are certainly hidden treasures to be found, am I the only person who can remember the Tyrell Corporation's classic piece of Hi NRG house but with rock sensibilities 'the Bottle' (nothing to de with Gill Scott Heron). Sadly the version recorded here does not do the original justice. So you may ask is there anything worth listening to, for your entertainment I have chosen 'Don't Shilly Shally' and 'the Golden Egg' strangely enough both are track 4. The first is a beautiful solo rendering of Edwyn Collins first solo single after splitting Orange Juice. Little reminder; Edwyn was the mastermind behind this wonderful Scottish beat combo releasing 4 classic 45t on Postcard, recently recompiled as 'the Glasgow School' by Domino, followed by 4 albums after signing with Polydor. Edwyn's solo career got off to a rocky start, label going bust and falling record sales until he was taken on by the Irish independent Setanta as a sort of Godfather figure. It was here that he delivered his biggest smash hit 'A Girl Like You'. Lest we forget Edwyn suffered a brain hemorrhage in February 2005, thankfully he is well on the road to a full recovery.
The second track 4 is by Eat a London Indie band signed to the Cure's Fiction record label, for whom they delivered 2 albums 1989's 'Sell Me A God' and 1994's 'Epicure'. Can't really say much more about them excepting that I like the song.
If the record does tickle your fancy there are a few going on eBay for around 7 dollars if not you can always try Gemm a great sourcing network for used and rare recordings.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
The Newtown who? A power punk trio considered by some to be one of the nations lost treasures. Formed in 1979 by Ramones fan Steve Drewett, the bands origins were firmly in Harlow, Essex one of the home counties characterless dormitory towns that sprung up like a bad rash in the 50s and 60s, thus the 'newtown'. They quickly fulfilled their early promise releasing a string of melodic punk singles, good as they were they lacked in a certain lyrical edge. The change to remedy this was to be aided by their strong disapproval of Thatchers election and her policies. It was probably their newfound voice of political discontent that was to cost them the wider success that they merited. They certainly didn't hide their beliefs, releasing the classic double A side single 'Kick Out The Tories' / 'Mindless Violence' in 1982. For me the second of these songs was to be their finest moment, strangely reminiscent of another UK trio the Jam but with more overtly political questioning. The band soldiered on until 1988, playing their final gig at the Fulham Greyhound. The Neurotics as they were then known are well served in terms of availability after a recent rerelease campaign, you can check this out for yourself here .
I have always had mixed feelings about bands getting back together, I can still remember strongly voicing my opinions against the Pixies reformation, it probably lost me some friends. Well the Newtown Neurotics are playing together again, albeit on a part time basis, they are probably not earning a fortune from it either, still I wish them all the best but can't help asking why?
Monday, March 13, 2006
From Leeds to Zurich
The list of great bands from this era is endless and it is certain that we will be revisiting them sooner or later, but for today I'm going to concentrate on two elements, the first of which was, as radical young students, very close to our hearts, that of women, not necessarily in the romantic way but more in that of women's rights, don't forget up until punk, rock'n roll had been very much a male bastion. Some ground work had been done by the likes of Siouxsie and Polystyrene, but women were really to come into their own with what followed. The second is the impact of a local scene in Leeds with its roots at the local university. Everyone knows the Gang of Four some of you will remember the Mekons before they upped and moved to Chicago, well the missing link is Delta 5.
A little bit of history for you Delta 5 were formed late '78, and were strange for the time as they consisted of three women and two men, and had two bass players! The band were the least overtly political of the Leeds trio preferring more personal politics than the more Marxist based slogans we became used to from the Gang of Four, having said that, Delta 5 were firm supporters of the sadly necessary Rock Against Racism movement. Upon signing to Rough Trade their debut single 'Mind Your Own Business' rapidly sold 20,000 copies, no mean feat. Two other singles followed with equal success before they signed on with an offshoot of Charisma Records, sadly as with many DIY style bands from this era playing with majors was to be the kiss of death. A unique album 'See the Whirl' was to be the fruits of this union. Largely considered to be overproduced the platter failed to generate much interest from the record buying public and resulted in the band throwing in the towel in 1981. Having lived through this period I was at one stage the owner of the first Three Delta 5 singles (since lost in a move from Italy back to the UK, as was all my vinyl from this period). It was with much pleasure that I read over 12 months ago of Kill Rockstars plans to edit a compilation of the said singles, this has at last seen the light of day under the title 'Singles and Sessions 1979 1981', the only thing the title doesn't mention is that there are a few live numbers as well. My own personal fave is 'Try' and you can also try out 'Now That You're Gone'. If after sampling these you feel inclined to give your ears and feet a treat why not make your purchase direct from the Kill Rockstars site, they do deserve your money if only for making these long lost treasures available again.
And so another female led band from the same period was Kleenex, who for obvious reasons were forced to change their name and so became Liliput. Even rarer that being a female band at the time was being a Swiss band and known in the English speaking world. Kleenex, formed in Zurich and released their debut four song single in 1978 that consisted of their complete live set! Somehow a copy found its way to John Peel who smitten by the single played 'Ain't You' to death. Rough Trade, yes them again, were quick to see the value in this strange exotic music, and signed the band. Their clever but innocent sounding songs found them an audience that was to long out live the band who called it a day in 1983 after releasing only two albums, that rapidly became sought after as collectors tried to outbid each other. Luckily once again Kill Rockstars came to the rescue of those of us with good taste but limited resources and had the good sense to put together the complete recorded works as 'Kleenex/Liliput' in 2001.
So any one out there got the rights to the Au Pairs? I for one would love to see it re-issued.
And In case you are interested I am still 25 years on trying to move my funky butt in something resembling style, that's probably why I have a soft spot for the likes of Franz Ferdinand etc even if they do have the feeling of deja vu.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Not something I shall do on a regular basis , but when and if I see anything that motivates me, I'll let you know . Having said that it could turn out to be a daily feature, who knows ?
First up on the list is the 6th album by Portland based indie pop duo Quasi 'When the Going Gets Dark' . Quasi are multi instrumentalist Sam Coomes (love the T shirt) and drummer Janet Weiss who holds down a full time job with Sleater-Kinney . For many of us our introduction to Quasi was by seeing Elliot Smith, as not only were they his backing band but played the support spot as well . Despite being divorced the couple are still making music together as illustrated by the Beatles influenced 'the Rhino' . Three years in the making 'When the Going Gets Dark' is released by Touch & Go March 21 and for those of you in the states the band are touring the second half of April .
Next up, long term personal favorites of mine Calexico who recorded 'Garden Ruin' with their new expanded line up, now a 6 piece and hot on the tail of last years successfull collaboration with Iron & Wine 'In the Reins' . Calexico, originally a side project by Giant Sand's John Convertino, formed in 1980 after he met Joey Burns . They forged a firm reputation with their live shows and released critically acclaimed records displaying their multicultural roots ; spaghetti westerns, fado, jazz, Country and surf .
'Garden Ruin' their 7th Lp is due in the stores April 11, to tide you over you can listen to the opening track 'Cruel' . Not to be missed the band are touring both Europe and the US until may 15, and would be surprised if there are not summer festivals lined up .
Last up in this little round up is Irish singer songwriter Luka Bloom, an outsider that I discovered way back with his beautiful album 'Acoustic Motorbike' and above all his cover of LL Cool J's 'I Need Love', a local radio hit in Montpellier . His parents christened him Barry Moore but after spending years in the shadow of his more famous brother Christy he decided to change name and try his luck in America . A skilled guitarist and and expert interpreter of other peoples song he had no trouble in finding gigs for himself, it was at one of those that he was spotted by a talent scout and signed to the major Reprise . Never quite achieving the success that he deserved Luka has continued recording and is currently signed to England's sympathetic Cooking Vinyl who release his 10th album 'Innocence' March 21, you can listen to the title track here . Luka Bloom will be out entertaining his American audiences until mid April and maybe some European date after ?
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Imagine Tarantino meets the the Sweeny , think of Alf Garnet rapping and maybe you'll get the Idea of what Plan B sound likes . Born in Forest Gate, E7 in 1983 Ben Drew grew up surrounded by UK black culture and indoctrinated by his Godfather's obsession with Dylan . Armed with an acoustic guitar and not the more usually turntable and studio trickery, he raps his bleak X rated urban poems over folk style fingerpicking .
There will be the obvious comparisons made with the Streets but this should end with their accents, as Plan B is full blown Guy Richie production next the Ken Loach influenced Streets .
Ben Drew is young and maybe to honest having gone on record as saying he wants to rap about drugs and violence because being a male it does excite him, video game companies have ofcourse made their fotunes from this belief . Time will tell the impact he will have , currently in the studio recording a debut LP , the only available product is 'Sick 2 Def' as a single . Those going to SxSW will be able to check him out live (March 18 Maggie Mae's), I wonder if Americans will need subtitles to get round his east end jiving .
I must be honest here, my interest is two fold as the particular part of London where he was born and bred is where I come from excepting the almost quarter of a century difference , we probably went to the same schools maybe me with his Dylan loving Godfather ! My other interest is my love hate relationship with rap . In theory I love it, revolutionary black music I'm 100% behind, but the reality quickly became an I'vegottabigdick farce which left me cold, so when there is something new and interesting such as the Streets or or Plan B's wit and pathos I'm always ready to give it a listen .
This may or maynot be of interest but the Streets third album is due to see the light of day April 10 .
Plan B 'Dead and Buried'
Plan B 'Kidz'
the Streets 'Get Out Of My House' mc remix
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
the Adorable Polak
I guess we all have our favorite cult band , or should I say band that would have been big if only ............... My past and maybe my personality means that I have a list , a long one , of those that got left at the starters post . Why I don't know but the other day one of these came to the top of head , and so I dug out 'Against Perfection' and gave it a spin . Still the same old magic and loads of memories of my time spinning discs on the 89.9 of radio Alligator . Adorable the band that almost made Simon Templar (the Saint) popular once again were firm favorites of mine in the early 90s . Piotr Fijalkowski's band were considered by many to be part of the shoegazing scene but were not totally accepted partly due to the bands (rightly so) arrogance , they knew they were good . Once signed to Creation , a rocky relationship began with head man Alan Mcghee , so much so that the working title for the bands debut album was Against Creation , only to be changed 24 hours before the art work deadline . We are running a little bit ahead of ourselves here , before the album came the inevitable singles . The first of which was 'Sunshine Smile' to be made single of the week in the NME and toping the UK indie charts . They were to release a total of 4 singles from 'Against Perfection' , my own personal favorite being 'Sistine Chapel Ceiling' another NME single of the week . A song as majestic as the painting . From its opening rolling bass line to its harrowed melancholic vocals and guitar lines taking you higher and higher until you're up there with Leonardo . Despite the favorable press Adorable stumbled on the second album 'Fake' which lacked the obvious self confidence of their debut and flopped , as a result they were dropped by Creation and by late 1994 the band were no more than a memory . Another legend bites the dust . After an Amazon search I can confirm my suspicion that no Adorable product is officially available . CRIMINAL . DO SOMETHING SOMEONE . In the meantime get searching those used record stores or sites .
Fijalowski followed up Adorable with Polak the band he co-formed with his brother at the tail end of the century . While lacking the charisma of Adorable one cannot help but be pleased to hear the desperate voice of Fijalowski at the helm of songs again . Signed to One Little Indian Polak have had 2 albums unveiled to date . The strangely titled debut , 'Swansong' , as if they knew their days were numbered , in 2000 , from which I've chosen impossible' as a little taster for you . Followed by 'Rubber Necking' in 2002 . A strange state of affairs , according to Amazon both Records are available though a visit to One Little Indian will leave you empty handed as they don't even mention the band , so have they been dropped or what ? As to the band current status ? All I know is their web site is no more , and as for Polak ?
Sing Sing 2
Monday, March 06, 2006
Sing Lush Sing
Hands up who remembers Lush , darlings of the British music press in the early 90's . A four piece consisting of two boys and two girls , and if legend is to be believed Miki and Emma were quite capable of keeping up with Chris and Philip when it came to partying . Being part of the ever popular Shoegazing movement , the band soon found themselves signed to 4AD after falling under the patronage of Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie . Their star continued to rise with the release of 3 EPs , 'Scar' (1989) , 'Mad Love' and 'Sweetness and Light' (both 1990) . These releases copyrighted their Dream like feedback scarred songs , underlined by airy female vocals . Helped along by the bands healthy appetite in ligging they were seldom out of the press , this high profile and the positive reviews they were now getting led to Lush playing at the much respected Glastonbury Festival .
To help launch the band in the states 4Ad released the first 3 Eps as 'Gala' at the end of 1990 . Two albums were to follow using much the same template , 'Spooky' in 1992 and 'Split' in 1994 . The band while managing to keep their head above water in the Uk were finding the American market more difficult to crack , not helped by the uprise of homegrown grunge . Their last album 'Lovelife' , showed a distinctive change in style with a more traditional pop feel , gone was the feedback laced wall of sound , to be replaced by something more akin to the then fashionable Brit-pop movement . They were to be rewarded with a UK top 20 album and 2 hit singles . The festivities following the promotional touring and festival duties were to be short lived as drummer Chris Acland hanged himself in 1996 , the strain of such an event lead to the band splitting .
The bands entire catalogue is still available on 4Ad who added to this by rounding up the best of Lush in 2001 in the form of 'Ciao' (wonderful title so 1990s) , which you can pick up on their site . One title you won't easily find available is Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep a paying homage to their roots cover versions of the 60s hit by Middle of the Road , a very honest name for a very average band . This little nugget was originally to be found an a 1990 compilation 'Alvin Lives in Leeds' , whose purpose was to raise funds for the anti poll tax movement Can't Pay , Won't Pay . Needless to say this has been long deleted .
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Martin Carr , remember him ? Of course you do . The boy who shared a barber with Malcolm McLaren ! Better known as the left of field song writing genius behind the Boo Radley . Well ever since the Boos spit Carr has gone under the banner of Brave Captain , releasing I believe six albums since 1999 . His latest is entitled 'Distractions' and is available free of charge , well almost you must sign up to his newsletter first , in high quality 256 kb mp3 . If you take the effort of reading what he has to say you will also discover his reasons for making 'distractions' a free disc .
It's been on my hard drive for a good few weeks now and although I know it won't be making it on to my end of the year essential list , it is definitely worth giving an ear to . Only eight songs long it licks of with a 60's hammond organ driven psychedelic dirge called 'whatever happened to the finger paint' . At least two of the tracks are reminiscent of 'Giant Steps' period Boo's , being heavily indebted to 60's pop and above all the omnipresent Brian Wilson Influence which of course did no harm to the High Llamas . Of particular note are the beautiful echo harmonies to be found on 'it's what we make it' . The album close on a surprising note with 'Jerusalem' a song featuring rapper Akira the Don that manages to mix UK rap and 60's pop without being shocking . As already said it's new , it's free and well worth your time .
On the subject of ex Boo Radleys , after a number of years outside of music , ex Boo Radleys front man and Martin Carrs old school chum , Sice makes a welcome return . At the tail end of last year after a chance meeting at a railway station he formed Paperlung , whose debut CD single 'the days that god sold you' will be available from Shifty Disco at the end of the month . For those of you in the UK check out their web site for live dates .
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
I know it looks like Elvis Costello but it is actually Hamell on Trial , the acoustic punk minstrel responsible for the album 'Songs For Parents Who Enjoy Drugs' , great title and the music's not bad either . As is the case for many of us parenthood has changed Ed Hamell's outlook on life this is well illustrated in the albums lead track 'Inquiring Minds' where Ed imagines a future conversation with his son where he is grilled as to his past life . Dad did you ever take drugs ? Did you ever have premarital sex ?............... the question and answer session goes on for four minutes before coming to the conclusion that he must lie lie lie lie and lie . Dad did you ever do anything bad ? Fuck no ! all of this over a catchy acoustic guitar riff . It put a smile on my face while getting me thinking at the same time and that can't be a bad thing . Another key track on the album is the the more raunchy , both in musical terms and subject matter , 'Coulters Snatch' a song that deals with subjects such as GW jnr masturbating in front of the bible and Condoleezza Rice's sexual preference , with a nice reference to Elvis Costello thrown in for good measure , 'I used to be disgusted' , now where did I here that before ? all said and done an album that lives up to his reputation as a string punishing acoustic punk guerilla capable of both inciting a riot and making you laugh at the same time . I'll leave the last word to mr Hamell who had this to say about his album "I've never been as topical or angry as I now am , And that's a direct result of the kid . He's gonna grow up in a country that's in need of a serious mend , and as always I cling to humour to get me through" . I couldn't agree with him more though I would change county for World .
Both of the tracks I've mentioned can be found on his latest album available , for example , from his record company Righteous Babe or you could always download , and it is legal , a concert he gave at the Knitting factory NYC February 21 of this year .