Saturday, June 30, 2007


In Gorbachev We Trust

Regular readers will know that it is rare that I post a whole album as one of the good things about Cd's is that much more old and rare albums are available than in the good old days of vinyl, downloading services have in the last year accelerated this phenomenon with certain titles now only available as downloads, the important point being that they are available and I do not consider it to be the place of serious music bloggers to post whole albums that are still commercially obtainable UNUSED. Every once in a while I will see an album sitting on my shelves and an Amazon and Google search will only drag up the second hand dealers, this was the case with The Shamen's 1999 album 'In Gorbachev We Trust'. The album is a snapshot of the band in transition between the 60's influenced psychedelic guitar rock and the full blown hip hop rave house nightmare that was to trouble the worlds charts. I am no great fan of what the band went on to become much preferring this very indie and DIY nature of things where the swirling and at times angry stabbing guitars were still present along with the newer elements of sampled and electronically created sounds. They were by no means the only band working in this new area that would become labeled indie dance, probably their closest contemporary was Pop Will Eat Itself another guitar band that got bit by the machine bug and to such good effect! The album's title sums up a feeling of hope that was prevalent at the time, the arms race was as good as finished, the USSR was opening up and the Berlin wall was soon to become history and for the first time since WWII the eastern bloc was no longer being portrayed as the baddies. Interestingly enough one of the album's strongest songs 'Jesus Loves America' is a very scary warning concerning religious fundamentalism that unfortunately was to become a reality with George Bush appearing to take orders directly from him above. All in all a very pleasing album, no need for me to rabbit on about it, a right click and save as and it can be yours.

1. 'Synergy'
2. 'Sweet Young Thing'
3. 'Rasberry Infundibulum'
4. 'War Prayer'
5. 'Adam Strange'
6. ' Jesus Loves America (fundamental)
7. 'Transcendental'
8. 'Misinformation'
9. 'Raptyouare'
10. 'In Gorbachev We Trust'

P.S. The album includes a Nesmith/Goffin/King composition that was originally recorded by the Monkeys,

Friday, June 29, 2007


The Ten Best Baggy Bands?

It's Friday and so here is the famous list as decided by those taste makers at Uncut, despite the fact that they gave them a number from 1 to 10 I don't think for one minute that this is a strict classification.
1. The Happy Mondays, absolutely no surprise here as they are perhaps the band that best sum up the form of music. Originally from the harder side of Manchester, if they hadn't of made it in music they would probably all be in prison by now. Two albums that was them finding their direction in the late 80's that was followed by the genre defining album 'Pills Thrills And Belly Aches' to herald in the new decade, ever since then it's been downhill ropey live album, coke hell in the Bahamas and shit album, splitting up, pointless reunion tours. They back together again with a new album out next Monday, can't wait..............
2. Stone Roses, slightly less hedonist than the Monday's with a more laid sound probably due to their heavy consumption of grass. Hardly the most prolific of bands but they did manage to leave us one classic psychedelic guitar album in 'The Stone Roses' 1999 before smoking away a fortune at the expense of Geffen and taking 6 years to deliver the bloated 'Second Coming' that sounded like Led Zeppelin out takes. And they were gone after a dodgy Reading appearance, very little chance of a get back tour from this bunch.
3. Flowered Up, personal favorites of mine with their loopy songs sung in a typical East London voice with language that I last heard as boy in Green Street Market as barrel boys were selling their wares, they were the proof that southern boys could take drugs and make good music. Their debut single 'It's On' was originally released by Heavenly and drags you in with its stomping beat and use of flute, this is the original version far superior to that that would turn up on their sole album 'A Life With Brian' 1991. The following year they released their swansong in the 12 minute long 'Weekender' a tale of rave culture and it's ups and downs a very brave and pertinent song that has always made me think of film maker Ken Loach, this version of the song was recorded live at 1992's Glastonbury Festival. And they too were gone.
4. World Of Twist, see Tuesday's post.
5. Blur, hard to remember but at the beginning they were aligned with baggy circa 'Leisure' 1991, probably more out of journalistic laziness than anything Else. They were one of the rare baggy bands to survive the demise of the musical form by reinventing themselves and continually changing. Hardly surprising that in the 90's they were the only band capable of standing up to Oasis. Still together in an on off sort of way when Damon has time from his many other projects.
6. Paris Angels, who you may well ask, I checked out their "classic" 'Perfume' single again and can now remember why had already forgotten about them.
7. Inspiral Carpets, see last Monday's post.
8. New Fast Automatic Daffodils, already posted on them back in March 2006. An excellent band introducing a colder edge to the music with infectious rhythms and dogmatic vocals, three classic albums 'Pigeonhole', 'Bong' and 'Body Exit Mind' before disappearing due to a criminal lack of interest.
9. James, I never really liked the second hand folky Smiths influenced version of the band but I did love the funk inspired rebirth of the band with 1991 'Gold Mother' the album that gave us the incredibly sexy 'How Was It For You'. Success went to their heads and they trod the same path as Simple Minds that led to leaden indie stadium rock as could be found on their follow up 'Seven', they continued until splitting in 2001 though they were incapable of returning to their heady past glories. 2007 has seen a well received reunion tour, I for one remain dubious. James were also on the Bill of 1992's Glastonbury where they recorded this version of 'Gold Mother'.
10. The Farm, now here were a bunch that could be described as bandwagon jumpers but we can forgive them their sins for their beat heavy classic pop album 'Spartacus' featuring their house take on the Monkey's 'Stepping Stone'.
There is of course one very big omission from this list in the Charlatans who were as baggy as anyone else and of the highest quality and are of course along with Blur another band that survived the movement to go onto bigger things.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


The Baggy Bad Bunch

Uncut has listed the 10 worst baggy bands as being; Ocean Colour Scene, Northside, The Mock Turtles, The Soup Dragons, Airhead, My Jealous God, The High, Intestella, The Real People and The Bridewell Taxis. As with all lists there will be many people who would argue the errors and omissions, I have one question to ask what does indeed make a good baggy band? Is it the ability to consume large amounts of hallucinogenic drugs? Is it a penchant for dressing up like a football hooligan / brickie out on the piss? Or is to do with the music? Baggy it is largely accepted means psychedelic / acid house influenced guitar music with that funky drummer beat, so in musical terms our 10 unlucky bands were certainly baggy but was their music any good? Have their songs stood up to the test of time? Certain of these bands I still have fond memories of and others I have almost forgotten (The High?), and so it was that I dug out their CDs to give them another spin to see if they really were as bad as the revered journalists in Uncut Towers would have us believe..
Northside, a little bit harsh picking on there age, since when has youth been a problem in rock 'n' roll? And so what if Tony Wilson had proteges, someone had to nurture talent, and his track record is good enough that we should trust him more than the average second hand car dealer! I've given their sole album 1991 's 'Chicken Rhythms' another spin, having been produced by Lightning Seed Ian Broudie it still sounds fine to me and definitely does not suffer from the over familiarity that the closest of the baggy big boys to them, the Stone Roses does. 'Shall We Take A Trip' remains their crowning moment and should be taken as I believe it was intended, tongue in cheek. 'Moody Places' is a good example of why they were good with it's rolling bass line paving the way for the effect heavy weaving guitar lines over which we find the dream like vocals. It is true that they remained minor league, but since when has lack sales equated to low quality?
The Soup Dragons, we certainly can't say they lacked sales as their Rolling Stones cover, 'I'm Free' was a global smash, was it any good? Yes it was though as with many big hits familiarity has taken the sting out of it's tail. When we first heard it, it sounded fresh, with it's lethargic reggae beat, horns and toasting, I can remember it being a very big dance floor hit. The album from which it was drawn 'LoveGod', 1990 really embraced the rave led feeling of the times very well a still to this day sounds like a very good pop album with baggy influences. 'Sweetmeat' with its southern sounding slide guitar pointed the direction to their next album 'Hot Wired' where they took the Stones sound even further but in doing so lost record sales and fans by the truck load, similar to Primal Scream with their Dixie inflicted 'Give Out But Don't Give Up' follow up to 'Screamadelica'.
My Jealous God, are a band that I have already posted on in April last year. I still think that they are a band that could have gone further with their up front psychedelic groove rock if there had been a little bit more interest but by 1992 musical trends were changing and baggy was rapidly on it's way to the revival circuit. 'Everything About You (the Knowledge)' is an extended mix by Manchester's A Guy Called Gerald that shouldn't disappoint dance floor fans.
Undoubtedly some of you will disagree with me and a think that these bands deserve nothing better than a place in the musical scrap heap of forgotten bands, others will think, yes but what about the Mock Turtles?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


World Of Twist

No regrets, as the Walker Brothers would have said, for posting another Rolling Stones cover today, it comes in the shape of this amazingly danceable and uplifting reworking of 'She's A Rainbow (12" version)', a song that regularly filled the dance floor of Montpellier's Rockstore in the early 90's. This is signed by one of the good baggy bands, Sheffield's World Of Twist, contemporaries of that other band from steel city UK, Pulp, The original World Of Twist line up as formed in 1985 was short lived and failed to see the end of the following year. A new version of the band was to appear in Manchester around 1988, despite their obvious liking of bubblegum pop they were taken in with the blossoming Madchester scene and the band attracted good press and the inevitable record companies waving their cheque books. Described by Uncut as being the weird arty side of baggy it should come as no surprise that they teamed up with Manchester's maverick producer Martin Hannett for their take on the Stones song, this was to be one of his last credits. Their debut album 'Quality Street' released by Circa in 1991 suffered from lacklustre production that as with so many other bands before them and since failed to capture the bands live energy, despite this it an album well worth checking out as it is their only recorded legacy. They were never to finish their second album as lead singer and band leader Tony Odgen suffered a nervous breakdown and retired from the music industry. He was to resurface in 2005 displaying his love of bubblegum with a new project The Electric Bubblegum Pop Explosion, regrettably we were to be robbed of his talent as he passed away the following year.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Peel Sessions 59

Lists, they are just about everywhere these days, you can't avoid them and music journalism seems to have made them almost the backbone of their craft. It all started with end of the year lists and has gradually overtaken some publications to the extent that the lions share of an edition is given over to Bob Dylan / Beatles / Rolling Stones 50 greatest songs or some other half baked idea, I guess it won't be to long before we get 50 songs to walk your dog to! Years ago I used to like the end of year best of listings finding them entertaining, though of late I have started to see this reliance on lists as little more than journalistic laziness, and it's annoying. Despite my feelings I often I find myself looking at them rather than ignoring them as maybe I should and it was in the July issue of Uncut that I came across the double list (new take on an old idea) of the ten best and 10 worst baggy bands lists. Now this was of above normal interest to me as Madchester and all things baggy corresponded with the period that I worked in local radio and many of the bands from this era I have kept a soft spot for, this has motivated the direction for this weeks posts which I rather feel is going to take an early nineties avenue.So who better for this weeks Peel session that Manchester's Inspiral Carpets, a band that to some ears might have more in common with garage, though they were definitely part of the movement, and yes, those trend setting journalists at Uncut put them on the good list. According to AMG they were the 3rd most popular baggy band, a position that they certainly merited as they were more than capable of throwing catchy foot tapping tunes in our direction. Personally I wouldn't consider them to be the archetypal Peel band despite the fact that one of their singles featured Mark E Smith on vocals, though as I have said before JP had wide personal boundaries for taste and had a good ear for recognising a good band and because of this the Carpets found themselves heading down south on four occasions between 1988 and 1990 to lay down tracks for his show. Three songs from the second session from March 1989, 'Out Of Time', 'Directing Traffic' and their surprisingly good cover of the Rollings Stones 'Gimme Shelter', I would say that they had a way with cover versions, their grunge inflicted reading of 'Tainted Love' remains a personal favorite to this day.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Guilty Pleasures

Being part of the generation that was there and lived through the year zero mentality of punk, I as well suffered the same dilemma as many others, should I hide my pre 1977 records or should I burn them? Being rather young at the time and as my revenue was nothing to shout home about, I doubt that my record collection passed the 50 LP mark, amongst the problem artists were Status Quo, Mud, Sweet, Wings, Nazareth, Deep Purple, Slade, Led Zeppelin, Pretty Things. The last of the bands on the list was a discovery I had made in 1975. At this period like many an adolescent of my age I earned money by doing what was known as a paper round, I delivered newspapers to peoples doors before going to school, this was how I paid for my records and the rare concert that I went to. I was already an avid reader of the musical press, it was here that I read of the forthcoming British Musical Festival to be held at London's Earls Court (1975/1976), which interested me greatly as in featured one of my favorite bands at the time Nazareth as well as Bad Company. God Knows how but I managed to persuade by parents to let me go, I was a bit of a lone wolf as no one of my age likes what I listened to, I must have been 14 at the time. I would be lying to to say that I could remember a lot about the event excepting the lasting impressions that Bad Company were OK but ........ Nazareth lived up to my expectations and then as with most multi band line ups there were discoveries I saw Bill Nelson's Be Bop Deluxe who for me were a whole new take on things I also saw the Pretty things who as the expression goes, blew me away. They were touring 'Savage Eye' which was probably the very next album that I spend my hard earned money on. Truth be told some 30 years down the line listening to the album it's not the greatest committed to tape but it is certainly Superior to many others and contains a number of very good songs in different styles ranging from rock ballads that could almost have been written by Primal Scream 20 years later, to full ahead rockers. It is of interest when talking about the Pretty Things to remember that they were contemporaries of the Rolling Stones, both bands were from the same area and played a similar style of music, the Pretty Things were to have a number of chart hits with their turbo charged blues / R 'n' B covers in the early sixties. There is a comprehensive 2 part history of the band well worth reading on their web site. I have always liked the parallel between the Stones and the Pretties, despite Jagger and Co's bad boy image the Pretty Things were even badder, almost as if they were the real thing. In 1974 at a low point in their career the Stones recorded 'It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)' a song that was a long way from their former glory days. The following year we where to find 'It Isn't Rock 'n' Roll' on the Pretties 'Savage Eye', I think this was this a response to their peer's decline! regardless this song wins hands down with it's mix of swing and heads down no nonsense boogie.
After having discovered the band I went on the long voyage of digging up their past work and found many a nugget from their varied career. It was the Pretty Things who are credited with releasing the first rock opera not necessarily something to be proud of, though their offering 'S.F. Sorrow' is a fine example of late sixties UK psychedelic pop, check out the albums opener 'S.F. Sorrow Is Born'. The band were put on hold not long after I saw them when original vocalist Phil May walked out though by the end of the 70's he was back on board and the band have been an on off concern ever since. Their current set is a return to their roots, R 'n' B and blues based as would be suggested by their recent press photos where they come over as an ageing Blues Brothers.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Adam Franklin

The name might just be stored away there somewhere in your grey matter, as he was indeed the guitarist / vocalist with the early 90's shoegazeing band Swervedriver that were signed to Creation B.O. (before Oasis). By the end of the decade the band had run out of steam and the members had gone their individual ways, the rhythm section were to play together as Skyscraper and Adam Franklin was to use the name Toschack Highway for his future projects until 'Bolts Of Melody', earlier this year in Europe and fresh out in the States, the first album to be released under his name. I've had two of the tracks sitting around in my e-mail in box for a little while and when I finally got round to listening to them I was more than pleased. Album opener 'Seize The Day' reminds me a lot of the much missed Eugenius with it's radical updating of all that was good with the Byrds. 'Syds Eyes', no surprise here is pure sixties psychedelia and as the title would suggest a tribute to the recently departed Pink Floyd founder. American readers will have the chance to catch him performing live as he will be on a short US tour in July. If what you've heard has whetted your thirst there are a number of other tracks for download on his site including a KEXP radio session from 2005.
Two bonus tracks for you 'Planes Over The Skyline' and 'Year Of The Girl' that I had as the B side Of Swervedriver's 1993 single 'Duel'.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Back To Back To The Planet

It's a funny thing blogging, you spend large parts of your time either researching, writing or thinking about your posts and most them go without comment, while other touch a nerve and generate some feedback. Then there are posts that you had almost forgotten about, such as my thoughts on Back To The Planet that I threw at you back in July last year, which for some strange reason has motivated two responses this week almost a year after my original musings! First up anonymous, him again, informs us that the bands second non cassette album 'Back To The Beep' is the worst album he has heard in his whole life, pretty strong stuff that seeing as the competition for such a tittle is very strong, personally I'm in no position to judge as I don't know the album. What was more interesting was a mail that I received from Michael Reid who informed me that Back To The Planet have joined that never ending list of reformed bands, having got back together for a low key pub gig in Camberwell last December. They had always been very much a festival band, they were closely linked with the rave / free festival movement of the early 90's that led to the infamous Criminal Justice an Public Order Act, so it should come as no surprise to see that they are playing a number of festivals this year including the flagship of all festivals Glastonbury, this forthcoming week end and sold out, the playfully tittled Endorse It In Dorset festival, 10, 11 and 12 August along with the Undertones and Dreadzone, tickets available. The following week end they will be heading back down the M4 to Devon where they play Beautiful Days. This seems to have rather a crusty feel to it with The Levelers, New Model Army, Banco De Gaia and Radical Dance Fraction sharing the bill along with other artists including Boney M. Don't rush out and buy tickets as this is obviously a popular festival as they were sold out back in April!!!
When I recently converted some old vinyl to MP3 there were in this batch the 12" singles from Back To The Planet so for your further listening pleasure here are the remixed versions of three of them. 'Revolution Of Thought In Dub' comes from their 1992 debut single on Arthur Mix Records. By the following year they had been picked up by the major Parallel Records for whom their first single contained this extended mix of the naive 'Please Don't Fight'. The same year saw their final shot at major backed chart success with the pop inflicted 'Daydream' remixed here by non other than On U Sound studio wizard Adrian Sherwood, this had it have been recorded by Happy Mondays would have been a hit. These three songs will probably sound a bit dated and dare I say twee to younger readers, but just think this is what your parents or older brother and sister were grooving to 15 years ago.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Peel Sessions 58

Something noisy for you today from a band that I don't often listen to, but when I do it's for real !!!!!! Head Of David were one of the pioneering bands that breached the gap between heavy metal and what we have come to label today as industrial metal such as played by Pitchshifter and Fear Factory. Coming from the Midlands region an area that could well be considered as the cradle of all things hard 'n' heavy in the UK. Sociologists would probably have you believe that the grim industrial landscape that was well into decline in the 80's was responsible for this doom laden aggression, I'm not so sure as the style of music they payed found a home with many an adolescent, their debut album even made it to no. 3 in the UK indie charts in 1986. Their experimental side can be borne out by the fact that they had been picked up by the UK left field label Blast First, label mates included Sonic Youth and Band Of Susans. The inter band chemistry proved to be volatile and bassist Dave Cochrane left after the Steve Albini produced second album 'Dustbowl' to play with Godflesh. The remaining trio crawled on to record a third album 'Seed State', 1991 before disappearing.
We all know that Peel had a wide taste in music and that he had a soft spot for noisy records and so it comes as no surprise that Head Of David were invited to record two sessions in 1986, these are the four songs that made up the first of them from July:

1. 'Tequila'
2. 'Snake Domain'
3. 'Skindrill'
4. 'Bugged'

None of these songs out stay their welcome as they all clock in under the 3 minutes mark. My personal favorite is 'Tequila' which boasts a chorus that you could almost imagine Jack Nicholson humming in The Shining! .

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Good Music for A Sunny Sunday And Gardening !

I must admit that I have been rather absent of late this has been due to a number of factors one of which is that I have a large garden that needs attention especially at this time of the year as the recipe of rain and sun does wonders for vegetation growing at phenomenal speeds. I could of course ignore the garden but this would lead to my house being enveloped in a mass of greenery in a few years. Seeing as the weather has been more summer that certain summers this has not been a disagreeable task though very time consuming. It was probably because of this that I decided to give 'The Good Seed' by Ellis Island Sound another spin, and at the end of the day I was very pleased to have done so. Many of you are probably scratching your heads and wondering who the hell they are, Ellis Island Sound are one of Peter Astor's two on going current projects the other one being Wisdom Of Harry. The band, if we can say that for two people, consists of Peter with David Sheppard who were assisted by Josh Hillman from Willard Grant Conspiracy on this album. The result is very pastoral very English without being at all quaint. They hid them selves away in a old church on the borders of the windswept English counties of Suffolk and Norfolk and let the countryside breathe life into their music, one can almost imagine them looking out at the scenery as birds sung along with their music while resting their wings on the churches ancient beams. The album manages a subtle mix of traditional acoustic instruments, ukulele, harmonium, dulcimer with well placed and non imposing electronics. I've had a problem getting 'Summoning The Pharoah' out of my head these last few days with it's mantra like drone that comes something like an unplugged early period Kraftwerk. Then there is 'The Villagers' that demands your attention with it compelling violin motif. I'm not quite sure why the album did not impress me on first listen maybe it's just meant to be listened to while being outdoors, those wishing to take the open air listening experience further can catch them playing at The Big Chill and Green Man festivals this summer.
Keeping with low key music I was recently very impressed with Blair, a 23 year old lady hailing from New Orleans. Very much in the mould of classic singer song writers she wins you over with her charming voice and dangerously subversive melodies that waste no time in occupying space between your ears 'Half Moon' is fine example of this where half way through the song you start wondering if you have heard it before. 'Wolfboy' illustrates that she is equally at ease with backing from a sympathetic band and her songs support this treatment while loosing none of their finesse. I found myself thinking of early Brenda Kahn and Heather Nova while listening, not such a bad thing. These two songs make up part of her debut ep 'Pluto' that is available from CD Baby.

Monday, June 11, 2007


Peel Sessions 57

A little story. As I have previously mentioned I was born in Forest Gate in London's East End, and I lived there until I was 14 years old. My early child memories are very vague and tend to be limited to events that my parents or other adults talked to me about or events for which there exists visual proof. As I got older and changed schools I began to have more freedom and was allowed to wander off to school on my own, this would I am ashamed to report not always mean that I made my way to school for the allotted time as for a young lad even a suburban high street is a place of adventure. Forest Gate has two major roads, Woodgrange road and Romford road that meet to form a T junction. At this point was the main post office, telephone exchange and a large furniture store above which was situated the Uppercut club, a place that intrigued us as it smelt of forbidden fruit. We had heard, probably from our our parent, that this was not a nice place where nasty people went, it was in fact nothing else than a nightclub but back in 60's England to good hardworking folk going out and partying at night was a sin. At the time I was not aware of the significance of the club it was only many years later that I learnt that for a few years in the mid 60's it was an important venue on the club circuit hosting gigs by The Who and Otis Redding amongst others. The venue's real claim to fame dates back to December, 26 1966 when a certain Jimi Hendix was playing there. Legend has it that someone offered him some purple hearts, an amphetamine based pill much in vogue with mods at this period. It was while under the influence, backstage at the Uppercut club Hendix composed what was to become 'Purple Haze'. December 1966, I had recently celebrated my 6th birthday, so I guess mere yards away from this historic event I was well tucked up in bed and dreaming, excuse me while I kiss the sky indeed! I never got to set foot in the venue which If my memory serves me well became a well known reggae club before being destroyed in a fire.
During the early years of Radio One John Peel was the presenter of the Top gear programme, Hendix laid down tracks for two sessions for the show, October and December 1967. As a musician it goes without saying that Hendrix was extremely inventive and took enormous pleasure in his often improvised reinterpretations of other peoples songs. From the first session we find this good humoured romp through the 'Radio One Theme' along with a wink to his contemporaries the Beatles as he beefs up 'Daytriper' in this rough and ready version. Two months later they were back and seemingly enjoying themselves as they ripped through the 50's standard 'Hound Dog' given an almost surreal feel with halfhearted yelps.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Primavera Sound 2007

So it's now a week since I've got back from Barcelona, and as they say the dust has settled, I've almost caught up with the enormous backlog at work and as far as sleep goes let's just say that I'm used to missing it, though this seldom leads to me being in a good mood!
My first thought is more of an observation, at my tender age, 46, this is the first time that I have attended more than one day at a festival, not everyone likes wallowing in mud, queuing hours for the toilets, paying inflated prices for a beer that is more often than not too hot or too cold and not your beer of choice. True these last two points are probably also true for most non bar concerts the difference being this negative side lasts for a few hours as opposed to god forbid a whole week end. Part of the problem with festivals is the sensory over load, I mean who really wants to see 30/40 bands over two or three days? Personally I get much more pleasure from a traditional concert where there is a headliner and one or two support bands, lets just say the rush is much more intense. The other problem with these multi stage mega line up festivals is more logistic, who should we go to see? And who will be sacrificed because of lack of time, tiredness, queuing to buy food..............? Despite these little moans me and my other half did enjoy ourselves and got to see some great sets and bands that I very much doubt will be playing our cultural backwater here in the south of France in the foreseeable future, we also got to discover some great new bands and for me that is what it should all be about.

Day 1: Thursday May, 31
Having already attended Prmavera Sound for just one day the previous year, we knew how to find the site and so were in no rush and the first artist of interest to us was programed for 20h, in Spain festivals start late afternoon and with the case of Primavera go on till 4 or 5am. Having been a long time fan of Nick Cave I have also followed the careers of those that form or formed the Bad Seeds with interest, it goes without saying that the music must be up to scratch. One such band is Warren Ellis's violin led The Dirty Three, in musical terms their set did not disappoint, they played 'Ocean Songs', a powerful, majestic performance proving that you don't need a vocalist to keep the audience's attention. What was a distraction was Ellis's habit of playing with his back to the public or if you prefer playing 90% of the set to his drummer, were we really that ugly?
I was looking forward to seeing new sensation Elvis Perkins who in case you are unaware is the son of Psycho actor Anthony Perkins. Musically we can situate him as occupying the space between traditional singer song writers and country tinged Americana. He has some very fine songs and a singing voice that totally suits his dandy persona, it was just a shame that their delicate songs were mired by feedback and other sound problems, I did get the impression that they were to fussy, maybe it was his son of a film star upbringing?
I know I've previously said that band names are important and to bear out this point were it not for their name I rather doubt that I would of made my way over to the CD Drome stage and this was where I was captivated by the stage presence of the Parenthetical Girls. Both in dress sense and in musical terms they came over as a relic from the Wiemar republic very cabaret very mechanical though despite this they manged to warm the audience to them. According to their press they were influenced by such divergent elements as post punk, Phil Spector and Brian Eno, and this makes for a fine mix. They finished their set with a blinding cover version of OMD's 'Joan Of Arc'. Those wishing to listen before taking the plunge can check out four down loadable tracks here including a remodeling of Wham's 'Last Christmas'.
We caught the tail end of the Comets On Fire, and I rather regret that I saw so little of them as the finale was a wonderful 101% sonic rock out. The Smashing Pumpkins were due on the main stage and we were able to get a good position, meaning we did not need the video projection screen to see what was happening on stage. Back in the early 90's I really liked the music that they produced, though since the band spilt I have got the impression that one time darling of US indie Billy Corgan has lost his direction, well this was very much confirmed by his bombastic over blown set even the older songs failed to impress. It is just possible as the gig was intended as a parody above all considering the ridiculous science fiction costumes they were wearing, reminding me of the excellent Brain DePalma film Phantom Of The Paradise, though sadly I rather doubt this was the case and the band came over as a bad relic of the worst of the pre punk 70's. Another disappointment was Mike Patton's new project Fennesz which despite being interesting on paper proved to be nothing more that noise without reason and totally lacking in any perceptible structure, tellingly enough the majority of those in front of the stage had their hands over their ears, strange behaviour for a concert!
We had to wait until 1.15am, the scheduled time to see the White Stripes, and well worth it was! I've never been a great fan, there have been isolated songs that yes I consider to be classics, but after seeing them live everything makes sense. In fact what they have done is very clever indeed instead of taking the accepted route and continuing from where the previous generation of artists left off they have gone back to the original source of rock, the blues and are taking us on their own voyage of discovery. I would go as far as to dare to compare them with another band that was influenced by the same music, Led Zeppelin, the difference being that the White Stripes stay very much down to earth being almost primal and thankfully have not taken the highway to pretentiousness. It amazed me through the length of their set how just two people could deliver such a full sound, Meg really is an accomplished and inventive drummer and as far as Jack is concerned a true guitar hero who also has a very varied and soulful singing voice. The sole down point was from Jack's voice that seemed to loose it's power as the evening drew on. Visually they managed fill the large stage with an imaginative use of lighting and Jacks very energetic stage presence, anyone know how many vocal microphones he uses on stage? The set was heavy in older songs though there were honorable outings for newer numbers including the nitro charged new single 'Icky Thump'. They encored with crowd pleasers such as the Burt Bacharach 'Don't Know What To Do With Myself' which induced a mass crowd sing a long before finishing with that song, 'Seven Nation Army'. A very good and very uplifting set that despite the late hour charged my batteries enough that the walk back to my hotel did not bother me.

Day 2: Friday June, 1
God! Were we tired, by now after too much beer, too much walking and not enough sleep conjugated with my advancing years, talk about recipe for disaster. Luckily enough there was a surprise band that had just what was needed to get me literally on my feet. How Dare You are a three piece, two girls and a boy from Barcelona. Heavily influenced by post punk and with their influences, Slits, raincoats, P.I.L. worn firmly on their sleeve, what they lacked in originality they more than made up for with youthful enthusiasm. They managed to do the trick and I stayed for the lions part of their set as they won me over and even got me tapping my feet. Currently unsigned, the only place to listen to anything by them would be on their my space. definitely one to watch out for.
One of the particularities of Primavera is that it is held on a urban site, bordering the Mediterranean, that includes an inside conference centre. This is used during the festival as an inside stage for quieter more intimate artists. Much to his surprise Billy Bragg was considered as such by the organisers, I got the impression that in his mind festivals meant a field and the big blue sky. Not to worry Billy adapted well to the situation. He is an artist that I feel a close affinity to, having my own roots in the same part of the world as him, I was born in Forest Gate and later spent mt adolescence in Barkingside. Seeing that his fan base is rather weak in France it is a good twenty years since I've seen him live, so my expectations were high, I guess you could almost say that I had stage fright! Billy was solo with his trusty guitar and cups of tea. He certainly has come on a long way as today he provides a very varied and interesting show, part music part talk, sure he is not the worlds best best guitarist and barking at times could describe his voice, but during his hour long set he made us cry, laugh, smile, frown and even sing along with him, if only all politicians could be this entertaining. His set included rants or storytelling that took in nuns, penguins, football, book writing and SxSW where this rare acoustic guitar backed version of 'New England' comes from. I'm not quite sure the percentage of native English speakers in the audience but despite the language barrier he went down a storm. We were treated to reworked versions of many songs, highlights including a radially reworked 'Great Leap Forward', there were strange cover versions; the Carpenters 'Superstar', hidden guitar riffs; 'Smoke On The Water', whistling solos and the Clash fueled name checking song inspired in part by his Johnny Clash persona. It was a real pleasure to see him again and I got the impression he enjoyed himself as much as we did. Politics and love have never gone down so well together, I just hope I don't have to wait 20 years to see him again.
This undeniable personal highlight was unsurprisingly difficult to follow and so fine as they were Blonde Red Head but failed to inspire and I got the feeling I was not the only one. Despite my age and my geographical origins I've never had the pleasure of seeing the Fall live and as such was looking forward to it. I got the impression that Mark E Smith has stopped smoking as he was not to be seen with a cigarette through the whole set, and seemed to be mashing chewing gum the whole time, so was it for this reason that he spent half of his set staring so aggressively at his audience? It was loud to say the least and exaggerated by the presence of two bass players and Mark E's fiddling with the volume controls on the amps. I'm glad I've seen them but won't be too disappointed if this is the only time. Another band that I was looking forward to seeing was Beirut, but was somewhat disappointed, not I might add the bands fault. The problem is that their music is so delicate and of an acoustic nature that it did not come over too well performed on an outdoor stage what with other, noisier bands playing on neighboring stages and the wind playing havoc with their fragile sound.
After all of this I was in need of a little pick me up that came in the form of Canadian duo, Chromeo, another discovery. Nothing too original with these boys as they take you back to the eighties NYC club scene, as my other half said "it's disco isn't it?". Good fun was had my me and it even got my butt moving! There are a couple of down loadable songs on their site, and they are currently touring Europe. As I have already stated we were rather tired and so we found ourselves a place on the grass hill looking down on the main stage and finished our evening off with the efficient set from Maximo Park, I must say that the new songs 'Girls That Play Guitars' and 'Russian Literature' make for strong addition to their repertoire. Still hardly the most original band in the world but they do what the do well.

Day 3: Saturday June, 2
Must have slept well or maybe it was the copious breakfast at the hotel as we started the day with an amazing amount of energy. 18h30 was maybe a little bit early in the day and the Mediterranean sun bearing down on backs was not the only thing hot as before us was that most English of American combos, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists rocking away like a good old V8 engine. They certainly are not the most visual of bands, the bassist is pure eighties hair metal but they have serious attitude and that counts. I couldn't help thinking of the Clash while they were playing, such was their intensity. Taking this line of thought even further, Billy Bragg is great solo, but his backing band the Blokes are from their name through to their musical backing of him, pedestrian, and personally I'd say that's rather kind. So I started imagining Ted Leo and the Pharmacists backing Bragg, not as silly as it sounds both of them share a split personality, Political / love songs as well as both of them sharing a liking for the best of late 70's punk. I couldn't get enough of them and their set was too short full of inspired anthem like tunes such as 'Where Have All The Rudeboys Gone', that reminds me of Thin Lizzy itself not such a bad thing, and 'Never Give Up' these two recordings come courtesy of NPR from Washington DC's 9:30 club earlier this year. They couldn't resist it and dedicated a blinding version of 'Costa Brava' as an appreciated set closer.
The Long Blondes were next on our shopping list. True they are visually pleasing but singer, Kate Jackson, is so loud mouthed that after a while her in between song banter becomes a pain in the arse. Musically I found them rather superficial and they got me all nostalgic for the band that is such an obvious inspiration for them, Blondie. We hopped over to one of the smaller stages to catch a band from Montpellier, Koacha. This was the first time that I had seen them and they did not disappoint, delivering their well crafted angular pop songs with precision and humour. Nice to see a young band so at ease on stage and playfully teasing the audience with the vocalists beer borrowing antics and crowd walkabout. Another one to watch out for.
Last year Saturday night featured Lou Reed and this year the old school NYC connection was also present with Patti Smith, who after a shaky start, we were almost stage front and the volume was rather lacking for the first two numbers, soon got into her stride and the high priestess of rock 'n' roll rebellion held spiritual communion with her followers. A real crowd pleasing set that included three numbers from her latest album the highlight being the dirge like cover of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', personally I was not to hot on the acoustic guitar led numbers, Lenny Kaye after all was was born with a Fender Stratocaster in is hand, wasn't he? A set rich in jewels from Patti's past including 'Free Money', 'Pissing In A River' and 'Because The Night' before rounding of with the orgasm inciting pair of 'Gloria' and 'Rock 'n' Roll Nigger. Talk about making an old man happy!
The Good The Bad And The Queen were next, and to be honest I was apprehensive as press reports have not always been good and I've always found that seeing living legends is not always rewarding. My first impression was how Damon Albarn, the man that challenged Oasis, has really turned into the anti thesis of a star, with his timid almost apologetic stage personality which is totally opposed to that of gun slinger Paul Simonon who comes over as a right cocky bastard with some great stage moves. Again the sound was rather pale and appeared to be lost a little bit in the open air, they are playing with a four piece string section. Gradually we made our way to the front arriving there for the last three number and both the sound and atmosphere was indeed a lot hotter.
The last band that were were to catch before returning wearily to our hotel was Sonic Youth, who were treating us to their first ever recital of 'Daydream Nation'. Now I will be the first to claim the album as a classic, though whether it is best heard in the comfort of your own home, personal stereo or performed as an opera in it's entirety on stage is very much open to debate. The album concept does loose a lot with between song chat and the ever present extended pauses be it for technical or personal reasons. Also the pacing for an album does not necessarily correspond to that of a gig and so the chronological reading of an album leads a lot to be desired. Even Thurston Moore said that they had never before played the whole of the album even when they were teenagers, the whole concept smells a bit too much like treating rock as high art, sorry but for me it doesn't work! Still it was nice to see them on stage again though they did give me the impression to have mellowed a little, shame!

There was of course a whole load of bands that we missed due to scheduling problems, toilet queues, tiredness or just down and out laziness these include; Portastatic, Black Mountain, Spititualised, DJ Yoda, Shannon Wright, The Apples in Stereo, Wilco, The Klaxons, Slint.........
So was it worth it? After all what with tickets, hotel, restaurants, drink and travel it must have cost me about a months salary. Well the answer is yes, it's a great festival set on an original site in one of the worlds best towns and with a really good atmosphere, if next years line up is anywhere near as tempting I'll be back.

P.S. I have a little confession to make, I had decided to provide Sound Of The Suburbs with original photos from Primavera 2007 and so had taken my trusty camera along with me. And believe me I had taken some more than decent snaps, the problem was that Saturday morning I was fiddling arround with the camera deleting images that wer obviouly no good when by error or pure stupidity I reformated the disc which is the same a deleting everything. Immediatley I realised what I had done, so gutted was I left my camera in the hotel room Saturday night. This means that the photos here come from different sources you can look at the rest of their galleries here and here. I would have asked for permision, honest, but my Spanish is terrible, anyway thanks for the immages guys!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Peel Sessions 56

When you're my age after the party is the pay back, as far as I am concerned a little bit of sleep should put things to rights, though unfortunately where I work they appear to think I am some kind of superman as no one did much of my work while was away and so I have a whole week to catch up with, thanks guys! I shall report back with my thoughts concerning Primavera sound 2007 in a few days.
I guess many of you have often wondered what today's rich and famous were up to before they slipped into super tax bracket, well in the days before Pop Idol when reality TV meant the news or documentaries, those that wanted to climb the ladder of musical fame served a sort of apprenticeship that is otherwise known as paying ones dues. What in effect this meant was years of trailing the length and breadth of the land in the back of a battered transit van, playing what is affectionately known as the toilet circuit and if you were really lucky maybe playing support slots where you lost money and all of this was done while surviving on next to nothing and eating whatever was offered to you. This is what people mean when they talk about the good old days! As is our custom the first out of the hatch each week is from a Peel Session and this time from a band that was to feature a carrot topped vocalist that would go onto world domination - Mick Hucknal - yes before he started bombarding our ears with his syrupy soul make overs he used to front a post punk band. The Frantic Elevators were one of many bands that were to be launched upon the world in the wake of the punk earthquake that was to shake the almost Victorian Manchester of the late '70's firmly into the 20th century. They played a rough edged interpretation of rhythm and blues that was quirky enough to win them friends on the developing post punk scene. Between 1979 and 1982 they released 4 singles on as many different labels, that have long been in the realms of collectors shops. The band were invited down to London twice in 1981, February and September, 'Hunchback Of Notre Dame' is taken from the first session. Should you be interested in listening to more from the band there was a six track compilation that has been released several different times, different name, different sleeve, same track list, that is currently easily available from Amazon Market Place for less than £2.00. By 1983 Mick Hucknal had decided that enough dues had been paid and so quit the band and played under the banner of different Red names before hitting gold with Simply Red, yes it was just like in the fairy story, fame and fortune were just around the corner and in 1985 they scored that all important first US hit with their rather good cover of the Valentine Brothers 'Money's Too Tight To Mention'. Peelie was not to invite Mick Hucknal's new project to record a session!

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