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Thursday, 21 September 2017

Low Frequency Oscilator


You could use all kind of superlatives to describe this record. Released in July 1990 it is a landmark British house record in the same way that Voodoo Ray is, a British version of a sound from elsewhere that could only have come from British bedroom and backroom producers fired up by the scenes of 1988-90. Warp Records was supposedly formed specifically to release this record, heavy on bass and bleeps, rattling drum machines and the voice intoning 'L.F.O.'. Warp would go on to release further great records in the aftermath of this one- Testone, Tricky Disco, Tuff Little Unit, other records by LFO- but they are all somewhat in its shadow. It was also a genuine hit, reaching number 12 in the chart (at a time when that meant selling tens of thousands of records).

LFO (Leeds Warehouse Mix)

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The Gate


It seems to me that at some point around the turn of the millennium Bjork lost the sense of fun that characterised her 90s solo work. Debut and Post were informed by dance music and possibility, inventive and arty at the same time, but full of life and with a pop sensibility. She has continued to make art but the artier its become, the more multimedia the packages, the more difficult I've found it to engage with and enjoy. Often very impressive but not always that much fun. Her last album was a traumatic divorce record. I understand why she made it but I haven't played it very often. She's just released a new song called The Gate, the first from a new album, and it is about rebirth, hope, moving forward, a utopia compared the the self described 'hell' of Vulnicura. The video is dazzling, a bit hippy-dippy, but dazzling. The song is over six minutes long and while it never quite leaps forward and takes off like I expected it to the first time I heard it, it sounds a step into the light and part of an album that might be fun to listen to.



And as a reminder of what she gave us back in 1993 here's Come To Me, a song about the giddiness of falling in love and absolute devotion, set to a some softly padding drums, a haze of synths and sounds, and strings that sweep in to set your skin ablaze.

Come To Me

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Prequels


I don't know about prequels- the three Star Wars prequels are the biggest waste of celluloid time I can of. Clones. Tax dispute. Jar Jar Binks. Overactive and unconvincing CGI. Ewan McGregor's accent. Yawn.

Rich Lane and his Cotton Dubs on the other hand are always worth keeping an eye on. In the middle of August he released a three track ep featuring Prequels and City of Culture. Prequels is a slow motion, chug affair with a robot voice. It is not a million miles from the Code 61 Belgian New Beat track I posted recently. City Of Culture is top quality electronic dub reggae. The current City of Culture is Hull- I don't know if this is a tribute to Hull or not (Rich is from Wolverhampton which has never been City of Culture). The third track is a dub of the Prequels. You can buy all three for a measly £2.50 from Bandcamp.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Monday Archive Hour


Monday begins with an hour from Andrew Weatherall's Rotter's Golf Club Archive Hour, Volume 9 being sixty minutes of weird, wired and frazzled psyche-rock, kraut-rock, post-punk and jazz.  I don't know if this is the ideal way to start of the working week but it's all I've got right now.



Holy Mountain – Clouds Over Earthquake
World Of Rubber – Zero
Moebius & Plank - Pick The Rubber
The Gutter Twins – The Body
Baron Mordant – You Are A Door
Paul Haig & Billy Mackenzie – Listen To Me
The Bounty Hunters – Twining Park
The Tenderhooks – It Comes And Goes
Mighty Ballistic Hi-Power – Springheel Jack
Giant Paw – Flood
John Coltrane – My Favourite Things
Faron Young – Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Jesus Rides Beside Me


Live albums don't tend to take up much of my time- often they're the sort of record that get played once or twice and then filed and I don't own very many. If it's a recording of a gig you attended I can see the point and I can happily spend time listening to, say, bootlegs of New Order in the 80s but too often they don't do too much for me. I'm sure you can all make suggestions to counter that view (and I'm happy to be corrected). But there's a release coming up of a gig The Replacements played at Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey in April 1986 and the songs that have been posted on Soundcloud have got me interested. The studio versions of some of The Replacements songs didn't always do the songs justice- I've posted the unreleased rougher Tim version of Can't Hardly Wait before and it is miles better than the released one on Pleased To Meet Me. The outing Can't hardly Wait got at Maxwell's sounds close to definitive.



Pitchfork have a riotous sounding run through Bastards Of Young here. The Replacements For Sale: Live At Maxwell's 1986 is a double cd, out at the end of the month, making October looking like it's going to be as expensive as September has been. The tracklist is a pretty perfect selection of songs with I Will Dare, Unsatisfied, Answering Machine, Takin' A Ride, Color Me Impressed, Left Of The Dial, Kiss Me On The Bus, Black Diamond, Waitress In The Sky and Fuck School among the 28 songs.

In 1986 the band played Saturday Night Live. They were drunk and swore on live TV and got banned from ever playing on the show again. In a funny little coincidence they are introduced playing Bastards Of Young by the great Harry Dean Stanton who died yesterday aged 91. It has to be said, they sound better drunk than many bands sound sober.



By the time they played Kiss Me On The Bus Paul, Chris and Tommy had swapped clothes...



I don't think Saturday Night Live went out at a funny angle- the Youtube uploader's done it to avoid copyright issues.

Harry Dean Stanton, RIP.





Saturday, 16 September 2017

Big Windows To Let In The Sun


Until yesterday I didn't know that Grant Hart's song 2541, his solo debut in 1989, was covered by Robert Forster (of The Go-Betweens). Forster put it out in 1994 on a four track e.p.



I like it, Forster's voice is good but he sticks largely to Grant's song, it's a pretty straight cover. When I found it on Youtube and then played Grant's own version afterwards, I found that in the trail of comments beneath Grant himself had logged in and left a comment saying he preferred Forster's version.

The song is a beauty, full of great lines and hard won wisdom. It tells the story of a couple getting together, moving into a new home and then the break up and the leaving. Grant builds in small details that root it in personal experience- Jerry and Jimmy in the first verse who find the place and the phone number, moving in and having to keep the stove on all night long 'so the mice wouldn't freeze', putting their names on the mailbox. The dream turns sour in the second verse though as Grant admits 'it was the first place we had to ourselves, I didn't know it would be the last'. From there the only way is down but all the while through the chorus we get the reminder of the attraction of the home, the big windows to let in the sun. The final verse sees the couple apart and moving out...


'Well things are so much different now
I'd say the situation's reversed
And it'll probably not be the last time
I'll have to be out by the first'


Story telling, moving and real, painting pictures with words, Grant had the full package as a song writer. He recorded the song twice himself, once for an ep 2541, a largely acoustic version (the one I posted yesterday) and then a fuller, band version that came out on his 1989 album Intolerance (which is my favourite). So here's that version too...


Twenty-Five Forty-One

Friday, 15 September 2017

Grant Hart


I was deeply saddened yesterday by the news that Grant Hart had died aged 56. It seems a bit silly to be actually saddened by the death of a musician you've never even met but there you go. Husker Du are a band whose songs and albums hold a place close to heart. Someone once said that Bob Mould's songs in Husker Du were more consistently excellent but Grant's peaks were peakier and it's easy to roll off a list of Grant Hart songs that completely hit the spot- The Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill, Books About UFOs, Green Eyes, Keep Hanging On, Don't Want To Know If You Are Lonely, Pink Turns To Blue, Turn On The News, She's A Woman (And Now He Is A Man), Sorry Somehow, Never Talking To You Again, Flexible Flyer, She Floated Away...

Grant Hart was the hippie in a hardcore band- long hair, love beads, drumming with bare feet- who realised early on that drumming in a hardcore band could end up being pretty boring if that was all he did. So they became much more than a hardcore band, spearheading indie-punk through the 80s, paving the way for others to follow. Grant Hart was a drummer who knew how to write melodies and a songwriter who mainly dealt with the heavy stuff, but could cover it with shards of light. He took much of the blame for the break up of the band but he seemed to be the easy one to blame- he didn't hide his problems with drugs. His first solo album Intolerance is open about it. His post-Husker Du albums are full of great songs too- 2541, You're The Reflection Of The Moon On The Water, She Can See The Angels Coming, The Main, My Regrets, Admiral Of The Sea- all come close to his Husker songs and pack an emotional punch. Grant and Bob were estranged for much of the rest of Grant's life, appearing together only once to play two Du songs. They seem to have become more reconciled recently, communication opening up with a band agreed website to sell merchandise and a box set of their early works coming out in November. Their SST recordings still belong to SST who don't seem to want to sell. And they should, so something right and proper can be done with the back catalogue.

Last year I wrote a Husker Du ICA for The Vinyl Villain- you can read it here. I named my 10 track compilation after one of Grant's songs, Keep Hanging On (a song from Flip Your Wig) and used it to close my imaginary record. This is what I said about Keep Hanging On and I stand by every word even more now...

'Keep Hanging On- there are so many songs I could or maybe should have closed this album with but this one always hits me right there. From Flip You Wig, buried away towards the end of side 2, the guitars are deliciously distorted, Greg’s bass builds, the drums thump and Grant sings his heart out. His voice sounds like he is just about hanging on but ultimately this is uplifting, life affirming stuff.

Only angels have wings, girl
And poets have all the words
The earth belongs to the two of us
And the sky belongs to the birds

You've given me so much happiness
That I'll wrap up and give you this song
You gotta grab it with both hands
You gotta keep hanging on’

Thank you for all the songs Grant. They mean so much. 


Bob Mould put this tribute on his Facebook page yesterday morning-


'It was the Fall of 1978. I was attending Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. One block from my dormitory was a tiny store called Cheapo Records. There was a PA system set up near the front door blaring punk rock. I went inside and ended up hanging out with the only person in the shop. His name was Grant Hart.

The next nine years of my life was spent side-by-side with Grant. We made amazing music together. We (almost) always agreed on how to present our collective work to the world. When we fought about the details, it was because we both cared. The band was our life. It was an amazing decade.

We stopped working together in January 1988. We went on to solo careers, fronting our own bands, finding different ways to tell our individual stories. We stayed in contact over the next 29 years — sometimes peaceful, sometimes difficult, sometimes through go-betweens. For better or worse, that’s how it was, and occasionally that’s what it is when two people care deeply about everything they built together.

The tragic news of Grant’s passing was not unexpected to me. My deepest condolences and thoughts to Grant’s family, friends, and fans around the world.
Grant Hart was a gifted visual artist, a wonderful story teller, and a frighteningly talented musician. Everyone touched by his spirit will always remember.
Godspeed, Grant. I miss you. Be with the angels.'
The Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill

2541