Tuesday, 13 October 2015
'We've been waiting with our best suits on, hair slicked back and all that jazz'.
Echo And The Bunnymen benefitted massively from Bill Drummond's management, his leftfield plans and sense of theatre. In between the first and second albums (Crocodiles and Heaven Up Here) they released a four track live e.p., Shine So Hard, a document of a gig at the Pavillion in Buxton deep in the Pennines, in January 1981. The palm house, the army surplus clothing, the bright white lights, Pete's shaven head and the other three's fringes and quiff- it's never all about the music with a band, the visuals are such an important part and the Bunnymen and Drummond knew this. Echo And The Bunnymen, especially early on, had a really democratic sound, the drums, bass, guitar and vocals all seem to carry equal weight and have the same space, no one instrument dominating. All That Jazz is an early highlight, a stomping bassline, shards of guitar, military drums and Mac's urgent singing.
Monday, 12 October 2015
It's a long road from Liverpool's punk scene and Big In Japan (a band described memorably recently on BBC4 as 'less than the sum of their parts') to global success with The KLF's stadium house but it is the road Bill Drummond travelled between 1976 and 1991. He's done much of interest since too but today's post is about The KLF and their massive What Time Is Love?, remixed here by Austria's Jurgen Koppers. Mu Mu.
What Time is Love (Power Mix)
Sunday, 11 October 2015
If Friday night was about Weatherall's Disco Deviant dancefloor mix then Sunday morning is the time for the most recent edition of Music's Not For Everyone, covering all the bases and all the basses from rockabilly to psychedelia to electronica and beyond. Listen to it here.
Someone reminded me yesterday of Jam J, a 12" single from 1994 where an already experimental studio jam session with James and producer Brian Eno was then further reworked by Sabres of Paradise into a thirty three minute outer space/inner space dub with echo and all kinds of tinkering. The record was in four parts, labelled A1. Arena Dub A2. Amphetamine Pulsate B1. Sabresonic Tremolo Dub B2. Spaghetti Steamhammer. This is all four parts, both sides in one handy mp3.
Jam J (James vs Sabres of Paradise)
Saturday, 10 October 2015
Another album twenty five years old right about now is The Charlatan's debut Some Friendly, an album I'll admit underwhelmed me a little at the time. After the 1-2-3 of their opening singles (Indian Rope, The Only One I Know and Then) it seemed a little light on further killer tunes and a bit samey. It's grown on me over the years, and it might still come up a little short but it's got bags of period charm, postcards from the past- a bit like listening to songs from 1965 in 1990. And it's got Sproston Green, the gig closing, album closing monster. I don't think the smart money was on them lasting. They've not only outlasted most of their contemporaries, they've made one of this year's best albums too in Modern Nature. The sobering thought about Some Friendly is from the line up that made this record, two of them- Rob Collins and Jon Brookes- are no longer with us.
Friday, 9 October 2015
Those of you of a certain persuasion will enjoy this two hour Andrew Weatherall set from Disco Deviant in Brighton last weekend. Having been forced out of his studio by greedy developers Weatherall had a sort through his records, sold some (sold some?!) and unearthed some forgotten gems from the early to mid 90s- expect high quality machine funk, robot voices and cowbell.
A Certain Ratio were one of the key Factory Records acts but always seemed to live in the shadows of Joy Division and New Order. Their early releases were austere scratchy affairs, songs like Do The Du were masterpieces of taut bass, clipped guitar, chanted vocals, short back and sides haircuts with army shorts. By 1985 they'd lost singer Simon Topping and made records like Wild Party, funk with slap bass, busy percussion, bassist Jez Kerr on vox and a definite northern sensibility. You can dance to it but you'd keep your coat while doing so to keep out the cold.
They left Factory and signed to a major (A&M) but the commercial breakthrough never really came. It didn't stop them making some great records. Twenty five years ago last month they released ACR:MCR, a record infused with the sound of house music and new technology, one of the best British albums of the period.
Thursday, 8 October 2015
This is the Andrew Weatherall remix of the ever-so-slightly underwhelming New Order single Restless, out on Friday, green vinyl and download. Weatherall keeps Bernard's vocal and adds some echo to it, takes off the semi-acoustic guitars, sticks a thumping big kick drum underneath and adds one of those squiggly arpeggios in he's so fond of. There's a guitar line to the fore at two and a half minutes that brings a certain bass guitarist to mind. Breakdown with synths. Slashing great guitar chords halfway through and the thumping beat returns. It certainly kicks you about a bit when listened to loud.
I've been living, on and off, with Music Complete for a fortnight now and here's my tuppence of thoughts for what they're worth. The press have been largely very positive ('their best album since Technique/in twentyfive years'- a somewhat mixed acolade given they only released three albums in that time and one, Waiting For The Siren's Call, was an utter stinker and another was made as Factory collapsed around them). Many of the fans have been gushing all over various internet sites- and I'm sorry but I really cannot take seriously anyone who says that there are songs on Music Complete that in New Order's top five ever. The album has some positives though- many of the songs do sound alive, energised, a band who wanted to make an album again and were set on making it sound good. And it does sound good- the production is good, the programming is top notch, the synths are there, the guitar playing hits the spot. On some of the songs there's a real sense that this is New Order and they sound better than we might have expected. There are songs here that sound massive, that make the miles disappear and the years slip away.
On the other hand, too many of the songs are a bit formulaic (intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, break, verse, chorus, fade). Most of them go on too long, almost all them hit the five minute mark and some go over six for no real reason. The Iggy Pop song doesn't work, at least not in the context of the album. Interesting experiment but that's about it. If I wanted to hear Brandon Flowers singing (which I don't) I'd buy a Killers album (which I won't). The biggest issue for me is that they aren't moving forward, they're chasing their own sound- one song deliberately echoes Fine Time- or other people's- I Feel Love mainly. What this album ends up sounding like is a well done, glossed up version of all the New Order side projects combined, Electronic, Bad Lieutenant and The Other Two with side helpings of Pet Shop Boys and The Chemical Brothers. In fact what it sounds like mainly is a Bernard Sumner solo album with Stephen and Gillian taking part. And I can't help but feel that Bernard's got what he's wanted since sometime in the mid-to-late 80s, which is an album without any creative tension and a bass player who does what he's told and plays the root notes. God knows, they don't have anything to prove in terms of making groundbreaking art- they did more than almost any other band since 1981 to move the artform forward and redefine it. So while I can enjoy Music Complete in parts, I can't help but feel there's something missing.
Wednesday, 7 October 2015
In 1988 Joe Strummer recorded five songs for the soundtrack to the film Permanent Record, a Keanu Reeves film about teenage suicide and its effect on those left behind (something which must have struck a chord with Joe whose own brother had killed himself years earlier). For the soundtrack Joe worked with Latino Rockabilly War, a group of musicians he put together while decamped in L.A. including guitarist Zander Schloss and ex-Red Hot Chillli Pepper drummer Jack Irons. These would be the players on the Earthquake Weather album a year later. The soundtrack had five Strummer songs including solo career highlight Trash City (which I just found out Keanu Reeves played some guitar on). The title track, Theme From Permanent Record, is an instrumental and you might think 'what is the point of a Joe Strummer instrumental?' Joe wasn't a virtuoso guitarist, his voice and lyrics are what most people would pay their money for. Zander Schloss is a guitarist who sometimes needs reeling in a bit too. But this instrumental is worth a few minutes of your time today and shows one of Joe's other talents- to get a bunch of people in a room, to get a feeling going, and to get them playing something heartfelt.
Theme From Permanent Record