Unauthorised item in the bagging area

Friday 8 December 2023

The Love Letter From Space

Chris Massey is a resident of Stretford, just up the road from me, a recording artist and record label owner- Sprechen has put out music by a wide variety of people including Psychederek who has featured here before, not least with this year's gorgeous Test Card Girl single.  Chris has recently released an album under the name The Thief Of Time, a seven track record titled Where Do I Belong? When I first listened to it, one cold, dark evening this week, it hit me so hard that it sounded like it had been recorded with me specifically in mind. 

Where Do I Belong? finds inspiration in both the celestial and the more earthly, an album that is equally informed by the sounds of cosmic electronic music and South Manchester. There are sounds here that those raised in the 80s will recognise as formative influences- sequenced basslines, electronic pop, synths from rave and the technicoloured space of Andrew Weatherall's remixes. When I clicked play at Bandcamp the album began playing on track five, the aptly named Love Letter From Space, which begins with a ringing guitar part that could be late 80s Manchester or just as easily from yesterday's Coyote edit of Monsoon. The percussion and drums pad in softly, gently building, a widescreen feel of things opening up. Eventually a sampled voice drops in and the cosmic synths flit about, the two guitar notes carrying everything onwards. 

There are guest appearances from Martin Moscrop and Donald Johnson of A Certain Ratio, Marshall Watson and Allison Rae on We'll Find Each Other and Bay Bryan on Imposter Syndrome, a song which opens with a voice saying, 'It was as if I had no place in the world', and then a kick drum thumps away, synths glide in and an ecstatic lift off is achieved, the sounds of dance music, pop and Balearica stirred together in a day glo sunshine. 

Psychederek turns up on the album's final song, Rendezvous On A Lost World, one of those pulsing, propulsive, space age, half ecstatic/ half melancholic songs that mid 80s New Order excelled it, but sprinkled with 2023's dust, Psychederek singing, 'I'm not alone... the present sees me through', as the bass, drums, synths and guitars push away into the horizon. 

Where Do I Belong? is a superb sounding album, arriving just in time for the end of the year, songs and sounds filled with emotion and depth, the result of several decades of living in and soaking up culture, the music, TV, film, sounds, comics, clubs, dancefloors, books, clothes and magazines, absorbed and stored away inside. Where Do I Belong? is out now on Sprechen, on vinyl, limited hand created CD, digital and with a tote bag if you're looking for something extra. Find them all here

Thursday 7 December 2023

The Revolution Will Be Live

Today's post is post number 5, 555 which is an achievement and numerologically pleasing, all those fives lined up. 

I reviewed two Coyote releases for Ban Ban Ton Ton earlier this week, a post you can read here if you're interested. The review focussed on the forthcoming six track mini- album Hurry Up And Live and a vinyl only release, a 12" containing four Coyote edits. One of the four was featured earlier this year, an refit of Ever So Lonely by Monsoon, and one of my most played tracks of this year). The 1982 original is a dreamy sitar- led pop song with wonderful vocals from Sheila Chandra. 

The second edit is a superb update of a Gil Scott Heron song retitled Western Revolution, Gil's spoken word poetry describing the revolution required by people in the west, the first revolution taking place in the mind and second with action. The lazy groove and gently drifting tune is pure Coyote brilliance. 

Not included in my Coyote roundup at Ban Ban Ton Ton is this piece of sun baked Balearica with Woodentop Rolo McGinty on vocals and acoustic guitar, a heady, catchy and very summer sounding song celebrating the specific delights of partaking in the smoking of the weed in the shade on hot days. Listen/  buy here

Wednesday 6 December 2023

Ocean's Apart

More music in the cosmic scouse lineage today, following yesterday's Mick Head songs and a connection to Mick's producer Bill Ryder- Jones, ex- guitarist with today's psychedelic Wirral bunch The Coral. I came  across this song elsewhere and recalled reading a review of The Coral's album, released back in September- Sea Of Mirrors. The reviews had been really positive and the interview I read in early autumn left me making a mental note to check out Sea Of mirrors and its vinyl only counterpart Holy Joe's Coral Island Medicine Show. For whatever reason I didn't do the checking out and The Coral's latest albums slipped off my list until Sunday when I heard this...

Ocean's Apart

The album was billed as the imaginary soundtrack to a lost spaghetti Western film, Ennio Morricone, dreamy Wirral country rock and psychedelia stirred into one pot. Ocean's Apart pretty much fulfills that description with the addition of Cillian Murphy turning up at the end of the song for a spoken word section, and has left me wanting to dig deep into the rest of the album. 

Browsing my music folders I then found another recent Coral song, one called Faceless Angel, a song I don't believe I'd heard until I started writing this post. Faceless Angel came out in April 2021, the lead single ahead of their then new album Coral Island, an album I failed to investigate back in 2021 despite (once again) positive reviews that left me thinking it sounded really interesting and right up my street. This one has skiffle-y railway rhythms, reverb drenched vocals and sweeping strings.

Faceless Angel

All of which leaves me with three Coral albums to get into, two from this year and a double from two years ago. I have some of their earlier stuff, the Skeleton Key EP from 2002 and their self titled debut from the same year, Magic And Medicine and I think  2004's The Invisible Invasion (produced by Portishead) and a couple of singles. And then nothing until all of this. This is the first time I've posted anything by them here too. 

Tuesday 5 December 2023

Ciao Ciao Bambino

Mick Head and his Red Elastic Band are back with the first new song since their 2022 album Dear Scott. The new song, Ciao Ciao Bambino, doesn't stray far from the Mick Head template but it is everything that makes him great in a three minute nutshell. Produced by Bill Ryder- Jones it sounds like Love transplanted from West Coast USA in 1967 to Liverpool in 2023, a perfect blend of fuzz bass, trumpets, gently strummed acoustic guitars and Mick's voice of experience singing lines of hard won wisdom- 'I used to do the gee gees/ But they done me/ I had to ditch tequila/ She set me free'. It's the sort of song you can't imagine hasn't existed before last week, it sounds like it's been around forever. 

If you don't know Mick Head and The Red Elastic Band's two recent albums, Dear Scott from last year and 2017'w Adios Senor Pussycat then you're in for a treat playing them for the first time. If you do know them, re- listening and rediscovering is a treat too. 

Adios Amigo is from Adios Senor Pussycat, a jangle of guitars and sweeping strings to close the album, with Mick singing adieu, 'Goodbye Saint Domingo/ Farewell Letitia Street/ It's adios amigo/ Gonna have to set you free/ Still got no time for money/ And money's got no time for me/ It's adios amigo, Gonna have to set you free...'

Adios Amigo

On 2022's  Dear Scott Mick found himself on the crest of a wave, the album featuring at the top end of many end of year lists. In the middle of side two was The Ten, a lush, gorgeous, melodic gem, a lyrical  tour through Liverpool, and ending with some very evocative strings, the fade out to an imaginary film from the 60s about a young couple running away from everything, reaching the beach and finding there's nowhere left to go. 

The Ten

Monday 4 December 2023

Monday's Long Song

Today's long song, one of the longest ever presented in this long running series, came to me via a friend whose taste I trust implicitly and who listened to this in one sitting- the best way to do it I think so set aside forty three minutes for it- and declared himself shell-shocked. The track is called ONE, a single album length track, by Noema. It is ambitious and widescreen, undeniably cosmic, wide eyed and life affirming, an interstellar journey. Noema describes it as a happening from the 1970s, a juncture where Sun Ra, Larry Levan and Steve Reich meet. 

ONE is partly based on Terry Riley's In C, with the piece made up of 56 separate musical patterns- strings, shakers, drums, oboes, clarinets, vibraphones, voices- played from the start, repeated and played consecutively, with each player left to decide when to move on at their own pace. It could be chaos but it's a beautiful, entrancing, uplifting forty three minutes of music, just the sort of thing to lift any early December gloom you may be suffering from and the hell that is entering any retail establishment and being subjected to the horrors of festive music. ONE is where the joy is, a cosmic, expansive, nu- classical, outernational joy. Listen and buy (digitally, on vinyl or CD) here

There is a stage show as well, choreography, costumes, an orchestra and graphics and videos, the story of four interdimensional space beings who have lost their way and who need to reconnect. During the performance the five actors invite members of the audience to join in (which could be your worst nightmare). There are remixes too, by Kalabrese, Lauer and  Shubostar here. Lauer's remix is a mere six minutes forty one seconds if you're short of time, a more sci fi/ house version. 

Sunday 3 December 2023

Forty Minutes Of The Jesus And Mary Chain

The Reid brothers William and Jim announced their return to action last week with a new album, Glasgow Eyes (their first since the rather good Damage And Joy from 2017), a tour kicking off in Manchester in March and a new single jamcod. The video opens with a warning about strobe lights and then the hissy synth kicks in, reverb and distortion are everywhere, William plays a signature guitar riff and Jim sings and snarls, a vocal that could have been put down at almost any point between 1984 and three weeks ago.  

To coincide with this new song I thought a Bagging Area JAMC Sunday Mix was in order, one that throws in some rarities and some singles, an edit and some covers, ending at the beginning. 

Forty Minutes Of The Jesus And Mary Chain

  • Nine Million Rainy Days (Los Lopez Club Edit)
  • Snakedriver
  • Coast To Coast (Alt Take with William vocal)
  • Crackin' Up
  • The Hardest Walk
  • Head On
  • All Things Pass
  • Everything's Alright When You're Down
  • If You Gotta Go
  • You Can't Stop The Rock
  • Upside Down

Nine Million Rainy Days was on Darklands, 1987's follow up to Psychocandy, an album that got them a proper hit (April Skies) and a bigger, slightly more polished sound.This edit by Los Lopez from 2012 has a juddering synth bassline not too far from the sound Jim and William have cooked up on jamcod. 

Snakedriver was a 1992 single, a shuddering, scabrous, noisy blast of self loathing that will give your eyes a good clean out and make you feel like you've bene dragged through William's FX pedals backwards. In a good way. 

Coast To Coast was one of the highlights of 1989's Automatic, Jim, William and a drum machine, with more reports from the frontline of the USA, Jesus and Coke. At the time Automatic felt a bit flat, a bit like they didn't know what to do or where to go. Now it sounds like a great Mary Chain album. This version with William singing instead of Jim came out on the Power Of Negative Thinking box set, a rarities and B-sides release from 2008.

Crackin' Up was the lead single from the album that broke them back in 1998, Munki. A William sung song with a riff that isn't a million miles from the one in jamcod. The band broke up on stage in Los Angeles. Alcohol and sibling rivalry played their part. When the brothers re- united for Damage And Joy and recent tours they had a new set of rules. Jim had given up drinking completely and William stopped drinking on stage. 

Punk trumpeter Terry Edwards with his The Scapegoats recorded an entire EP of Mary Chain covers in 1991. He then went on to play trumpet with the band. His cover of The Hardest Walk is a blast. 

Head On was a single in November 1989 and is one of my favourite Mary Chain songs. When they reformed and played Manchester Academy a few years ago, playing Psychocandy in full, they did an encore set first, seven songs, then a brief pause and then Psychocandy. They opened with Head On. Endearingly they messed up the beginning of You Trip Me Up twice, finally getting it right on the third go. Yes, I could have included Pixies cover of this song here instead.

All Things Pass was on their 2017 comeback album Damage And Joy, made with Youth on production and containing several songs the brothers had recorded separately in the period the band were broken up. All Things Must Pass dated from 2008, a different recording done for the TV superhero series Heroes. Two chords. Fuzz. Sneering vocals. It was like they'd never been away.

Everything's Alright When You're Down was the B-side to 1987s Happy When It Rains. Three minutes of Reidian perfection dissolving into feedback. 

If You Gotta Go was on a Jim Reid solo single, Dead End Kids, released in 2006, a cover of a Bob Dylan song. After the Mary Chain ended Jim formed Freeheat with Nick Sanderson and Ben Lurie and then reverted to using his name, recruiting Loz Colbert from Ride and Phil King from Lush for a tour that included a very low key gig at Night And Day in Manchester. 

You Can't Stop The Rock was on Little Pop Rock an album by Linda Reid, Jim and William's sister, who recorded as Sister Vanilla. Both brothers contributed songs and performances separately- they weren't taking at the time. You can't Stop The Rock then re- appeared on Damage And Joy. Little Pop Rock is a good album, a hidden gem in the Reid family back catalogue. 

Upside Down was The Jesus and Mary Chain's debut single in 1984. It gave the Reid's overdriven feedback to the world and gave Alan McGee and Creation Records a kickstart. Bobby Gillespie thumps the drums, standing up. It all started here, so it seems a good place to finish this mix. 

Saturday 2 December 2023

Saturday Live/ Shane McGowan RIP

Shane McGowan's death on Thursday at the age of 65 didn't come as a huge surprise. He'd been ill and in intensive care for some time and in some ways its amazing he lived as long as he did, given his lifestyle since being a child, but it's still terribly sad- he was a true one off, a unique voice in modern life, a lyricist who mashed Irish folk songs together with punk and poetry to create some of the most memorable songs of the late 20th century. Through his words Shane covered all bases- he was a poet, a writer who was both a realist and a romantic, a story teller and a protest singer, a truth teller, a mythical singer/ writer who willed himself into action, wouldn't take no for an answer and lived his own way. The riotous Pogues of the mid- 80s, their albums and gigs are the stuff of legend, an antidote to Thatcherite Britain and the generic, safe and overblown music that clogged up radio and TV. 

By 1990 and the Hell's Ditch album, a record produced by Joe Strummer, Shane had largely lost interest in the group which he felt had become too professional and unwilling to take on his burgeoning interest in acid house. His growing love for acid house (and drug consumption to match) led to an album which many felt showed the group were past their best. It does contain several great songs though, including this one, which is one of my favourite Pogues songs (written by Shane on a Casio keyboard apparently). 

Summer In Siam

This hour long film captures The Pogues live at The Town And Country Club in  March 1988, the life affirming power of the band in full flow on St. Patrick's Day. Joe Strummer, Steve Earle, Lynval Golding and Kirsty McColl all show up and join in. The set starts with The Broad Majestic Shannon (a song I once spent ages trying to fathom why Shane's narrator was sitting watching the robots landing on the banks of the famous Irish river. After all the beauty in Shane's words, tales of Ireland and drinking, rusty tin cans and old hurling balls, tears on cheeks and forgetting your fears, the appearance of robots seemed very odd to me. 'Rowboats, Adam, rowboats', a friend pointed out to me- via postcard if I recall correctly). From there on in it's Pogues all the way, London Calling in the middle, a cover of Rudy A Message To You and finishing with The Wild Rover. What more could you want?

There are so many songs that I could be post to demonstrate Shane's gift. Any Best Of... would include A Pair Of Brown Eyes, Sally MacLennane, Dirty Old Town, Streams Of Whisky, Rainy Night In Soho, Fiesta, The Body Of An American, The Broad Majestic Shannon and umpteen others. These two are as good as any of those. Boys From County Hell is from their 1984 debut Red Roses For Me, a raucous tale of drinking boys and how they deal with life and landlords. Haunted, with Cat O'Riordan on co- vocals with Shane, is from the soundtrack to Sid And Nancy in 1986, a gloriously ramshackle mid- 80s love song, a counterpoint to what accounted for love songs in the mainstream in August 1986. 

Boys From County Hell


Shane and his post- Pogues band The Popes also did a version of Haunted with Sinead O'Connor singing alongside Shane, released in 1995, their voices sounding rather wonderful together, a more subdued version than the one The Pogues had released.

A lot of people have noted that Shane, Sinead and Kirsty McColl are now united in death, that they'll be 'up there' somewhere, singing together and partying. It's a nice idea. I don't know how Shane McGowan might respond to that suggestion. I can quite believe he'd have had a strong belief in an afterlife and expect to see Sinead and Kirsty once again. I can quite believe too that he might clear his throat, cackle and reply 'pogue mahone'. 

RIP Shane McGowan.