Saturday, 29 April 2017
Jonathan Demme died a couple of days ago. When I was seventeen I watched Stop Making Sense for the first time, the Talking Heads concert film he made. It is fair to say that it made quite an impression on me. I wore my VHS copy out. This performance of Life During Wartime is something else with so many memorable moments- the keyboards are out there, David Byrne is full on and the bit where the front line all jog on the spot at the front of the stage is visually stunning.
Not only that, but this as well. New Order's best video for one of their many 80s peaks.
Friday, 28 April 2017
In 1987 Ce Ce Rogers and Marshall Jefferson made Someday, one of the definitive early house music records and the first house record released on a major label. From the warm, bouncing bassline to Ce Ce's vocal and the optimism of the lyrics, it is a record that leaves better than when it found you.
Thursday, 27 April 2017
In The Trees by Faze Action was a 1996 funky house single with disco undertones, sweeping strings headed for summer (made by brothers Simon and Robin Lee in Buckinghamshire). They went on to make plenty of other singles and albums but In The Trees is the one that they are known for.
In 2007 Carl Craig fed it through his Detroit techno/science fiction remix machine, starting out with a rhythmic buzzing sound and then adding layers and layers on top. The kick drum arrives after a couple of minutes. The synths rush in from stage left. By the time the strings hit you, the ride is all consuming and you're completely sucked in, heading for the black hole.
In The Trees (Carl Craig C2 Remix 4)
Wednesday, 26 April 2017
I watched the Warpaint gig from 6 Music's Glasgow festival on the iPlayer last week and then went back to last year's Heads Up album which underwhelmed me at the time. I'm a big fan of the group, the dance-rock grooves, the post-punk bass, Californian harmonies and fluid guitars, but Heads Up just seemed to wash over me without making much of an impact. I've got a bit more out of it now. This song, So Good, has a funky disco drumbeat, locked in bass from Jenny Lee and the vaguest of choruses. The instrumental part towards the end where the keys play off against the rest is a joy.
Tuesday, 25 April 2017
I've posted This Is The Day by The The before, twice in fact, but until last week I had never seen the video.
None of you need me to tell you what a great song this is, from the accordian to the softly sung vocals and the affecting autobiographical lyrics. I always assumed Matt was singing about a woman he knew but it occurred to me watching the video that he might be singing to himself. Either way, the observations are spot on. It is also one of those songs which seems to be about you. I'm also a big fan of the 1993 version complete with Casio organ preset rhythm (also known as That Was The Day)
This Is The Day (Disinfected Version)
The early 90s full band version of The The, including Johnny Marr and James Eller plus Zeke Manyika, reunited for a RSD only 7" playing tribute to Matt's artist brother Andy, who designed the eye catching The The sleeves, who sadly died last year. Just 2000 copies, no re-release, no downloads. I know at least one person reading this has one.
Saturday, 22 April 2017
We are driving to London today to watch a friend run the London marathon on Sunday. He lost his wife Sarah to cancer four years ago aged just forty-two, leaving his three daughters without a Mum. He couldn't run to the bottom of the road a few months ago so doing twenty-six miles is a big deal. If you've got any spare change down the back of the sofa or in that jar on the side and fancy making a donation his Just Giving page is here.
We won't be driving back until Sunday evening so I doubt there will be any new posts here until Tuesday. See you then. This is an early track from Battersea's finest, The Orb.
Tripping On Sunshine (Live Mix)
Friday, 21 April 2017
DJ Harvey looks a bit like that bloke in your local pub who got on one in 1989 and never really got off. Five years ago he put out an album as Locussolus which came with a bunch of remixes- Weatherall, Prins Thomas, Lindstrom, Emperor Machine and this one from Richard Norris' Time And Space Machine, a summer in the Balearic Isles house thumper with a gruff vocal.
Thursday, 20 April 2017
Henry McCullough is the subject of one of 2016's best songs, recorded by BP Fallon and David Holmes, a long, euphoric, spoken word tribute to the Northern Irish guitarist and songwriter. BP Fallon's vocal was recorded when he stayed at Holmes' house, the night after Henry's funeral. It's a stunning piece of work.
On Saturday Record Shop Day will be upon us again, the annual cash cow for record companies and Ebay scalpers, with the odd sideline benefit for independent record shops and fans. In terms of its intentions starting out, it was meant to get people back into record shops. Job done I think. But it's crossed over into something else now, something more crass and brazenly commercial. On the other hand, irritatingly, there are always one or two things that I want. Andrew Weatherall's stellar remixes of this track is this year's must-have record here in the Bagging Area bunker.
Wednesday, 19 April 2017
Another long song but one that seems to shoot by far quicker than yesterday's expansive Screamadelica is Bang Bang Machine's Geek Love (also a favourite of Drew's but I don't think he's posted it this year). Bang Bang Machine, from Evesham near Worcester, never really found much success outside the indie ghetto and self financed this 12" which was also a favourite of John Peel and his listeners, who made it their Festive Fifty number one in 1992. The song starts out as indie rock but at a couple of minutes in becomes something dancier and stays there in, a dance-shoegaze groove with a totally hypnotic drum pattern and entrancing vocals, building further until finishing just after nine minutes. Lovely.
Tuesday, 18 April 2017
Can you feel the rhythm?
Some songs that are ten minutes long fly by and some feel like they are ten minutes long, a journey to wherever the artist intends to take you. Screamadelica, the title track that wasn't on the album of the same name, was recorded in Memphis with Weatherall and Nicholson at the controls and released on the Dixie Narco ep in 1992. It is ten minutes of blissful Balearic house accompanied by Denise Johnson's vocals- 'spaced out, star child, screamadelica'- and an array of found sounds and other voices. Slip inside.
Monday, 17 April 2017
I think this is the first time I've posted anything by a band from South Korea- and if Trump continues the way he's set out recently it may be the last time too. The Korean peninsula is in danger of being wiped out in by a nuclear exchange ordered by a former reality TV show host who has ended up in charge of the world's most powerful military versus the clearly barking mad son of a tyrant/traditional dictator.
Say Sue Me come from Busan and are about to tour the UK with Otoboke Beaver. They have their first release outside of South Korea out on indie label Damnably. This song, I Know I'm Kind Of Boring, is fuzzy, melodic indie rock not a million miles away from Kid Wave and I could listen to it all day. You can buy their album at Bandcamp.
Sunday, 16 April 2017
April 14th saw a load of Aphex Twin articles published across the net, in honour of his 2001 track Avril 14th. I had a vague plan to post Avril 14th but forgot about it so here I am, two days late.
Avril 14th has been used in Hollywood films, sampled by Kanye West and streamed 38 million times. It is a beautiful, minimal piano piece, two and a bit minutes long, Erik Satie-like, that sounds like a robot has been left with a piano in the small hours.
This is Avril 14th slowed down by 1000% by Evan Chapman, twenty minutes of ambient noise.
Saturday, 15 April 2017
Peter Perrett of The Only Ones is the writer of a song that all bloggers are legally obliged to have posted at least once (Another Girl Another Planet). He has a long awaited solo album about to come out and this song has just appeared.
Peter's got a voice that is instantly recognisable and totally distinctive. This song lopes along like the Velvet Underground but a VU that celebrates Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez. That's his sons are on lead guitar and bass.
While we're here, here's The Only Ones live at the Electric Ballroom in Camden in 1980. The gig was released as a live album in 1989 which I bought following reading a review in either the NME or Melody Maker. The final song Me And My Shadow blew me away then and still does now- Peter's vocals are wracked and drawled like no one else's, the guitars are vicious and the drums thumping.
Me And My Shadow (Live in 1980)
Friday, 14 April 2017
There is an absurd amount of music to explore at Psychemagik's Soundcloud page and their Bandcamp page (where they've just archived eight years of tracks for a fiver). Like Steve Cobby's recent six disc re-issue of How About Some More Ether? it's a question of getting stuck in and seeing which ones make the ears prick up the most and then getting to know the rest better over time. This song, Chimera, is very good, a laid back blend of drums and strings...
And I'm also quite taken with this remix the duo did for Roisin Murphy two years ago, a throbbing synth led dancefloor thing...
Thursday, 13 April 2017
Last week Slam celebrated a quarter of a century by taking over Rinse FM and inviting a load of guests to play mixes/podcasts. One of those invited was Andrew Weatherall who put forward the hour of music on the player below, which includes some speaker rattling reggae, some head rattling psychedelia and some weird stuff. You'll find something to enjoy in it somewhere.
Wednesday, 12 April 2017
I was reminded of this song on social media the other day and it re-awakened the song for me. Hyperballad swoops in from somewhere else, from Bjork's imagination and Nellee Hooper's fingertips, picks you up and carries you off for a few minutes, somewhere else entirely. Not so much a song, more a force of nature. There's nothing ordinary, prosaic or run-of-the-mill about Hyperballad. Bjork's own explanations of it, about being a few years into a relationship and making it feel alive and 'the art of not forgetting about yourself' add to the song (sometimes when artists explain what I song is about I wish they hadn't bothered). The music sweeps by in a rush of rhythms and textures, brilliantly and beautifully.
Tuesday, 11 April 2017
In this post-Brexit world we live in it seems more important than ever to keep looking forward, to try to keep finding things that make the days lighter and longer. Over in Sweden the Hoga Nord label have an ever expanding catalogue of leftfield music. This one from Fontan was released last August, a three track 12" (now sold out). Hoga Nord claim that Fontan are Sweden's 'number one neo-psych band' and I have no reason to doubt them. Is this trippy late 60s rock retrogressive? Possibly. But is it good? Yes indeed.
The third track off the single, Sen Sen No Sen, is a psychedelic and repetitive delight, eight and a half minutes of drumming, percussion, glockenspiel with drones and heady noises.
Monday, 10 April 2017
Good advice Joe.
Earthquake Weather, Joe Strummer's 1989 album, is a bit of a mess in places. There are some of Joe's most affecting solo songs (Sleepwalk, Island Hopping), some mostly forgettable ones and some that sound like Joe couldn't quite get it sorted. The songs that are decent aren't helped by the production and the mixing. Gangsterville has a rambling lyric full of Joe lyrical tropes and a bashed out musical track complete with a squealing guitar solo. For the intro Joe mutters something and then the band crash in. There are some good moments, where the song breaks down and the piano runs down and Joe sings the song's title - and then the band come back in again, crashing about. There's a good song lurking inside Gangsterville but the performance and the production do their best to hide it. Joe was lacking confidence at this point, well into his self proclaimed wilderness years, and worked on Earthquake Weather in Los Angeles without a musical partner. Another voice alongside him, co-writing and in the control booth, and Earthquake Weather might have been a very different record.
Sunday, 9 April 2017
Saturday, 8 April 2017
1991 spoilt us in many ways musically, not least with the release of Massive Attack's Blue Lines, a real melting pot album. Dub's basslines, reggae's sound systems, hip hop's rhythms, punk's DIY attitude. Unfinished Sympathy gets all the plaudits (quite rightly, it's an astonishing record) but Safe From Harm is a huge and brilliant song, led by the driving and tautest of basslines (sampled from Billy Cobham's Stratus) and then overlaid with 3D's paranoia rap and Shara's vocals. The long version from the 12" is has more of everything that's good about this song.
Safe From Harm (Long Version)
Friday, 7 April 2017
There are plenty of Madonna singles I'll make a case for, from Into The Groove to Ray Of Light and several in between. I even like American Pie. In 1990 she released two singles that are as good as anything she did, splicing pop with house to stay a step ahead of the rest, and pushing pop music into new places. Vogue is a smart pop song, a dance, a homage to 1920s and 1930s style and Hollywood legend, a light shining on the gay club scene, and a celebration of the dancefloor. The rap section is totally memorable and the rhythm can only have come from producer Shep Pettibone's exposure to house music in Europe.
Justify My Love was a step further, calculated to cause offence and controversy. Co-written by Lenny Kravitz, drums borrowed from Public Enemy (and Clyde Stubblefield originally), it sets off like a train and Madonna's breathy vocals make it clear there's only one thing on her mind. The video features the full range of button pushers for the TV censors- scenes of a sexual nature, cross-dressing, BDSM and nudity, all par for the course for Madonna in 1990. The Sex book (with Vanilla Ice of all people) was just around the corner. Justify My Love is a great single in its own right though, a chuggy dance pop monster. The video was banned by MTV (obvs) and to watch it you'd have to buy it on VHS. Until Youtube was invented.
Justify My Love
Thursday, 6 April 2017
The Hurt are back in May with a new single, Sleeping backed with Darker Sun. They have two former Paris Angels in their ranks, Rikki Turner and Paul Wagstaff (also of Black Grape), pictured above by Paul Husband. These songs are a long way from the heady days of Madchester though. Sleeping growls and grinds, Rikki's baritone vocals recalling a northern Nick Cave, hiding his face from the light. Darker Sun is a brooding, bass led thing with overloaded guitars and female vocals, the soundtrack to a night out under the streetlamps in the rain. Both are well worth some of your hard earned. I'll put some links up to listen and to buy when its released.
As a reminder, last year they put out the excellent, uplifting Berlin which came with a remix of The Dead by acid house hero Suddi Raval (of Hardcore Uproar fame), available at Bandcamp and on the Bandcamp player below.
Wednesday, 5 April 2017
It can't just be about new music can it? No, it can't. This record by The Holy Ghost Inc. came out in 1990 and combined house and ambient to make a record so expansive, so hypnotic and so magical that 12" of vinyl seems too small a format to contain it, never mind a piddly 8.19 MB MP3 rip. Float away.
Walk On Air (Sun & Moon Mix)
Tuesday, 4 April 2017
There's lots of new stuff around at the moment. To continue yesterday's theme, it's not 'new' new stuff, but new stuff from older bands. There must be an analysis that says that April and May are good times to release music. Last week Gorillaz put out four new songs. I was going to type 'dropped four new singles' but I gagged a little bit at typing 'dropped' and I don't think an internet only song counts as a single (or if singles even exist anymore. I know that 7" singles still exist but when one artist releases an album and all the songs off it enter the top twenty, the single is pretty much a dead form I think).
The four new Gorillaz songs are a mixed bunch, and I suspect the album to follow will be too (which like all Gorillaz albums carries a long list of guest stars and collaborators from Grace Jones to De La Soul to Johnny Beth to Mavis Staples to Jamie Principle and so on). The best one and the only one I've so far wanted to listen to several times is Andromeda, which is a skip away from dance music, with a house beat and synths and a Damon vocal that isn't just that listless one he usually does. It sounds like it was fun to make and is fun to listen to.
A bit less upfront, more subtle and more interested in texture and mood is this new song from Goldfrapp. I haven't heard the whole album yet but this song, Moon In Your Mouth, is a lovely thing. The synths are moody, immersive and spacious, building, and Alison's vocal matches them, soaring where it needs to. Goldfrapp flit from synth stomp albums to folky albums. This song takes parts from both and adds some science fiction.
Monday, 3 April 2017
Maybe we've reached a point where band re-unions have become worthwhile artistically. In the past, when the 60s groups and the punk bands reformed it was often a case of the fans get a nostalgic night out and the band members get a payday (see also The Stone Roses). Not much in the way of new material that meant anything was forthcoming. Let's face it, no one really wanted the reformed Sex Pistols to make an album of new songs. When Television reformed people got to see a group they'd never seen, only been able to hear on record. That was enough (and Television went on to make new records that many people thought were pretty good but I bet they don't play them much anymore). But I think there's something changing. The new songs from Slowdive are a case in point. Star Roving came out a few months ago and sounded great and now there's a new one. Listen to this, out last week ahead of an album in May...
That is fucking gorgeous. It sounds like the work of the group who made Souvlaki. But it also sounds new and like the work of people who have moved onwards. Maybe the experience they had first time around- success very quickly when young, the music press inventing new cliches to describe their sound and then turning on them very quickly too, goaded on by press savvy starlets like Richey Edwards (who said they were worse than Hitler), three albums and then dropped by a label (Creation of all people) that wanted hits- was so accelerated and so intense that they had to stop. The act of having a break for twenty years, getting back together older and wiser, with two decades worth of new sounds to make and new things to say, makes for good music if the creative intent is there. The pressure of the early 90s music press has gone. There's an audience of fans from first time around who have money and babysitters. There are new fans who have reclaimed the word shoegaze and turned it from sneer to celebration (Drew said that there were loads of young people lapping up Ride in Glasgow the other week). There are new groups who have grown up using parts of the sound and moving it on themselves. It used to be the case, especially with guitar groups, that youth was the thing, bands had to be hip young gunslingers. Maybe that doesn't matter anymore. Reform and do it again but better.
Sunday, 2 April 2017
Back in 2013 Forest Swords, a one man producer from Wirral, put out an album called Engravings which I really enjoyed (and digging further back an ep called Dagger Paths). He's back with a new song and a new album in May (Compassion). Arms Out is a bit of a stunner....
I think it's fair to say there's a certain amount of Massive Attack in it but it has an optimism that's sometimes missing from the Bristolians and those strings over those beats with the delay on the snatches of voice are pretty breathtaking.
Working backwards there was another new one at the start of March, The Highest Flood, more abstract sounds, fractured drums and suddenly some choral voices. All very intriguing, and while sounding very urban its all a bit pastoral too. Wirral is one of those kind of in-between places, surrounded by sea on three sides and with a bigger, more famous neighbour across the Mersey- maybe that's what's coming out in the music. May looks like being an expensive month.
Saturday, 1 April 2017
Like Drew I've been listening to the Mary Chain mostly this week, working my way through the studio albums in the car to and from work and getting to know Damage And Loss at home. So Saturday, April 1st (no Fools stuff here I'm afraid), first day off work for two weeks, something different and brand new for the blog to go with the return of Bruce Pennington's kitchy sci-fi 70s artworks.
This is the latest from Rich Lane, a chuggy piece of machine music for dancers and headnodders alike. Even better than the original mix of Dumb It Down is the Jack Butters remix (click the Next symbol on the player), music from a dark machine, a twangy guitar in there too and the robotic vocal of Alien Sofa. Buy both from Bandcamp for £1.80 and Rich, Jack and Alien will put it towards the cost of a pint in a Wetherspoons somewhere.
Friday, 31 March 2017
Here's a Weatherall mix that somehow passed me by- back in 2014 he spent a year as the Faber Social artist in residence and this was his last post for them, an hour long mixtape titled the Final Transmission.
Suite of Culto Solar - Luis Perez
Life Child - Rameses
Dreamworld - The End
Estergon Kalesi - Baris Manco
Viens Dans Ma Vie - Kenan
Beyond the Realms of Dub - Mad Professor
Mocking Bird Dream - Patrick Cowley
Troll - Tank
Blues - Opia
#2 Hit Jam - Dead Radio
Old Gospel Medley #1 - Luther Dickinson
Thursday, 30 March 2017
The Madchester Rave On e.p. is best known for the musical dance riot that is Hallelujah but there were three other songs on the disc- Holy Ghost, Clap Your Hands and the one here which gave the record its name. Rave On is a swirl of keyboards and guitars mashed together by Martin Hannett, some funk slap bass, massively echo laden drums and Shaun Ryder giving it the full on stream-of-consciousness through his centre parting vibe. Various phrases bubble up- we know how to do it, you're a walking miracle, well the worm has definitely turned for you. I can't decipher it all, I may have misheard some of these (for the last twenty seven and a half years) and the usual lyric websites aren't much help and maybe that's for the best because the not knowing and the guessing is all part of the fun. I suspect they're mainly about taking drugs. No one else sounded like this then and hasn't since really.
Wednesday, 29 March 2017
Today is the day an unelected Prime Minister with no mandate, desiring only to suck up to the Daily Mail, the right wing of the Tory Party and a slim majority of those who bothered to vote last year, pushes the button to start the process of isolating the UK from European political and economic union.
Don't worry, I'm sure it will be fine.
Rowland S Howard was in Boys Next Door and The Birthday Party with Nick Cave and also Crime And The City Solution before making a couple of excellent solo albums. He died at the end of 2009.
Tuesday, 28 March 2017
This should have been posted this morning but it didn't happen. My fault.
Here is something epic and funky to welcome Tuesday. Epic and funky are two very overused words but in this song's case both are accurate. Psychemagik came up with this spirit raising, smile inducing instrumental for a Phonica sampler back in 2014. Two internet friends put me onto it last week for which I am very grateful.
Triumph Of The Gods
Monday, 27 March 2017
An hour and a half in the company of The Jesus And Mary Chain is a good thing at the moment. They turned on their own brand of charm on Saturday night, sounding engaged, interested and on some sort of mission. The opening one-two-three of Amputation, April Skies and Head On set us up nicely for what followed- some hits, some album tracks and some new songs. They were ragged enough for it not to seem too drilled or professional- Jim had to speak to the audience in gap after the opener due to a technical problem with William's sound and he ran out of things to say pretty quickly. They had three attempts at getting The Hardest Walk off the ground and at least one other song had a false start too. I like this slightly shambolic edge, it adds to the proceedings, reminds us of who they were. William's guitar is loud in the mix, often overpowering the rest of the group except for Jim and the snare drum, and he peels off the chords and top lines from behind his mess of hair, backlighting and dry ice. Those three sounds are what I want from a Mary Chain gig- Jim's voice, William's guitar and some drums. Teenage Lust is heavy and dark. Darklands highlights Cherry Came Too and Nine Million Rainy Days sound brittle and menacing. Some Candy Talking is fuzzy and tense, building to a staccato end. Reverence is long and overdriven. The encore brings a mini-Psychocandy, Just Like Honey, The Living End, You Trip Me Up and Taste Of Cindy before finishing with War On Peace, another new one. This slow approach to the reunion has done them some good, not rushing in and pushing it. Making an album, by their own admission a stressful experience, and managing to remain on speaking terms shows some growth. These miserable, uncommunicative but maybe now slightly more grown up middle aged men have found a way to make it work. Long may they have the blues.
Sunday, 26 March 2017
At least from today onwards until October the clock in my car will be telling the right time. British summertime starts today- you did remember to put your clocks forward didn't you? Yesterday's sunshine made it feel like the seasons had changed at a stroke. Everything feels a little better with some sun on your face.
It gives me a good excuse to post this Ultramarine song from 1991.
Saturday, 25 March 2017
While looking for something else on the net I found this picture of fans of The Cure from 1985. It was an easily obtainable look for those willing to go the distance with the crimpers.
This 1985 single by The Cure couldn't sound more like New Order if Hooky played the bass and Stephen Morris was on the drums. No mistaking the voice though, it couldn't be anyone other than Robert Smith. A song about regretting the mistakes of a love triangle and losing the girl he wanted with the finest pop melodies and the jauntiest rhythm.
In Between Days
A song I've posted before, back in 2012 it seems, making reference to the New Order comparisons. Round and round....
Friday, 24 March 2017
The new Jesus And Mary Chain album is out today, not words I necessarily thought I'd end up typing when I started this blog. I'm reasonably excited about the new album, tempered slightly by the fact that seven of the fourteen songs have been recorded and released by one Reid brother or the other in previous post-split incarnations- I've heard half of the album before, but still, new Mary Chain is new Mary Chain. This single from February is one of the new new ones and is good enough. Tomorrow night they're on at Manchester Academy and I shall be in attendance. Hopefully they'll still cut it live- they certainly did on the Psychocandy tour a couple of years ago.
Thursday, 23 March 2017
Andrew Weatherall, mentioned once or twice previously in this parish, has been back at NTS for Music's Not For Everyone.
The tracklist includes Cowboys International, Peter Hook, Siouxsie And The Banshees, a new one from himself and later on a new remix of Frank Butters by himself again, Jah Shaka, Dub Syndicate, Eat Light Become Light, Dinger and many others. Even if all I do after these shows is buy the records Weatherall makes or remixes it costs me more than I can afford.
Wednesday, 22 March 2017
Acid Ted posted about this the other day but it was on my mental list of stuff to write about and it's all in a good cause. Steve Cobby must have had some time on his hands recently. While looking back at his own Solid Doctor compilation spanning music he made and put out between 1990 and 1995 he decided to remaster it for a re-release. Then, due to his own lax methods of labelling tracks he discovered a few unreleased ones that actually sounded really good. So he's putting them out as well. The whole thing adds up to fifty eight tracks, six and a half hours worth of music, spread over six cds and now available from Bandcamp as either a cd box or a download. There is way more here than I can get my ears around at the moment, tracks ranging from properly chilled out loveliness to Balearica to 90s trip hop and to digital jazziness to fifteen minute long tranced out repetitive bliss. You just have to dive in and start swimming. This track is my current favourite- an answer phone message, some sampled Phillip Glass strings and the funkiest rhythm. Just wait for the bleepy bit at two minutes fifty and then...bye bye.
Tuesday, 21 March 2017
There was a time when I didn't really see why One Dove's beautiful and mysterious Why Don't You Take Me needed remixing, even though it was Underworld (and Secret Knowledge) doing said remixing. Weatherall's production and Dot's vocal were so right mucking around with them or removing the vocal seemed wrong. But the first Underworld remix, a slow one and a long way from the usual throbbing pulsing Emerson sound, is really good, building slowly over eleven minutes with a repeated synth part.
Why Don't You Take Me (Underworld Remix)
And the second one is nearly fifteen minutes of throbbing and pulsing and dark corners and dry ice- those hi hats and kick drums keep pushing it on and on.
Why Don't You Take Me (Underworld Up 2 Down Remix)
And while neither of them are as wondrous as the original, they exist to do a different job.
Monday, 20 March 2017
I'm trying to fight the blogger's feeling that you should comment on every death in rock 'n' roll and have something to say about it. Chuck Berry died over the weekend- he invented rock 'n' roll, he invented the riff and the lyrical concerns of the song. Mrs Swiss and myself danced to You Never Can Tell at our wedding back in 1995 (we were both in our mid 20s so it wasn't quite the teenage wedding of the song). Other than that there isn't much I have to say about Chuck Berry. He was by all accounts an appalling person but in music we often have to separate the artist from the art, as unpleasant as that can be.
1995 was also the year that Sabres Of Paradise put out a series of remixes by other artists of songs from Haunted Dancehall, released the previous year. Chemical Brothers, LFO, Nightmares On Wax, In The Nursery and Depth Charge all had goes at reworking the work of Weatherall, Kooner and Burns. This Depth Charge version sounds very 1995- dusty, wired and with a big beat.
Tow Truck (Depth Charge Mix)
Sunday, 19 March 2017
Volume 3 of Weatherall's Rotters Golf Club Archive Hour is up, with songs from these fine artists
1. Restless Spell – The Wolfhounds
2. Desperate Man Blues – John Fahey
3. Rock Run Blues – Leon And Carlos
4. A Little Star – The Orient Express
5. The Problem – Jackie Leven
6. London Dub – Ruts D.C.
7. Inheritance Dub – Pama International Vs. Mad Professor
8. All Cats Are Grey (Peel Sessions 1981) – The Cure
9. The Suburban Westland – Twilight Royal
10. U.S. Centurion – Applecraft
11. Spanish Stroll – Mink DeVille
12. The Last Love Letter – Comet Gain
13. Don’t Forget About Me – Arthur Russell
14. Let’s Make Some Plans – Close Lobsters
15. 1991 – The Fauns
16. The Gold At The End Of My Rainbow – Be-Bop Deluxe
Saturday, 18 March 2017
Last weekend BBC4 showed the Screamadelica classic album programme, an hour long celebration of 1991's best album with contributions from many of those involved. One of the discussion points was whether Higher Than The Sun should be on the album in its edited or 12" form, shorter or longer. Andrew Innes went for the shorter one for the sake of the flow of the record and everyone agreed this was right, with the proviso that the 12" was the one for full tripped out enjoyment. Alex Paterson, who produced it as The Orb, reckons along with Little Fluffy Clouds it is the best thing he's done. But there's also another version of Higher Than The Sun, which goes further, a little bit longer, a little but higher, a little bit further out...
Higher Than The Sun (Higher Than The Kite)
Friday, 17 March 2017
The Clash, day five. I've tried to avoid the obvious songs but for today I'm going with one of their best songs and a high point of the later years. In Straight To Hell Joe delivers a state of the world address, taking in Thatcherism, industrial decline, unemployment and racism in verse one, abandoned children, cultural imperialism and the Vietnam War in verse two and the lives of immigrants universally in verse three. Mick comes up with the guitar hook and Topper thumps out a sort of Bossa Nova with a lemonade bottle with a towel wrapped around it banged against the bass drum. This is the longer version which was edited down for Combat Rock, complete with extra lyrics- at seven minutes long it is possibly Joe's finest hour lyrically and vocally. From the Sound System remasters, this is the version you want/need.
Straight To Hell (Unedited Version)
Thursday, 16 March 2017
Clash week day four. Two songs from round the old Joanna. When the Clash On Broadway box came out in 1991 one of the unreleased songs was a cover of Every Little Bit Hurts, Mick at the piano and giving it loads with a reverb drenched, soulful vocal. According to the booklet it was recorded during the Sandinista! sessions after Chrissie Hynde had dropped in. Mick and Chrissie used to sing it together and Mick gave it a go in the studio a few days later, with Norman Watt Roy on bass (which dates it to when Simonon was away filming Ladies And Gentlemen The Fabulous Stains) and Topper splashing away on cymbals and percussion.
Every Little Bit Hurts
Originally sung by Brenda Holloway in 1964 it was covered by The Spencer Davis Group which is where Mick knew it from. A couple of years earlier The Clash had been the subjects of a film, Rude Boy, a semi-fictionalised account of the life a roadie called Ray Gange. The film is a brave but flawed stab at documenting life in 1978-9 in Britain. But it does also feature some of the most incendiary Clash live footage committed to tape/celluloid which still makes the hairs on the back of neck stand up and the blood pump a little faster. In this section Joe finds a piano and starts hammering away while Gange stands around drinking beer. After a minute and a half and some muttering/swearing from Gange about Sam Philips and Elvis Joe breaks into Let The Good Times Roll, a Shirley and Lee song from 1956.
Give 'em a piano and a couple of minutes and both Joe and Mick would reel out the pre-punk songs. What Year Zero?
Wednesday, 15 March 2017
Paul Simonon realised after a while that the money was in songwriting. During the sessions for what became London Calling he worked up a tune into what would become one of the group's most recognisable and best-loved songs, thanks in large part to 'the bassline of the twentieth century'. The swagger of Guns Of Brixton comes from the swing of the bassline and Paul's rough and ready vocal, the ripping sound at the start (velcro being peeled off the studio chairs apparently) and the chanted backing vocals. One of my favourites.
In 1990 Norman Cook borrowed the bassline for his number one hit Dub Be Good To Me. Without asking permission. Paul and Norman settled in a cafe and according to Paul at the time the cash injection was much needed. I happen to love Dub Be Good To Me, an updating of The SOS Band's Just Be Good To Me with harmonica pinched from Ennio Morricone and the rap half-inched from Johnny Dynell.
CBS, sensing a hit, decided to get a top dj to remix Guns Of Brixton, for the club scene. Jeremy Healy was the dj and a 12" single with three new versions (two are below) was put out. It stormed into the charts reaching number 57. I don't remember the clubs and bars of 1990 being awash with this version either. Well done CBS, good work.
To be honest I quite like the remixes, they present the song a bit differently, give it something else. They're not as good as the original no, and yes, they're probably for completists and the curious only.
Return To Brixton (Extended Mix)
Return To Brixton (SW2 Dub)
Jeremy Healy was in Haysi Fantayzee previous to his dj career. I've been watching the Top Of The Pops re-runs from 1983 this year and the January editions had Haysi Fantayzee on several times doing Shiny Shiny,a sort of pirate, nursery rhyme, tribal, glam, anti-nuclear thumper. Having recorded it, I re-watched it a few times too. Two words- Kate Garner.
Tuesday, 14 March 2017
Don Letts is a man who looms large in The Clash story- the dj who played dub for the punks, the man who dressed the bands who couldn't afford Malcolm's clothes, the film maker who went with them to New York and the cover star of Black Market Clash (later expanded into Super Black Market Clash), a compilation of B-sides and assortments. One of the highlights inside these two albums is Pressure Drop, an amped up take on the Toots And The Maytals song (and originally the b-side to 1978's English Civil War). The Clash's enthusiasm for reggae was a gateway into Jamaican music for many fans. Joe often worried about covering reggae songs, stung by Lydon's criticisms, and he referred to them as trash reggae but this cover is way more than that.
Monday, 13 March 2017
Following Saturday's feedback I've thought about having a Clash week over the weekend. There doesn't seem much point just posting five obvious Clash songs and I don't know what I've got to add to the story of The Clash- on the other hand their music and history is so rich and full of people, characters and songs that there is always something else to focus on. They are a band that still mean a huge amount to many, many people. Joe's death means that they haven't sullied their legacy by either reforming for pots of cash or making a water treading album (they did that after sacking Mick and releasing Cut The Crap). Apparently they were on the verge of reforming for the Hall Of Fame induction but it didn't happen (Paul said no- well done Paul). Their back catalogue is so large and there are so many lesser known Clash songs that doing a week of Clash posts that skirt the outer edges shouldn't be too difficult. So I'll start with this.
Bernie Rhodes insisted that their songs should be about something, and that as a writer Joe should look at the world and engage with it. Joe was at times dismissive of Mick's more straight love songs and considered that the subject of love was largely covered. Instead Joe wrote some songs that dealt with things very simplistically (White Riot say) and some that were more complex and showed more depth. Something About England is tucked away at the end of side 1 of Sandinista! and it's one of the most complex songs the group wrote and performed. The song is a conversation between Joe's narrator (sung by Mick), a man looking at life in late 70s Britain, and a homeless man in a dirty overcoat. Mick opens the song with Joe's attention grabbing first verse
'They say the immigrants steal the hubcaps of respected gentlemen
They say it would be wine and roses if England were for Englishmen again'
Mick continues, noticing the old man as the sirens wail and the bars close for the night. The old man (Joe) then joins in, berating Mick's young narrator...
'You really think it's all new
You really think about it too?
I'll tell you a thing or two'
Then the song lurches from a dark piano music hall tune into something more urgent and Joe takes over...
'I missed the fourteen-eighteen war but not the sorrow afterwards
With my father dead and my mother ran off
My brothers took the pay of hoods
The Twenties turned, the north was dead
The hunger strike came marching south
At the garden party not a word was said
As ladies lifted cake to their mouths'
In full flow now and the next verse takes in the Second World War and then the men returning home limping around old Piccadilly and Leicester Square, the world rebuilding itself and architects who 'could not care'.
The penultimate verse finds Joe/the old man raging against the follies of government and people, sending young men to die in wars and 'photos in wallets on battlefields', the English class system of 'masters and servants and servants and dogs' and the gap that the country has never closed. The old man winds up, addressing Mick for the final time...
'The memories that you have dredged up
Are letters forwarded from hell'.
The song plays out and Mick's voice returns to conclude as the lights go out down the street and in the bedsits- 'old England was all alone'.
In a world of Trump and Brexit and Farage and Breitbart and countless other revivals of the hatred and divisions of the 1930s Something About England rings as true and as important in 2017 as it did in 1980. The people that blame the immigrants for their own woes and misfortunes are still with us, quietened for a while but now loud again. We still need The Clash.
Something About England
Sunday, 12 March 2017
Pet Shop Boys' 1990 single Being Boring is one of the songs that summarises life, one of those songs that hits hard and resonates emotionally, that seems to be somehow 'about' you (even though the autobiographical details are all specific to Neil Tennant and not me). The tune is lovely beyond words with swelling keyboards and a memorable melody line but it's Neil's words about growing up that really strike home- along with the reference to Zelda Fitzgerald's quote about not being boring because she was never bored- and the details of the verses that show how people change as they get older.
It's stuck with me also I guess because as I've got older I've moved through the verses (as they chronicle Neil Tennant getting older). It's a proper bittersweet and happy/sad song too, the pain and joy caused by sifting through the 'cache of old photos and invitations to teenage parties'. Neil Tennant would have been in his mid-to-late thirties when he wrote it and that seems to be telling- this isn't a song that a twenty something would write. Maybe that's why it keeps giving- when I first heard it in 1990 I was twenty so roughly the age the narrator is singing about in the second verse. Then as you get older you become the narrator of the third verse. A friend said recently this is 'the finest pop' which it is but it has a depth that much pop music doesn't- that's not to criticise pop music but it's often at its most effective when it is ephemeral and surface rather than depth. Being Boring is pop and much more than pop.
The extended mix is over ten minutes long but doesn't feel forced or anything like ten minutes long.
Being Boring (Extended Mix)
The video, shot by fashion photographer Bruce Weber, is like a Vogue shoot come to life and has the young and the beautiful enjoying themselves immensely.
Saturday, 11 March 2017
I found this image on the web the other night so it gives me a good excuse for a gratuitous Clash post and one of the most hair raising, adrenaline infused songs they recorded. The original Capital Radio was a freebie with the NME and the second hand price of it sky-rocketed. This appalled the band whose insistence on value for money and fans not being ripped off was a founding principal. So the song was re-recorded and included on the 1979 Cost Of Living ep, pound for pound one of the best value for money 7" records ever released (a four track ep led by I Fought The Law and supported by two of their best lesser known songs Groovy Times and Gates Of The West plus this one here).
Capital Radio starts with Mick playing a sweet acoustic finger picked riff. At twenty nine seconds Mick, off mic, shouts '1-2-3-4' and hits the main riff, a massive jolt of electric guitars. Joe joins in with a line about 'the Dr Goebbels show!' Topper's drumming is on the money. Joe and Mick alternate call and response style, railing against London's number one commercial radio station and it's refusal to play punk records and celebrating the pirate stations of the 60s- now silent 'cos they ain't got government license'. They make radio programming sound like the biggest injustice of modern times. At two minutes the band breaks it down and Joe comes in with 'hey guys, come on'. 'Yeah wot?' Mick responds, surly as you like. Joe then explores the possibility of The Clash being radio friendly and having a hit before they end with a brief breakout into You're The One That I Want, then at the top of the charts with Travolta and Newton John. Mick's strings squeal. Topper doubles the beat. More exciting and more fun than you can possibly imagine (as Obi Wan never said).
Capital Radio (Two)
While I'm here these pictures have been sitting in a folder waiting for a post so I may as well put them here or I'll end up doing a week of Clash posts.
Here's Joe and Mick in the USA, 1983, hanging by the pool- everything you need in late period Clash... Joe in Docs with mohawk and a busker's ukulele, Mick having raided the army surplus store.
Paul live in Paris, raising standards.
And lastly Topper and Paul, on tour c1979 somewhere far from the Westway.