Friday, 31 May 2019
After yesterday's Supremes post I thought we should have some Temptations today although the two songs I've gone for are later than 1967, the year covered in depth in Stuart Cosgrove's Detroit 67 book. The Temptations spent much of 1967 struggling with the behaviour of David Ruffin, who was replaced by Dennis Edwards in 1968. Ruffin's voice was a key feature of the group's sound, raspy and raw, but by '67 his behaviour had become an issue. Just as The Supremes were being rebranded as Diana Ross and The Supremes, Ruffin had begun to feel a similar situation was called for with The Temptations. Ruffin's issues with cocaine and habit of missing shows or turning up late and crashing the stage caused further friction and when he began to dig into Berry Gordy's accounting and Motown's finances relations broke down further. In 1968 Ruffin sued Motown and Motown counter-sued Ruffin. Holland- Dozier- Holland had withdrawn their labour in '67 too, unhappy at their share of the money and their perception of their status. The Temptations had begun working with Norman Whitfield whose string-laden, multi-tracked, orchestral sound pushed the group in a new direction, coupled with a side order of psychedelia and some socially conscious lyrics.
By 1970 the Motown sound had gone, Whitfield's productions taking in sound effects, synths, the left to right sweep of stereo production, guitar solos, multi-tracked drums and vocals and The Funk Brothers jamming like a rock band. Hence, they partied at the psychedelic shack...
Also released in 1970, Ball Of Confusion was released to promote their second Greatest Hits compilation, a state of the world address- the breakdown of the civil rights movement, several summers of rioting in the US cities, the assassinations of King, Malcolm X and the Kennedys, Black Power, Vietnam, My Lai, Kent State University, Nixon- on and on the list goes. And the band played on. I don't know where this Alt Mix is from- I must have downloaded it from somebody/somewhere.
Ball Of Confusion (That's What The World Is Today) Alt Mix
I recently found a copy of their 1971 album Sky's The Limit in a second hand shop, which has the twelve minute opus Smiling Faces Sometimes on it, a song that Whitfield and Barrett Strong wrote and produced for The Temptations but then re-recorded as a single with The Undisputed Truth. The album is in perfect condition, surprising given it is nearly fifty years old, but the disc is so thin it is almost a flexidisc. The album saw a return to ballads, a step away from the psychedelic soul of the previous three years. It also the break up of that line up of the group with Eddie Kendricks leaving due to continuing tensions and Paul Williams retiring due to ill health.
Thursday, 30 May 2019
I've been reading Stuart Cosgrove's Detroit 67: The Year That Changed Soul,the best music related book I've read for some time (and have Jon Savage's recent Joy Division book lined up next which promises to equally good). In Detroit 67 Stuart Cosgrove takes the reader through 1967, month by month, starting with the city almost completely shut down due to snow. From there on we see the year largely through the prism of Motown and the disintegrating relationships within The Supremes which led to Flo Ballard being removed from the group (and she then takes some dreadful advice and makes some poor decisions which would contribute to her tragically early death at the age of just 32 in 1976). Throughout the year Berry Gordy faces further simmering discontent from his writing team Holland- Dozier- Holland, multiple lawsuits, the death of Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye's desire to move into recording socially conscious, politically aware songs (something Gordy tried to resist) and ructions within The Temptations (who would shift stylistically themselves as Norman Whtifiled began writng and recording their songs, making widescreen psychedelic soul). The year ends with the suicide of writer Rodger Penzabene, the lyricist of I Wish It Would Rain. John Sinclair and the MC5 are present, the hippy counter-culture battling police harassment, drug laws and right wing attitudes and violence. Central to the year and the book are the riots of July, five days of rebellion against a racist police force which culminate with the terrible events at the Algiers Motel and the subsequent court case and smouldering injustice. The Vietnam war, white flight from the centre of the city, a rising murder rate- it's a wonder the city survived at all. Detroit 67 is a meticulously researched, well written and fascinating study of a record label, individuals, a city, society and the USA as a whole.
There are times when the more you know about a musician/singer/writer/pop star, the less you like them. You can insert your own recent examples here I'm sure. Does it taint the music? Sometimes I think it does but then I put The Supremes on, and the thundering backing of The Funk Brothers comes into earshot and the combined talents of Holland- Dozier -Holland and Wells, Ross and Ballard for three minutes make the doubts fade away.
Come See About Me
Wednesday, 29 May 2019
In 2005 Sister Vanilla released their only album to date, Little Pop Rock. Sister Vanilla was/is Linda Reid, the sister of Jim and William. Back in 2005 Jim and William were only just talking again and the Mary Chain hadn't yet re-united. Instead Little Pop Rock became a sort of Jesus And Mary Chain album by proxy, Linda on vocals throughout and Jim and William recording songs with her in her flat and at their studio The Drugstore (along with Ben Lurie who followed Jim after the JAMC split up live onstage in Los Angeles who plays on it ). The album was recorded piecemeal over a couple of years with Stephen Pastel helping out, while Jim and William presumably found their way round working alongside each other again.
Some of the songs on Little Pop Rock appeared elsewhere in the brothers catalogue- K To Be Lost on William's Lazycame album and Can't Stop The Rock and The Two Of Us on the reformed Mary Chain's Damage And Joy from 2017 (Linda singing on the former). The songs reference the Mary Chain in places- the song called Jamcolas for one, a scuzzy romp with Jim singing the first half of the song and Linda the second. On K To Be Lost Linda sings 'Honey's Dead and Psychocandy, I listened to them all of the time'. Linda had sung on The Mary Chain's swansong, 1998's Munki, the song Mo Tucker being one of that albums few high points. So it's a Mary Chain album in many ways with shared vocals, lo-fi and homemade (and all the better for it), Linda's voice providing a good counterpoint to her brothers.
This one opens with a drum machine and single piano notes and a sense of impending doom. The guitar playing is spindly and distorted and then Linda, vocals smothered in reverb, sings of Tienanmen Square, digital pies and Jim Morrison.
What Goes Around is full on self-loathing set to a three chord rumble with lyrics about hookers and LSD, money, drugs, fame, piss, mothers and wives, good times becoming bad times. Eventually William joins in singing 'what goes around comes around'.
What Goes Around
Tuesday, 28 May 2019
A few weeks ago Drew posted this song on Twitter in our semi-regular Sunday night slot, a brave attempt to stave off the Sunday night blues. There haven't been any Sunday night blues this week- it's been a bank holiday weekend and this week is half term so those blues will wait until Sunday 2nd June (by which time after a week off they'll be much worse admittedly).
Back to the song- Vul'indlela by Brenda Fassie, a song I think I'd heard before but which really struck a chord with me this time.
Brenda was a South African singer, born in Cape Town and making records in Soweto from the mid 80s. She became hugely popular, someone whose clothing and style was widely copied by her fans, a voice for the poor of South Africa. She became known as the Madonna of the Townships, unafraid of being outspoken or of living her life how she wanted to. She died aged just 39 in tragic circumstances. Vul'indlela is a perfect piece of mid 90s South African dance pop, infectious and uplifting, a song which travelled across Africa and beyond.
Vul'indlela translates as 'make way'- the song's opening lines translate roughly as 'open the gates you gossiping neighbours and make way, my son is getting married today'.
Monday, 27 May 2019
Jake Black, the Very Reverend D. Wayne Love, founder member, singer and co-writer for the Alabama 3 has died, taken ill after a performance at the Highpoint Festival in Lancashire. Coming out of Brixton in the mid 90s they succeeded in fusing country and blues with acid house and found fame when their song Woke Up This Morning became the theme tune to The Sopranos. They always struck me as being infused with the spirit of south London with a touch of Happy Mondays style shambolics, tailor made for festivals and street parties. According to the band Jake has now made the ascension to the next level and they have been trying to complete booked dates without him which must be difficult.
This song is a favourite of mine, a hypnotic riff and dance beat with a Jim Jones sample about change coming from the barrel of a gun.
Mao Tse Tung Said (Radio K Mix)
This John Prine cover was a 1997 single and on their debut, Exile On Coldharbour Lane.
Speed of The Sound Of Loneliness
Sunday, 26 May 2019
I discovered an album by Zarelli via a Twitter friend a couple of months ago after he posted a Youtube clip of one of the songs. After a few days of streaming the songs I bought a copy and have been playing it on and off for a few weeks now. It is a perfect Sunday morning record. In 1975 Leonard Nimoy, world famous as Mr Spock in Star Trek, read some Ray Bradbury science fiction stories which were released as an album with Nimoy's reading of There Will Come Soft Rains from The Martian Chronicles on one side and some chapters from The Illustrated Man on the other. Nimoy has a fantastic speaking voice, distinctive and instantly recognisable.
Not long after Leonard Nimoy's death in 2015 musician and producer Carwyn Ellis set Nimoy's words to music, electronic space age futurism and cosmic easy listening and released the album as Soft Rains. For the Soft Rains album Carwyn Ellis called himself Zarelli and on the sleeve he listed the instruments used on the record- Farfisa organ, Roland and Juno synthesizers, Rhodes electric piano, Suzuki Omnichord, iPad.
Ray Bradbury's There Will Come Soft Rains is set in an immediately post-apocalyptic world, in the aftermath of nuclear war. A completely automated house continues to perform its duties for its inhabitants. The house's family have been vapourised by the nuclear explosion, their silhouettes are burnt onto an outside wall of the house. The family dog turns up at one point, the only living being the house can now provide for. It dies soon afterwards and the house disposes of the body before a firestorm breaks out, destroying the remains of the house leaving only the wall with the silhouettes on standing and what's left of the automated house still reading out the time and date- 5th August 2026. Once you've listened to the track below a couple of times, Zarelli's beautiful music and Nimoy's voice reading Bradbury's words, you'll probably head over to Youtube and listen to some of the rest of the album, and if you're anything like me then go and hunt down a copy of the album.
Saturday, 25 May 2019
Back to back Weatherall posts for the Bank Holiday weekend and a bumper two-for-one deal today only! Bank holiday madness! Must end Monday! Terms and conditions apply.
First up a return to NTS for the monthly Music's Not For Everyone show, the usual smorgasbord of obscure, experimental and plain brilliant all delivered from a shack in Hackney. May's edition includes a new Hardway Bros remix of Dan Wainwright guaranteed to make you shimmy and a track from my friends Rude Audio. The full tracklist is here.
As an end of May extra there's this, Weatherall playing live at Ritual in Brighton at the start of the month, an hour and three quarters of dancefloor action with tracks from Passarella Death Squad, Signal Deluxe, Jasper James, Tecwaa, Pitto and Autarkic.
Friday, 24 May 2019
This appeared out of the blue this week, fifteen minutes of lo-fi, wobbly, out there, ambient- acid, a sonic treat from Weatherall and Walsh aka the Woodleigh Research Facility. The visuals, including Silbury Hill, add a prehistoric vibe to the already fairly shamanic sounds.
Thursday, 23 May 2019
I thought it was interesting that the message the two major political parties took from the local elections three weeks ago was that 'the British public want Brexit got on with- get us out of the EU'. That I suppose was one interpretation, despite both of the them losing seats nationwide (Tory losses admittedly outstripping Labour losses by some distance). Another take on the results was that the parties that gained the most at the local elections were those explicitly taking a stance against Brexit, who have opposing Brexit as policy. Today we have European elections, three years after voting to leave which is a small victory in itself, and it seems that this is an ideal opportunity for those of us still against leaving the EU, those of us who have seen and heard nothing to convince us that leaving is in the national interest, to send a loud and clear message. The only way to do this is to vote for parties who have remaining in the EU as their policy.
The Tories want to leave, it's their baby, they started digging the hole and have kept on shovelling. Labour, despite Keir Starmer's efforts, are a leave party- it is party policy and they have spent the last three years fudging it. The ongoing attempt to appeal to both leavers and remainers, for fear of 'losing the north', is misguided and unprincipled (which is odd in itself for a party led by people for whom principles are supposedly the key to their politics). Labour's stance on Brexit is political, has nothing to do with principles, and is failing. Nigel Farage's Brexit Party will undoubtedly mop up lots of votes, from disillusioned Tories and ex-UKIPers, from people who voted Leave in the referendum but rarely otherwise vote and from Labour too. I've been told repeatedly in the media recently that having voted Labour at the 2017 general election (as I have throughout my adult life) that I am one of the 81% of British people who voted for a party who want Brexit. I've seen Farage staring down the camera telling me this even though I voted Labour despite their Brexit policy not because of it. That won't be happening again. These are European elections that matter (for once), where our votes may count more than usual and where the whole election is about the future of Europe and our relationship with it.
The advice I've read is that if you want to vote for remain/oppose Brexit you should do the following depending on where you live- vote SNP if you live in Scotland, Plaid Cymru in Wales and either Lib Dem or Green if you live in England. I can understand why some people on the left will have a problem with voting Lib Dem, memories of the coalition lingering, but going off the local elections there are increasing numbers of people able to vote for them. There are plenty of good arguments for voting Green and their stance on Brexit is one of them- I voted Green at the local elections three weeks. Putting my X in a different box really wasn't that difficult under the circumstances.
This is Brian Eno's lovely piano remixed beautifully by Mojo Filter.
Another Green World (The Blue Realm)
While we're in the political arena the rise of the milkshake as the weapon of choice against fascists and rabble rousers has been a real highlight of 2019. I know some people have said it adds little to public discourse, that reasoned debate and discussion should always be the way to win arguments, and that the throwing of milkshakes is the thin end of the wedge but these people - Farage and Tommy 'Robinson'- have been spreading the seeds of hatred, xenophobia and racism in the public realm for years now and it's no surprise that when faced with that some people will use more direct action. For two men who like to pose as outsider tough guys, they also go scuttling off quickly crying 'foul' when small quantities of dairy products are used against them. Violent language will always breed similar responses and you reap what you sow. Plus, it is very funny and maybe humiliating these people is the best way to deal with them. This article by Aditya Chakrabortty is a much better articulated piece about the milkshake spring. All of this can only be soundtracked by Kelis.
Wednesday, 22 May 2019
This is a song I keep going back to at the moment, listening and then skipping back to the start, the opener to Simple Minds' 1981 album Sons And Fascination. Never was there I band for whom the phrase 'I prefer their early stuff' is so appropriate. Their early stuff is among the best music of the era (and their later stuff really isn't). Empires And Dance and New Gold Dream are both superb too but this one is the one for me.
In Trance As Mission starts with a Derek Forbes bassline, one of many on the album that personify post-punk bass playing, along with a rigid drumbeat. The synths are central not merely providing colour or filling the sound out. Guitarist Charlie Burchill plays one note throughout, ringing with feedback. A long way to start an album, nearly seven minutes, Jim Kerr singing about moments, the holy back beat, trance as mission, trans American, white rocks, dreams, a new type of light, all the post-punk poetics. Religion maybe. The combined effect is thrilling, dramatic, forward thinking. Top stuff from a band who later on went for the money over the art but certainly paid their dues as far as art is concerned
In Trance As Mission
Sons And Fascination is a great album and a curious one too, packaged with a second disc of songs called Sister Feelings Call (which includes Theme For Great Cities, a song which most bands would kill to have written and which Kerr showed admirable restraint in deciding it didn't need vocals). Not a traditional double album, an album with an extra disc of songs. Ideas galore, loads of ambition and songs to spare.
Tuesday, 21 May 2019
Mancunian artist LoneLady has released a cover of New Order's 1981 B-side Cries And Whispers. Her sound and aesthetic are partially rooted in those early 80s New Order records and Manchester's spirit of those times- her last album was inspired by walking round the concrete and streetlight spaces underneath the Mancunian Way (a section of elevated motorway that skims the southern edge of the city centre). I don't always like covers of New Order songs but this is a keeper.
The original was one of two B-sides on 1981's Everything's Gone Green single, a song that skipped the group forward several paces, the moment when they combined rock and dance for the first time on disc and the last time they worked with Martin Hannett. The two songs on the flipside- Cries And Whispers and Mesh- were mislabelled on the disc and then again on Substance, causing confusion for years. One listen to this song, the synth sounds at the intro, the skittering rhythm, Barney's bleak vocal, Stephen's metronomic drumming and the swell of keyboards towards the end, should convince anyone that New Order were a class apart from around this point onwards and for most of the 80s.
Cries And Whispers
Monday, 20 May 2019
At only six minutes forty-three seconds this isn't an especially long song but it came up on shuffle over the weekend and sounded immense. Released back in 1983 this is Colourbox's magnificent take on Baby I Love You So, an Augustus Pablo song from 1974 recorded by Jacob Miller, but updated by Martyn and Stephen Young making the most of early 80s technology- it doesn't sound dated all these years later either, that bassline alone is worth the price of admission. The guitar part is ace, not your standard reggae guitar part, the cymbals splash away and Lorita Grahame's vocal glides over the top.
Baby I Love You So (12" Version)
Sunday, 19 May 2019
It's my birthday today- the number above.
Madness were a lot of fun on Friday night. I won precisely nothing betting on the horses. Suggs and saxophonist Lee Thompson are a great pair of frontmen (Chas Smash left a few years ago). The set was as you'd expect heavy on the hits, a run of songs pretty much unparalleled in British popular music plus a couple from their more recent albums, a mass singalong for It Must be Love and an encore of Madness (the song) and Night Boat To Cairo which saw outbreaks of pandemonium in the crowd. I was going to post this on Friday but didn't so here it is as a bonus, a deliciously skanking, dubby Andrew Weatherall remix of Madness from 2012. I'm sure that there was a second version of this, a dubbier one, that's never been released that Weatherall played on one of his radio shows.
Death Of A Rude Boy (Andrew Weatherall Remix)
Looking for songs with 49 in the title I fond this one from The Jazz Butcher, released on Creation in 1988, a spiky, ramshackle, catchy indie guitar song from Pat Fish that rattles along breathlessly, surfacing for the 'you make me want to carry on' line. This sort of thing seemed ten a penny in 1988 but like genuine moments of mini- greatness now. I first heard it on the Creation compilation Doing It For The Kids, a brilliant example of the art of the compilation album (The Jasmine Minks, The House Of Love, My Bloody Valentine, Felt, Primal Scream, Pacific, The Times, Nikki Sudden and The Weather Prophets plus several others showing Creation had an embarrassment of riches at the time). The Jazz Butcher's Lot 49 references a novel by Thomas Pynchon which I feel like I should have read but haven't.
Saturday, 18 May 2019
Sonic Boom played The Pink Room at YES, Manchester's newest gig venue, on Wednesday night in a small upstairs space called the Pink Room (it's painted pink and has a bit of a Warhol/Factory vibe going on). The room holds about 250 people and the gig wasn't sold out. The post- Spacemen 3 trajectories of Pete Kember and Jason Pierce are a bit mystifying, Spiritualized playing grand venues to thousands while Sonic Boom/Spectrum plays to the low hundreds. It gives a better gig experience though if you prefer intimate and up close but you can't help but feel Pete has been shortchanged somewhere along the line.
Sonic takes the stage with one other musician, a guitarist with long, centre parted hair who is wearing a Spacemen 3 t-shirt. Without much in the way of introductions he begins playing the riff to Transparent Radiation, Spacemen 3's cover of The Red Krayola's 60s psyche- rock classic. After this slow, repetitious opener Pete doesn't play guitar again until the end, instead sitting at a table with keyboards, synths, a sampler and an array of pedals, cables, leads and plug ins. From hereon in Sonic digs deep into his bag and plays a selection of songs from his back catalogue- long, slow, hypnotic tracks, loops and drones from the various boxes on the table, all sorts of delay and echo going on. One song often melts into another, the pedals continuing to give out their sounds, loads of tremelo and wobble, as one ends and the next begins. We get All Night Long and Lord I Don't Even Know My Name from two different Spectrum albums, Spacemen 3's Call The Doctor and Let Me Down Gently, all perfectly illustrating Sonic's talents, lyrics that are either melancholic or devotional over the top of undulating synths and waves of sound, drones and loops and repetition. There's no drummer so the songs never get that injection of oomph and power a drummer brings, instead they glide by complemented by the trippy visuals projected onto the back wall. In the middle of the set Sonic starts manipulating a vocal sample. The set list website says this was during I Know They Say (from Spectrum's Highs Lows And Heavenly Blows) but I don't recall that song being the basis of what becomes very improvisational, Sonic constantly triggering the vocal sample, stuttering it, repeating phrases, building in intensity on and on, for what must have been ten or fifteen minutes. He goes back to the guitar for the penultimate song, a fairly blistering take on Suicide's Che. Pete then tells us something along the lines of 'this is where we fuck off back stage for a few minutes, you clap and then we come back out but that's bollocks so we're just going to keep playing'. He fiddles with a few boxes, sets them going for a finale of Big City (Everybody I Know Can Be Found Here), the highlight of Spacemen 3's Recurring album and the band's last single, Sonic's psychedelic, acid house influenced peak- the pedals and synth pumping the song out, the guitarist using an e-bow to play the top line and Sonic leaning in to deliver and repeat the lines, 'everybody I know can be found here/ let the good times roll/ waves of joy/ yeah I love you too', for fifteen blissed out, mesmerising minutes. Waves of joy indeed. I wish he'd tour more often.
This is the ten minute version of Big City from back in 1991, still sounding magnificent nearly thirty years later.
Big City (Everybody I Know Can Be Found Here)
And this is a 1992 single by Spectrum, also off their album Soul Kiss (Glide Divine) out the same year.
How You Satisfy Me
Friday, 17 May 2019
I'm off to Aintree Racecourse tonight, not a sentence I use very often- or ever before. This is a work team night out, an evening of horse racing, gambling (remember kids- stop when the fun stops) and Madness. As in, Madness, the Nutty Boys, the Los Palmas 7, Suggs and co. Back in 1983 as a callow thirteen year old the first gig I ever attended was Madness and The JoBoxers at Manchester Apollo and I haven't seen them since so there will be a nice completing of the circle. I've never been to the races before either and have a history of occasionally getting dress codes wrong at events where the words 'smart' and 'casual' are used in the same sentence.
The Wings Of A Dove was a standalone single in 1983, a time when even the now lesser known Madness songs were huge hits. One of my younger brothers was a Madness obsessive as a kid and still knows all their UK chart positions by heart. I use Google. This one reached number two.
The Wings Of A Dove
Thursday, 16 May 2019
May must be a prime time for throwing your art out into the world, this is the fourth new music post in less than a week here. Today's new music alert is from Lee Scratch Perry who has an album out at the end of the month, recorded with Adrian Sherwood at the controls. Rainford is a personal, autobiographical record recorded in bursts over two years in London, Jamaica and Brazil. Sherwood describes it as the strongest set of Scratch songs for years and set out with the intention of doing for the Upsetter what Rick Rubin did for Johnny Cash. The lead single Let It Rain goes some way to fulfilling those aims, catchy as you like and sounding like a song for the summer. The album can be pre-ordered at Bandcamp.
Scratch is on Twitter. On Sunday he Tweeted 'ALTHOUGH WE’RE IN THE END TIMES, WE ARE NOT AT THE END OF THE TIME. BE CAREFUL WHO YOU LISTEN TO.
SATAN IS RAGING NOW BECAUSE HE KNOWS THE TIME IS SHORT DON’T LISTEN TO GLOOM AND DOOM. IT IS TRICKERY DESIGNED TO DRAG YOU DOWN. WE SHOULD BE REJOICING AT WHAT GOD IS BRINGING FOTH! And there's plenty more where that came from.
Wednesday, 15 May 2019
I found this clip recently and it made me smile, Teenage Fanclub back in 1995 or '96 playing live on The White Room, covering The Byrds 1965 B-side (B-side!) I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better, if push comes to shove my favourite Byrds song.
There's nothing wrong with this clip at all- Teenage Fanclub in 1995, a band in love with music and the sheer joy of playing, Norman and Gerry sharing the vocals, a group who could out jangle anyone, totally Byrdsy. There's some frantic tambourine rattling too from roadie Guitar George.
I'l Feel A Whole Lot Better opens with that wonderful chiming Rickenbacker riff by Jim McGuinn and then lifts off, with all the harmonies, the uncertainty of the lyric- 'Ill probably feel a whole lot better when you're gone'- and that rocket fuel rhythm section, a perfect slice mid 60s folk rock, all over and done with in two minutes and thirty two seconds. I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better was written and sung by Gene Clark and released as the flipside to Mr Tambourine Man, their first self- written song that sold in its millions.
I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better
In 1989 Dinosaur Jr covered the song, released on a Byrds tribute album called Time Between, an album that also had covers by the likes of the Mock Turtles, Thin White Rope, Miracle Legion, Robyn Hitchcock and The Chills. J Mascis, Lou and Murph go at it fast, ragged and in one take. Gene Clark said this is his favourite cover of the song and I can't disagree with that. I don't have a copy of this anymore- I owned the album once but have no idea where it is now. If anyone has an mp3 of this version I'd be more than happy to take a copy off your hands.
Tuesday, 14 May 2019
Former Red Snapper duo Ali Friend and Rich Thair have a new band called Number, inspired by the punk-funk acts of the late 70s and early 80s of New York and Manchester, the scratchy guitars and dub influenced basslines and chanted vocals of A Certain Ratio, Talking Heads, Magazine and sounds and the styles of No wave and dirty disco. The first fruits of this new group is the song Face Down In Ecstasy and Richard, Ali and friends have delivered- hipwiggling bass, hi hats and a lovely choppy guitar.
Monday, 13 May 2019
I found this on Friday night, an ALFOS road tested release fresh out on Phantasy. Terr is a Brazilian born, Berlin based DJ and producer. Her original track Tale Of Devotion is a wide eyed homage to the disco-synths of Georgio Moroder, a seven minute pulsing joyride with swooping strings. The Prins Thomas Diskomiks is nine minutes and four seconds of undulating cosmic disco with Terr's vocal layered over some wild synth action, guaranteed to pick you up and spin you round. Single of the week (as they used to do in the NME/Melody Maker).
Sunday, 12 May 2019
A new Steve Cobby album dropped into the ether out of the blue on Friday, titled Sweet Jesus (and with cover art to match). Steve's been on a roll for the last few years, from 2014's Suadade to the following year's double disc masterpiece Everliving and 2017's Hemidemisemiquaver. The opening notes of song As Good As Gold have me hooked from the start, a descending finger picked acoustic guitar riff and some slide guitar, the sound of the sun going down while you sit in the beer garden, eking out a few more moments before going home.
I'm still getting to know the rest of it, twelve tracks showing the wide range of styles Steve plays- Lanspresado is drum machine and keyboard based, downtempo electonica with a dubby melodica part; Feline Plastique has Spanish guitar and castanets; the moody guitar and live drum kit of The Groom Stripped Bare By His Suitor with an ace snaking topline; the finger picking acoustic guitar back for the final pairing of songs, folky, downtempo Balearica from Humberside.
Saturday, 11 May 2019
Dot Allison was here yesterday, providing the vocals on a King Of Woolworths song. That song was posted as part of a long discussion at a One Dove forum/Facebook group about the Sabres Of Paradise mixes of their 1992 dub- house masterpiece Transient Truth (with group member and founding member of One Dove Ian Carmichael chipping in). The 12" release came with two remixes, the Old Toys Mix and the Old Toys Dub, both credited to Andrew Weatherall, Gary Burns and Jagz Kooner (collectively Sabres Of Paradise). The first keeps some of Dot's vocal and picks up the pace halfway though, the second more abstract and dubbier. Both are pretty high tempo and fairly full on reworkings.
Transient Truth (Old Toys Mix)
Transient Truth (Old Toys Dub)
There was a second vinyl release, a promo 12" in a plain sleeve, collecting four further remixes. I hope I've got all these labelled correctly- all the mixes are here but I apologise in advance if any are wrongly titled or the links are mixed up. Inevitably there's a lot of repetition and parts that appear and re-appear (the synth part, various drum and percussion sounds, Dot's vocals, the bassline)- but they're all worthy of release and it's clear to see why Weatherall wanted the four on the promo out as well as the Old Toys versions. The other four mixes are the Paradise Mix, the Sabres Fuzz Dub, the Squelch Mix and the Death Of A disco Dancer Mix.
The Paradise Mix starts slow, then builds with that Sabres timbale sound, fragments of Dot whispering 'listen', lots of percussion and some melodica as a top line. At ten minutes plus it's the longest of the remixes.
Transient Truth (Paradise Mix)
The Fuzz Dub is thumpier and sparser with an intermittent buzzy, fuzz line, giving it its name.
Transient Truth (Sabres Fuzz Dub)
The Squelch mix is pretty far gone, noises flipping between the speakers, a bit of Dot, reverb heavy timbale, a long, slower trip, more melodica- dubbed out dub- house, a dub of a dub.
Transient Truth (Squelch Mix)
The final one starts with a kick drum and clatters away with the familiar synth riff fading in and out and the descending bass part to the fore. I don't know why it's called Death Of A Disco Dancer Mix- I can't find any obvious reference to The Smiths song of the same name.
Transient Truth (Death Of A Disco Dancer Mix)
Stick all of them on a cd or a playlist and lose yourself in a slice of 1992. After a while, listening to them one after the other, a zen-like calm kicks in, time and space slip away, transience becomes the natural state. Or something. Even if a One Dove/Sabres inspired transcendence is not achieved, it's a nice way to spend forty-five minutes.
Friday, 10 May 2019
This came out in 2003, a sumptuous electronic song from the turn of the millennium adorned with the vocals of Dot Allison, one of those songs that can leave feeling happy or sad depending on your mood when hearing it (and also that confused happy-sad state). King Of Woolworths was Jon Brooks who has more recently been releasing records as The Advisory Circle. The album Sell Me Back My Soul came from, L'illustration Musicale, also had contributions from Bob Stanley of St Etienne and Emma Pollock of The Delgados but I don't own a copy of it. Given the quality of Sell My Soul Back To Me and effect it has on me I have no idea why I have never bought a copy especially as I've got almost everything else Dot has sung on. The video below is fan made from a film called The Cell, which I haven't seen. The photograph is by William Eggleston and is perfect in ways I cannot describe.
Thursday, 9 May 2019
Today's post is for all those people in our corner of the internet who are finding life difficult at the moment. There's all sorts of stuff going down, tough times, and it can be hard to see the light. Love to you all.
Nina Simone's version of To Love Somebody from 1969 is beyond compare, a song written by Barry and Robin Gibb of The Bee Gees, but given extra layers of soul and depth and life by Nina Simone. As a bonus this mp3 of it is ripped from The Future Is Unwritten, the soundtrack to the film about Joe Strummer, and has Joe introducing Nina from his BBC World Service radio show, two legends for the price of one. As Joe says 'let Nina Simone rule the world'.
To Love Somebody
Wednesday, 8 May 2019
I'm going to see Sonic Boom play next week in his Spectrum guise, which I'm really looking forward to. I recently discovered this album, Indian Giver from 2008, recorded by Sonic (Pete Kember) and legendary producer Jim Dickinson (appearing as Captain Memphis)- a man for whom the word legendary is fully deserved. On Indian Giver they revisited Spacemen 3's cover of Mudhoney's When Tomorrow Hits and it is all you need for this Wednesday morning, two chord, Stooges-inspired, fuzz rock par excellence, a song going off like a slow explosion.
Tuesday, 7 May 2019
I have come to the conclusion that three day weekends would dramatically improve my life. People say productivity would be affected and blah bah blah but I'm not sure I'm that bothered about productivity at the moment. Three day weekends beat productivity hands down.
After reading Cosey Fanni Tutti's autobiography and then some of the comments here from friends the last time I posted some of her work I downloaded a few Chris And Cosey albums from eMusic (Songs Of Love And Lust, Heartbeat and Take Five) plus Chris Carter's Mondo Beat. I've ended up over-facing myself and need to spread them out, let them sink in and get to know them properly but there's some undoubtedly some outstanding music contained within them. This song is pioneering stuff from Chris and Cosey back in 1984, a melancholic four and a half minutes of forward thinking electronic music with a great big squelchy bassline and an icy vocal from Cosey.
Raining Tears Of Blood
Monday, 6 May 2019
From Berlin comes Fantastic Twins, the musical vehicle of Julienne Dessagne, eight minutes of bleepy, throbbing, swirly, physical, anti-racist and anti-fascist dance music called Why Are You Here? ''In the words of Pina Bausch 'Dance, dance or we are lost' '' Julienne says, advocating music and dancing as an act of resistance, of standing together. The ep is coming out on Optimo.
Sunday, 5 May 2019
Sunday is a good day for posting a long mix. This one, Cosmic Odyssey XXI, is the latest in an ongoing series with plenty of back catalogue and catching up to do if you're so inclined. It comes from Killing Joke bassist Youth, a man with a long history of exploring, producing and making dub and ambient music. There's plenty of both in this along with a cosmic, global psychedelia that covers all points, from wherever you're listening to it to the other side of the world.
Saturday, 4 May 2019
I've become a little obsessed with the repeats of Top Of The Pops running on BBC 4, especially the episodes recently stuck in the summer of 1987. Specifically I've become obsessed with the new depths to which the show sinks every week, presenters and audience desperately trying to pretend this is the greatest time to be alive despite almost every studio performance and video proving otherwise. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about New Order's appearance in the studio playing True Faith as being the only bright spot in a dismal run of bands, artists and songs. But then in mid- August something else happened, two good songs, two weeks running, both shown by video. As I watched the two videos they also seemed to suggest something fundamental about the two artists and maybe also about differences between the smart end of British and American pop culture in summer 1987.
Pet Shop Boys hit their stride the year before with West End Girls and Suburbia and then marched into their imperial phase with It's A Sin. In August What Have I Done To Deserve This? reached number two. The single features Dusty Springfield on vocals, then a long vanished presence in the music world, and is archetypal Pet Shop Boys. Neil has two vocal parts, a sung part starting with 'You always wanted a lover/ I only wanted a job...' before Dusty joins in on the second verse. Neil's spoken word section before the chorus- 'I bought you drinks, I bought you flowers, I read your books, we talked for hours...'- perfectly enunciated and high in the mix is peak Tennant, as important to the song as Dusty's great contribution. Chris Lowe's music is peerless electro-pop, from the synth drum opening beats to his Roland synth and keyboard parts. This song stood out amidst the dross of summer 1987 but it would have shone in almost any company.
The video is very British, filmed in a theatre with a chorus line and a pit orchestra, a nod to a pre-pop music world, curtains, drapes and feathers.
In the chart at the same time and on Top Of The Pops in the same two weeks was U Got The Look by Prince (a single from the Sign Of the Times album). U Got The Look is hyper 12 bar rock, strutting about with a massive Linn drum and, like the Pet Shop Boys, a shared vocal- Prince and Sheena Easton. It is super funky, highly stylised, a song about sex and sexiness- in the video, also shot in a theatre, everyone is shot drenched in colours (from neon lights, from overhead lights, in shadows). Almost everyone is barely half dressed in tight, minimal bodycon clothing. Sheila E manages to steal the show from Prince in her outfit, not an easy task. In response Prince throws in a guitar solo so over the top and so processed it's almost a parody. It is wonderful stuff, seductive and funky and fun and so un- Britain in 1987, especially when compared to the knowing, raised eyebrow of the Pet Shop Boys and the world depicted in their video.
U Got The Look reached number two in the US but only number eleven in the UK. Both records glisten like diamonds among the supporting cast in the chart- Whitesnake, Sinitta, Kenny G, The Firm, Wet Wet Wet, Rick Astley, Samantha Fox, Def Leppard. Motley Crue, Marillion, Shakey, Bruce Willis, Spagna, Heart, Los Lobos...
Friday, 3 May 2019
I've been enjoying the photography of William Eggleston, the American artist who pioneered the use of colour in the late 60s at a time when black and white was very much the thing for serious photography (and a man whose work adorns the sleeves of albums by Primal Scream and Big Star). Eggleston's colours are vivid, saturated and inky but with a home movie feel. He captures the USA in the second half of the 20th century away from the bright lights at the edge of town- cars, parking lots, shops, petrol stations, weeds growing through the cracks in the pavement, often at an angle that makes the picture look grabbed in an instant or stolen when someone's head was turned away. The fade of the colours, the shadows, low angle of the shot and the perspective in the one above are perfect.
Gabe Gurnsey of Factory Floor had a solo album last year called Physical that sounded great, an escape from the more industrial rhythms and sounds of his band into something warmer and more direct- 808s, cowbell, swampy basslines, sirens, drawled vocals lines, a sort of unfussy, modern, slinky and filthy dance record. One of the tracks, New Kind, has been extended and remixed for a 12" release. The Extended Dub is a bass-led groove, ideal for getting down to tonight at the end of the working week, a bank holiday in front of you, and the promise of some fun.
Thursday, 2 May 2019
Drew pointed out on Twitter at the weekend that today is the 30th anniversary of the release of The Stone Roses debut album, 2nd May 1989. I've thought about this fact a bit in the days since. At first I thought I wouldn't post anything about it as a) I've covered The Roses fairly extensively here and recently too with three posts about their backwards songs b) posting about album's birthdays runs the risk of falling into a nostalgia trap which I try to avoid maybe not always successfully and c) I wasn't sure I had anything to add. Drew asked me how the thirtieth birthday made me feel? Old, Drew, mainly it makes me feel old.
In May 1989 I was a couple of weeks short of turning nineteen. Two days after the album was released, 4th May 1989, I saw them play in the Haigh Building at Liverpool Poly. I don't think when I went to the gig I realised the album was out, being less well informed than we are now, pre-internet. For the record the gig cost £3.50 and I still have the ticket somewhere. The album came out with little fanfare to some lukewarm press reviews but began building a word of mouth buzz during the course of the long tour they undertook to promote it and some increasingly breathless live reviews in the weeklies. The Haigh Building was a small venue and rammed the night they played. I don't think I've ever seen a band that had the effect on me that The Roses had that night, playing a set of songs many of which I hadn't heard before but which fried my brain. Of the eleven songs they played I'd heard four- Sally Cinnamon, Here It Comes, Elephant Stone and Made Of Stone. There was virtually zero audience interaction- at one point Ian stopped between songs to ask who'd thrown the lemon on stage- but they had charisma and a diffident confidence, John's fluid guitar, Mani's rumbling, melodic bass and Reni's effortless drumming and harmonies. Ian swayed and bobbed at the front, eyes half closed and microphone in hand, calmness lost in the swirl of song around him. They started with I Wanna Be Adored and finished with I Am The Resurrection, just under an hour on stage, no encore. Head spinning psychedelic songs, 60s inspired but with enough of the late 80s in them to avoid being just retro or revivalist, and judging by the audience, hair starting to grow out and clothes starting to get baggier, fervently mouthing the words to the songs, something was stirring, something was about to happen. I got the album the next day.
I was going to go through the record song by song but you don't need me to do that and I've written about most of the songs on it before. In the middle of side two, before the glistening, heart stopping dynamics of This Is The One and the full on arrogance plus freak out of I Am The Resurrection is Shoot You Down, a full band song with smoky, late night vibes, softly sung vox and brushed drums, guitars by Hendrix if he'd been from Chorlton-cum-Hardy not Seattle.
Shoot You Down
This one was recorded for the album but didn't make it, was played live all the way through the tour and at Spike Island just over a year later. It finally saw the light of day on a cash-in 12" released by Silvertone years later, the label the band were in dispute with and taking to court to get rid of. A minor classic, rolling drums and bass with droplets of guitar, the sound of early summer, freshly mown grass and rain after sunshine.
Where Angels Play
There's an audience recording of the gig at Liverpool Poly here. They used to sell these bootleg cassettes, often terrible recordings with shonky home made covers. I bought quite a few before I learned my lesson. This one is good though and shows Ian's vocal issues weren't always a problem.
In an internet coincidence I came across these on Twitter, songs from the album re-imagined as Penguin book covers (done by Barrabas Youngblood). I love the This Is The One cover, taking the 'girl consumed by fire' line as its starting point, and the way the art for Waterfall and Don't Stop are inversions of each (as the songs are too. Waterfall's lyrics tell of a girl getting out of her home town and dropping LSD on the cross channel ferry, 'lifting the lids of her eyes', an archetypal 80s Roses lyric). Bye Bye Badman is superb too, the cover depicting the song's Paris '68 riots theme (also the origin of the lemon motif, an antidote to the effects of CS gas according to an old man they'd met in a pub).
The opening line of the second verse of Waterfall asks the question 'now you're at the wheel/ tell me how, how does it feel?' Thirty years on it makes me feel old Ian, there's no getting away from it, but listening to the songs (and hearing my 15 year old daughter singing them round the house) they make me feel young too, not as young as I was in May '89 maybe, but young enough.
Wednesday, 1 May 2019
Ride's second life has taken a lot of us by surprise. I wasn't a huge fan first time around, a few songs notwithstanding, but age, time and experience have given them something either they didn't have then or that I didn't notice. They also prove that re-unions need not solely be for nostalgia or money, making an album (Weather Diaries in 2017) that had several very good songs on it and then followed it with an excellent e.p. (Tomorrow's Shore in 2018).
This new song was released onto the internet last week, ahead of an album in August. Future Love is Rickenbacker led indie disco gold, the guitars and harmonies improving on each subsequent play, with Erol Alkan back at the controls and on production. A good way to start May.