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 priciples, 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 sew. 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