Wednesday, 25 July 2018
This is the view out of the ferry port at Portsmouth, setting sail for St. Malo and the rest of France. By the time this posts I shall be close to the French coast and then a relatively short drive with the family to the Vendee region for our summer holiday. The heatwave we've had in the UK means we aren't as desperate for some sun as we sometimes are by this time of year but I am ready for a holiday and a change of pace. See you all in August.
This single was released in August 1988, a cracking piece of jangle pop from The Primitives that reached number 36 in the proper charts (when that kind of thing mattered).
Way Behind Me
Tuesday, 24 July 2018
I'll stop wittering on about Italy now (although I can't promise I won't post more photographs in the future). I found this picture on the internet a few weeks ago and it seemed to good not to use- everything about it is wonderful, from the psychedelic font to the photo and the lad's expression to the strapline and the other story above the masthead.
This is one of the most Madchester songs, a celebration of complete hedonism through the lyrical lens of Shaun William Ryder and the twisted guitar funk of Happy Mondays. As Shaun puts it 'Why don't you join in with the 24 hour party people, plastic face can't smile, white out?'
24 Hour Party People
The bard of Birkenhead, Nigel Blackwell, used it as starting point for his lament for those poor souls working in the all night garage. Opening with the unforgettable lines 'I fancy I'll open a stationers, stock quaint notepads for weekend pagans, while you were out at the Rollright Stones I came and set fire to your shed' Nigel goes on to describe the tormenting of the all night garage employee, sending him round the shop looking for ever more obscure articles to buy- 2 Scotch eggs and a jar of Marmite, 10 Kit Kats and a motoring atlas, a blues cd on the Hallmark label- before finishing with a diversion into the pines.
Twenty Four Hour Garage People
Monday, 23 July 2018
When we were leaving Rome for the Bay of Naples the receptionist at the hotel we were checking out of asked where we were heading on to. After telling her we were going to Pompeii she looked at us like we were mad- 'in this heat?!' she said. And she was right, it was very, very hot. But also a genuinely breathtaking and amazing place. Having walked through the streets of Pompeii we turned into the Forum, the centre of the town, a vast public space with columns and buildings around the four sides and in the distance Vesuvius lurked- the reason the town was destroyed, thousands killed but also the reason the town survived.
Eighteen years ago Fila Brazillia played at Fuji Rock. The 9 song set was recorded, has been cleaned up by Steve Cobby and is about to be released as the first Fila Brazillia album for nearly two decades. You can buy it at Bandcamp and watch A Zed And Two Ls below. The set also features Throwing Down A Shape, New Cannonball, Slow Light, Little Hands Rouge, Ridden Pony, 6ft Wasp, Pissy Willy and Harmonicas Are Shite. By 2000 Cobby and Dave McSherry's band was a fully fleshed out touring group, playing slow motion funk, disco inflected grooves, jazzy ambient house and every other down tempo genre you can think of. Cross pollination for the nation.
Sunday, 22 July 2018
Views from our hotel in Sorrento, from the balcony at the front (top) and the same balcony at sunset (bottom) and from my room facing inland (middle). I could stare at these views for hours.
It seems to be commonly accepted that Spiritualized's best album is Ladies And Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space and maybe rightly so but I think the preceding album Pure Phase runs it very close. Pure Phase isn't as song based, although there are straightforward songs on it, but is more into groove and tones and drones. There's a section in the middle, a kind of crescendo, starting with the short, whispy Born Never Asked which then segues into the utterly tremendous 7 minutes and 40 seconds of Electric Mainline, a masterclass of flow and repetition. It is then followed by Lay Back In The Sun, a song so glorious and elegantly wasted it burns the ears. The sun Jason was singing about probably wasn't the big ball of fire seen above but a more narcotic warmth, a hit of something strong. But the song is blast of bass and horns and bliss, rolling and sliding for over 5 minutes.
Saturday, 21 July 2018
The Vatican Museum has got statues, lots and lots of Roman and Greek statues. Two wings of a gallery full of statues and busts, many in almost perfect condition. Among them are the Emperors Tiberius and Claudius (below).
The Vatican and its enormous museum aren't the easiest of visits. The museum is too busy in places, rammed full of tourists being herded about by guides, filling galleries and staircases. At times it's impossible to avoid getting swept along in a wave of people walking down corridors, selfie sticks aloft, past wall paintings and tapestries, without any sense of what's happening other than everyone keeps moving and clicking. The Roman statues gallery was relatively quiet and for a while I took refuge in the Etruscan gallery, full of beautiful decorated vases and open windows looking out over the city. Dipping into the modern art collection (and I'm not generally a fan of Christian art) there was a calming, awe-inspiring room containing Matisse's huge designs for the Chapelle du Rosaire in Provence.
For a really soulless experience I can recommend the Sistene Chapel. Hundreds of people at a time corralled into the room, necks craned upwards gazing at the fingers of God and Adam and Michaelangelo's brushwork, ushers ordering people to either keep to the edges if moving or into the centre if standing while also being barking at the visitors, telling to stop talking and take no photos. On leaving the Sistene Chapel you enter the gift shop, piled high with jigsaws, posters and mousemats of the ceiling. The Vatican insists that the Capella Sistena is a sacred place and that guests must show respect and be appropriately dressed, no naked shoulders or knees, but the pile 'em in and bark at 'em attitude of the museum and chapel is dispiriting. I think Jesus might have had views about it similar to his attitude the money lenders in the temple.
In the statues gallery they've got this unnamed, bearded Dacian man which handily brings me around to the latest edition of Andrew Weatherall's Music's Not For Everyone, transmitted on NTS Radio yesterday and piled high with high quality tunes from everyone from Naphta and The Shamans to Link Wray to Seahawks to Wally Badarou. Tracklist here. No talking from Lord Sabre in this one, just music.
Friday, 20 July 2018
People don't really change very much. Wandering round Pompeii with its streets, houses, fast food take aways, bars and taverns, graffiti about politics and love, mucky pictures on the walls in the brothel and grand public buildings, I was struck by how similar the people of ancient Rome were to us. I took the picture at the top in the Colosseum, a pillar constructed somewhere between 70 and 80AD, that was graffitied by visitors wanting to leave their name on an ancient monument in the 1880s. The doorway in the picture below was round the corner from our hotel in Rome, which includes the line in the middle 'Heraklion Hooligans est 1984 Gate 4', left by visiting fans from the Greek football team OFI Crete FC. The sport we watch may have changed from ritual slaughter to football but the arenas and fervour are largely the same. The impulse to carve or write your name on a public wall, to leave your mark, isn't a modern phenomenon.
I've had Spacemen 3 and related bands looping around my head for the last few weeks. There may be another one to follow today's post before the next few days are out. I'd forgotten about Sonic Boom's cover version of Beat Happening's Indian Summer. A good cover version, definitely one to keep.
Beat Happening's original version from 1988 is a lo-fi, primitive classic, a song I can come back to time and time again. In both versions here it is a perfect evocation of sexual awakenings, lost youth and heady days.
'Breakfast in cemetery
Boy tasting wild cherry
Touch a girl apple blossom
Just a by playing possum'
Thursday, 19 July 2018
Rome is a good city to walk around, despite the mad roads, even madder driving and uneven pavements. Some cities seem to be very delineated with different areas for shops, business, hotels, tourist attractions and restaurants. In Rome, everything is mixed in together. The driving is unreal, people largely driving (and parking) how and where they want. And hundreds of Vespas, in all kinds of condition and age- the one above was a beauty parked up on a pavement near Piazza della Repubblica. The picture above was taken in the courtyard behind Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, a rather beautiful basilica built on the back of the Baths of Diocletian. The railway station, Termini, is just across the road. Our hotel was a 5 minute walk away, on the edge of an area packed with cafes, little bars and tabbachis, and street markets, populated by a broad ethnic mix. Walking around the city, up and down its streets, brought glimpses of side streets and across piazzas. It was hot and we got tired from walking but it was well worth it, especially as the sun started to go down and the golden sunlight lit up painted buildings.
Field Of Dreams have just released this song, Nothing Is Perfect, an uptempo electronic delight with vocals from Mr Bradley that remind me of Liam from Flowered Up. The run out groove contains two well chosen words to our current government. There is also a monster of an Andrew Weatherall remix. Out now on vinyl with individually hand painted sleeves.
Wednesday, 18 July 2018
I got back from my trip to Rome and Sorrento on Tuesday and then spent today in Blackpool (which takes in both ends of the coastal scale). Italy is amazing. I'll come back to things in more detail over the next few days but in short Rome was stunning and full on and the Bay of Naples and Sorrento are beautiful with jaw-dropping views and a way of life very different from the UK. Pompeii and Herculaneum, and the Colosseum and Forum in Rome, took my breath away. And it was hot, by Zeus, it was hot. At Herculaneum it was as hot as I've ever been. We packed a huge amount into 5 day and nights, a bit of a mad dash to some places that without an itinerary and 42 teenagers in tow you might do at a more leisurely pace, but it was a great way to see some incredible places. Sorrento is the kind of place I could return to and many people told us that Amalfi, just down the coast, is a must.
This is the latest from Gabe Gurnsey's upcoming solo album, a thumping, vibrant, track called Harder Rhythm that according to Gabe is inspired by 'the twin primal instincts of sexual attractions and our instilled affinity with rhythm'.
Thursday, 12 July 2018
Well, there you go, a game too far maybe for a young and inexperienced side but there is no shame at all in being beaten 2-1 in the semi-final of the World Cup by Croatia. Well done to Gareth Southgate and the whole squad. I'm sorry to all my Scottish friends who've probably got fed up with it but you're just going to have to live with it this little piece of English football pride we've enjoyed over the last few weeks and you'd have done the same if it had been you.
As this publishes I shall be on a plane to Italy, on a school trip taking in a couple of days in Rome and then a bus ride south to the Bay of Naples for a couple of days, to Sorento visitng Pompeii, Herculaneum and Vesuvius. There won't be any blogging going on while I'm away. The weather forecast looks even hotter and sunnier there than it has been here for the last month. I've never been before and am massively looking forward to seeing the historical sites and sights of ancient Rome and Italia in all its glory. See you all next week.
To make Thursday start off with a beautifully relaxed start here is some blissed out, sunkissed Italian house from Q-Base in 1991. If you hear anything more chilled out than this today, please let me know.
Il Sole (The Sun) Deep Mix
Wednesday, 11 July 2018
Whatever happens tonight in Moscow- England are playing Croatia in the World Cup semi-final in case you've been asleep for the last two weeks- the team have done themselves proud and exceeded any expectations many of us had of them. Since the late 1990s England have failed so often and so abjectly it became difficult to believe that any major tournament could be a success. Having shed themselves of the so-called 'Golden Generation', some really poor managerial appointments and the millstone of the superstars that hung around without really ever doing anything, Gareth Southgate has done something extraordinary- he's built a squad of young men that play for each other and for the team, egos and factions apparently a thing of the past, with the confidence that being young and talented brings and also actually preparing for things like penalty shoot outs. The idea that England could be contesting a place in a World Cup final still seems a bit unreal to me. Last time around, in Brazil, they were the first team home, defeated twice in a matter of days, left playing a third and final group game that meant nothing.
The last time England were in a World Cup semi-final was 1990, a night in Turin against West Germany that ended with penalties and defeat. 1990 was a different world- Germany was not even re-united in summer 1990. Nelson Mandela had only been released in February 1990. John Major was not yet Prime Minister, Thatcher still in power and with no reason to think she wouldn't be by the end of year (Major ended up leading a Tory cabinet and party massively split over Europe, so plus ca change maybe).
In July 1990 I was twenty years old and a group of us had been to Glastonbury at the end of June, arriving home to our shared student house part way through the England- Cameroon quarter final match to see England win 3-2. Glastonbury had been headlined by Happy Mondays and The Cure (both still playing big shows all these years later). We'd seen Sinead O'Connor, De La Soul, James, Jesus Jones and then Archaos closing the Pyramid Stage by tightrope walking across the top of it. There's a review here which describes it as all mud, flares and the Mekong Delta. New Order had hit number one with World In Motion. Adamski had been number one with Seal and Killer before that. Spike Island was only 6 weeks previously, a promise of something that never happened. With the university term and year over I watched the semi-final back at my parent's house and as Chris Waddle put his penalty over the bar someone at our house, an older person who had dropped in, said 'never mind, they'll be in another one soon'. Not that soon it turns out. Whatever happens tonight, it's been a long time coming. Good luck England.
The Official Colourbox World Cup Theme
Tuesday, 10 July 2018
Who could be fail to be moved by a call to arms set against some very funky mid-80s pop, railing against reactionary regimes and economic policies that keep people poor (with a slightly po-faced pop at Frankie Goes To Hollywood)? Who? Boris Johnson maybe. David Davis? Theresa May. The complete disintegration of the Conservative Party over Europe is a lovely idea. Long may it continue.
The Style Council's 1985 single Walls Come Tumbling Down is ace and their appearance on Top Of The Pops to promote it is proper time capsule stuff, Weller centre stage looking sharp with wedge haircut, blue shirt, white jeans and Rickenbacker bass. But, let's be honest, Dee C Lee upstages him, in black top and jeans with yellow cardigan combo, dancing non-stop, hotter than hot.
Headstart For Happiness is another Style Council gem, but personal rather than political and proof Weller could do wide eyed optimism when he wanted to. This is the version that closed Cafe Bleu, a delicious guitar riff and vocals shared between Mick, Dee and Paul, a song about being in love with being in love.
Headstart For Happiness
Monday, 9 July 2018
In his book Playing The Bass With Three Left Hands Spacemen 3's bassplayer Will Carruthers recounts the time a royalty statement arrived in the post, at a time when he was skint, and opening it to find out he had made the princely sum of £0.00. This is when he starts to open his eyes to music being a business, an industry, and not just some friends making music. He goes on to discuss the Spacemen 3 song Suicide, the only joint Kember-Pierce composition on Playing With Fire, a song Will points out the two men received royalty payments for writing- an instrumental, two note groove-drone, based on a Stooges riff (in itself ripped off an old blues riff), in tribute to Martin Rev and Alan Vega. That's how songwriting works. The song was agony for Will to play, his left hand clawed on the strings and neck of his Gibson Firebird bass. This version was included on the cd release of Playing With Fire, a live version recorded while they were on tour in The Netherlands. It is magnificent and as an extra you can feel Will's pain while it plays.
Sunday, 8 July 2018
Here's the long awaited Four Tet remix of Daniel Avery's Quick Eternity, one of those moments where two artists who are right on it combine. I was a little underwhelmed on first hearing- Four Tet's recent remix of Bicep was a masterpiece from the first time I heard it- but this one doesn't disappoint once you hit repeat and let it wash over you. It's a definite mix of two halves, with some little repeating synths parts over a lovely chiming melody for the first half, a fade out and a pause at 4.54, some vinyl static, and then the chimes come back and we're off into a more home-listening techno second half with synth whooshes, whirring sounds and percussion and some distorted bass to carry us home.
Saturday, 7 July 2018
You've got to hold or give but do it at the right time//You can be slow or fast but you must get to the line// They'll always hate you and hurt you, defend and attack// There's only one to beat them, get round the back.
World In Motion (Carabinieri Mix)
Roisin Murphy is hotter than July right now, even this July. All My Dreams, out in May, is as good as almost anything I've heard this year. This new one, Plaything, goes in at the same level. Produced by Maurice Fulton this is pop music as it should be in the 21st century. The video is smart enough, self-directed and following on from All My Dreams depiction of Roisin's rave awakening in Nottingham, but the energy and love she puts into the music is enough to make it send shock waves through your central nervous system listened to with your eyes closed.
The vinyl is stupidly expensive. Something needs to be done about this because they are in danger driving away the people that have kept this thing alive.
Friday, 6 July 2018
While this ridiculously good summer continues to send rays of sunshine all over the place Andrew Weatherall sneaks out a second remix of Aussie duo Confidence Man. It's got a kind of electro-Kraftwerk-gospel vibe, with a lovely twangy guitar part. It's perfect for a Friday in July.
If you weren't tripping when you entered the foyer at the Park House Hotel at Heathrow 1968, you were by the time you got to the check-in desk.
Thursday, 5 July 2018
It's pretty bizarre driving past Winter Hill at the moment, as I do on my way to work every day- the hillside is on fire and has been since last week. Two fires converged and although the main fires have now been contained the peat is still burning, smoke still visible for miles. The whole hillside is smouldering.
Winter Hill has a long history dating back to Bronze Age burial sites and has been the site of several air crashes, including one in 1958 which killed 35 people, an Isle Of Man to Manchester flight crashing near the summit. There was a crash in the 1920s and then during and after the Second World War Spitfires and Hurricanes went into the hillside fairly regularly. The TV mast seems to attract them rather than warn them off. There have also been several alleged UFO sightings, one involving a farmer and 'a dark object hovering close to the ground' as recently as 1999.
I posted this before back in October 2016 but it's begging for a re-post. A Certain Ratio's tribute to Winter Hill was the closing song on their 1981 To Each... album, a 12 minute instrumental trip based around an intense, alternating 2 note drone. Donald Johnson plays drums like his life depends on them while the rest of ACR blow their whistles. Hannett mans the controls.
Wednesday, 4 July 2018
That was a win on penalties, something we don't know too much about in this country, against a team who set out to spoil and intimidate for much of the match. Well played Mr Southgate and your youthful team. Saturday against Sweden it is.
Today is the 4th of July and I am going to celebrate this with this wonderful Galaxie 500 song from 28 years ago.
'I wrote a poem on a dog biscuit
And the dog refused to look at it
So I got drunk and looked at the Empire State Building
It was no bigger than a nickel'
I loved this song when I first heard it back in the summer of 1990 and I love it still. The feedback and slow motion indie/shoegaze is more than good enough- it shimmers- and the switch from the Beat poetry of the verse to the falsetto of the chorus is sublime.
'Maybe I should just change my style' Dean concludes, 'but I feel alright when you smile'.
4th Of July
Tuesday, 3 July 2018
An Andrew Weatherall remix, 1990 vintage, has just been re-released digitally, and amazingly it is one that I've never posted before. Discussions at a Weatherall forum unearthed several different length versions the remix of Yab Yum by Uzma. Hidden Gems Nation can now offer you for the bargain price of £4 the original mix, a 7.38 Weatherall one, a mammoth 15.14 Weatherall mix and a 12.04 Sabers one (although the spelling of Sabers makes me think this may not be a Sabres Of Paradise remix but possibly Danny Saber). The Weatherall mixes open with bells, a pulsing synth and generous cowbell before embarking on a long trancey, trip. One to file close to Weatherall's Papua New Guinea remix. The original track combines Asian instruments, singing and vibes with early 90s progressive house to very good effect.
Monday, 2 July 2018
I never saw Spacemen 3 play live. I bought Playing With Fire when it came out and was attending gigs in the period the group were active but for some reason our paths never crossed. I have recently got round to reading Playing The Bass With Three Left Hands, the memoirs of Will Carruthers, who spent a few years playing bass and taking drugs with Spacemen 3. The book is a must if you're a fan of the band or of the ones that came afterwards- Sonic Boom/Spectrum and Spiritualized.
Will is a gifted writer and there are two chapters that deal with the Spacemen 3 live experience in lurid detail. The first is a performance at an arts centre in Hammersmith billed as An Evening Of Contemporary Sitar. Will hits the one note groove early on and holds onto it for forty minutes or so while Pete and Jason do their thing. As the feedback rings out to close the set he leans to turn off his amp only to find he is so out of it he hadn't turned it on when starting. The set is recorded and released as one of the tracks on Dreamweapon. The cinemagoers and attendees of the gig are so horrified by the first set that Spacemen 3 are paid not to play their scheduled second set.
The second gig is a show in Chester, re-arranged to a health spa by the promoter, who also gives the group their first experience of E. A bunch of Ellesmere Port football fans turn up, not to beat the band up as they first think but to take drugs with Spacemen 3 and enjoy the music. The spa and it's facilities are thoroughly wrecked by the band and their fans. Will gives an honest, funny and at times bleak account of outsider life in a small town in the Midlands, of the impact of being open about drug-taking on the band, their families and the people they know. He describes the recording of Recurring, with the band working on Pete and Jason's songs separately, the subsequent break up of the band and the divergence of Sonic and Jason into their post-Spacemen activities. It's out in paperback and available for less than a tenner and well worth picking up.
Sonic Boom (Pete Kember) has had the lower profile career of the two main men but his varied back catalogue since Spacemen 3 is full of one and two chord gems. This one hits a blissed out organ tone early on and Pete's guitar ripples over the top of some celestial backing vocals.
True Love Will Find You In The End
Jason has gone on to Spiritualized, a group that have recorded some of the most brilliant music of the last two decades. They can be prone to repeating themselves, but I've come to realise it's a act of refinement rather than just repetition. There's a new album out later this year and the lead song, I'm Your Man, is rather gorgeous.
Sunday, 1 July 2018
The Lucid Dream are a psyche rock band from Carlisle. I can hear that Royal Navy advert when I type that- 'I was born in Carlisle but I was made in an acid house psyche rock band'. Their last single SX1000 was a full on acid house experience, thumping beats and bass and brain rattling acid noise which split their fanbase in two. Their next single, out on the internet recently, is a nine minute excursion into hi-hats, kick drum and repetitive noise and Born Slippy vocals. The break down at around 4.25 and subsequent re-entry of everything in quick layers is genuinely thrilling. And so suddenly out of nowhere, with an album due in October and a run of gigs supporting Wooden Shjips, they become contenders...