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Wednesday 31 October 2018

I'm Happy Just To Be With You

I had an urge the other day to hear a song by The Small Faces- it was almost overpowering, like the cravings I still very occasionally get for a cigarette (it's now five and a half years since I last had a ciggie, as you're asking). And it was a very specific craving- it had to be the 1968-period, Ogden's era Small Faces, when they'd loosened up and gone a little hippie around their mod edges, Steve Marriott's soulful voice, Ronnie's distinctive bass playing, the wheezy organ, Kenny's thumpy drums. Song Of A Baker would have done perfectly. Or Tin Soldier. Or this...

Afterglow (Of Your Love)

This is the version from Ogden's Classic Nut Gone Flake, not the single version Andrew Loog Oldham put out after the group had split in 1969. The album version has the acoustic intro that was removed from the single release- I'm not that fussy, both versions are great. Loog Oldham sped it up slightly for the 45 and extended the end section. Both are stunning but I guess this one is the one the group recorded initially and wanted. Marriott's lyrics were written for his wife, Jenny Rylance, a song that according to his drummer in Humble Pie Jerry Shirley only Marriott could have written, 'a beautiful love song about what it feels like to have a fag after sex'.

And while I'm here, double bubble two-fer-one, one of the greatest clips in the history of music television, The Small Faces and PP Arnold destroying hearts on French TV in 1968.

Tuesday 30 October 2018

Renegade Soundwave

I was reminded of this at the weekend, a lengthy techno workout from 1994, Leftfield remixing Renegade Soundwave. Moody, thumpy, acidic and very, very good indeed. Sounds like part of a soundtrack to a journey by train at dusk.

Renegade Soundwave (Leftfield Remix)

Monday 29 October 2018

Monday's Long Song

Over- familiarity can be a curse with songs. Sometimes you have to hear a song differently to appreciate it again, in a different context or space or just at volume. Since it was released on November 9th 1989 Fool's Gold has become one of those overplayed songs but occasionally I can hear it for what it is again. It stands on its own in The Stone Roses back catalogue, a 9 minute 53 seconds B-side that became an A-side, a long way from the 60s inspired songs on the debut, a fair distance too from the extended jam section of I Am The Resurrection (which is much more indebted to rock music than Fool's Gold is).

Fool's Gold is effortless, ice cool, ghostly northern funk, with menacing whispered vocals and all manner of effects pulled out of John Squire's guitar and pedals. Squire and Brown wrote it at Sawmills in Cornwall, based a four bar drum loop from a James Brown record with Reni adding live drums later to toughen it up. Ian Brown's lyrics were inspired by Humphrey Bogart film The Treasure Of Sierra Madre, the story of 3 prospectors betraying each other. Squire's wah wah guitar part sounds like a helicopter, rising and falling while Mani's tight but rubbery bassline holds things together. It doesn't really sound like anything else they recorded (the follow up One Love is more song based with a Resurrection style jam section). It doesn't really sound like anything anybody else at the time recorded either.

Fool's Gold

Initially the 12" single was released with What The World Is Waiting For as the A-side but it was Fool's Gold that radio picked up on, that was switched around on subsequent pressings of the single and it was Fool's Gold that saw them crash-land into Top Of The Pops in November 1989. The band look brilliant in the clip, insouciant, cocksure and calm in the knowledge it has been their year- especially the moment where Ian raises the microphone above his head and stares down the camera lens while miming the words, not playing along with the pretence that it could be live. A little act that speaks volumes.

Sunday 28 October 2018

Moving Trucks

Bob Mould has a new single out (and an album to follow and a tour next year). Following the deaths of both parents Bob was self aware enough to know that this could lead to a bleak Bob Mould album (and you only have to listen to Black Sheets Of rain for instance to know that Bob can do bleak). He forced himself to write positive songs. Sunshine Rock sounds just like an upbeat Bob Mould song should, ringing guitars, surging chords, that vocal tone, but when the strings come in towards the end, it all shifts up again.

I've dipped in and out of Bob's solo career, more out than in recently, but there's always something worth rediscovering. Twenty years ago he was on Creation and put out The Last Dog And Pony Show. This song is a keeper, the tale of a man watching his partner pack up and leave and then using the break up as a way to move forward, 'no moving trucks to hold me down'.

Moving Trucks

Saturday 27 October 2018

A Battered Street

Some buildings in the Northern Quarter have been pulled down recently, allowed to fall into a state of disrepair and then condemned. Cheaper than renovating them. The landlord can then demolish and sell the land (prime location, city centre land) and build something new and cheap. Cities always change, old being replaced by new, but it's hard to see the new ones they put up and not feel something is being lost.

The La's released one album and a few singles, all nearly 30 years ago. Since then their slim back catalogue has been fleshed out with all manner of demos, sessions, 'lost' recordings and live tracks. Their Scouse skiffle found a wide audience during the late 80s and early 90s, all the while Lee Mavers complaining that the songs didn't sound right, hadn't been recorded properly. The group had been going in different line ups for several years by that point. This version of Callin' All is a demo from around 1987 but sounds pretty finished to me and has exactly the kind of vibe and produciton I've always assumed he was looking for, Lee Mavers' vision of the '60s in the '80s already fully realised right in front of his nose.

Callin' All

Friday 26 October 2018

Rick James Dwells In The Abyss

Steve Cobby's album from last year, Hemidemisemiquaver, was chock full of electronic delights. One of them was this inspired electro plus vocal sample tribute (of kinds) to Rick James. There's a killer guitar solo in there too. Steve's made a video for it, having gone slightly mad with a Spirograph app (created by Nathan Friend)- it will hypnotise you if you stare at it for too long.

Rick James started out in LA playing bass in a handful of short lived bands including one called Salt, Pepper And Cocaine. Prior to this he had played with some future members of Buffalo Springfield and had also fled to Canada to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War. His solo career took off on  Motown in the 70s and into the 80s, with songs such as Mary Jane and his hit Super Freak. Rick James, as the vocal sample says, dwells in the abyss and by the 90s deep into the abyss was where he was- rampant cocaine use and a conviction for sexual assault which led to 2 years in prison. After his mother died, Rick said he went even further, “there was nothing to keep me from descending into the lowest level of hell. That meant orgies. That meant sado-masochism. That even meant bestiality.” Rick James dwells in the abyss. 

Thursday 25 October 2018

A Double

In past years on music blogs October 25th was Keeping It Peel Day (October 25th being the day he died in 2004), a day to celebrate the life and music of the man. I remember this largely because October 25th is also my wife's birthday.

This photograph/meme was doing the rounds a couple of weeks ago and I love it. In the spirit of the meme and for Keeping It Peel Day- Peel supported and loved both bands- I offer you a Joy Division song recorded by New Order in 1998 for a Peel Session.


Isolation contains one of Ian Curtis' most distressing lyrics. The second verse has for a long time seemed to me like where he knew he was moving towards the place he ended up in on 18th May 1980.

'Mother I tried please believe me,
I'm doing the best that I can.
I'm ashamed of the things I've been put through,
I'm ashamed of the person I am'

Musically Isolation is immense, Stephen's urgent electronic drums, Hooky's driving bass and Bernard's keyboards which bring a bit of light into the shade. The second half of the song receives a real shot of adrenaline when the 'real' kit and hi-hat come in, propelling it onward. On Closer, Joy Division's second album, it is a breath of fresh air, a few minutes of aural relief following the claustrophobic, intense and unsettling opener Atrocity Exhibition. If you can ignore the content of the lyrics. The New Order version above is well worth your time, an update and upgrade, a merged musical version of Ally Sheedy and Molly Ringwald, both black and pink.

And happy birthday to Mrs Swiss (Lou), a fan of The Breakfast Club and Molly Ringwald's dancing.

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Russian Roulette

The Liminanas have made one of my favourite records of 2018, the album Shadow People which came out back in January. The French duo have such a good sound, using 60s folk-psyche as a starting point and from there adding in some groove, general Gallic cool and contributions from like-minded souls (Anton Newcombe and Peter Hook for two). And lots of reverb. This new song is on a new compilation album of rarities and oddments out in November, a cover of a song by The Lords Of The New Church. Magnifique.

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Now That's A Record Buddy

In 1995 lots of bands made claims about being The Best Band In The World. After the more self contained, internal world of 80s indie, it became a sign of ambition and achieving best or biggest status was something all groups should strive for. But all those groups who said such things were all wrong because The Best Band In The World in the mid 1990s was actually Beastie Boys. This track from their 1994 double album Ill Communication is Exhibit A. Made up solely of a few samples (a killer bassline, drums, the crackle of vinyl, some organ from Jimmy Smith's live album of the same name as the song and some deeply funky wah-wah guitar) over which Ad Rock, Mike D and MCA spit out lines and rhymes, coming together for the chorus. Two of the standout lines here are Ad Rock's 'everybody know when I be dropping science' line and later on the sudden stop that leads into 'oh my God, that's the funky shit!' They make it sound like anyone could do this but that's clearly not true. They also make it seem like fun- serious but also fun.

Root Down

The Beastie Boys make double the amount of sense when you have the visuals to go with the music.

There's a book coming out shortly called Beastie Boys Book, co-written by Ad Rock and Mike D with contributions from many of their friends and collaborators, and by the sounds of it it will not be your standard rock biography. During the 90s they expanded into clothing (X-Large), magazine publishing (Grand Royal), owning a record label (also Grand Royal), toured at length and also headlined Lollapalooza, put together a massive fundraising concert for human rights in Tibet, made some of the best pop videos ever (Sabotage and Intergalactic for two) as well as no less than 4 vital hip hop albums- Paul's Boutique, Check Your Head, Ill Communication and Hello Nasty.

Monday 22 October 2018

Monday's Long Song

Not so much a song today, more a thirteen minute groove with staccato organ chords, crunchy guitars and trumpets, lightness rather than shade. Stereolab could do this kind of thing in sleep I think but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. From their 1996 Flourescences ep (and the 3 cd box set Oscillons From The Anti-Sun from 2005 which is a treasure trove of ep tracks, a dvd of videos and TV appearances and some stickers).

Soop Groove #1

It's half term here this week and the weather looks good with some late October sunshine promised today. Some of the leaves are still clinging on to the trees. The rest are scattered all over the ground in a random autumnal colour chart. Quite often up here the seasons tend to blur and become a smudge but sometimes there's a week or two where we get a proper autumn, before the clocks go back and everything becomes unpleasantly grey and dark wintry.

Sunday 21 October 2018

See You At The Movies

I can't imagine J Mascis is getting very many new fans at this stage in his 'career', that the youth are getting into his records or even that Dinosaur Jr are on the verge of a re-discovery (despite their reunion). His band and solo career seem to play to people who got into him between the mid 80s and mid 90s and have stuck. This song sneaked out a while ago, a solo song ahead of a new solo album.

In lots of ways it's as good as anything he's done for ages, all the J Mascis elements present and correct- timeworn vocal, lovely acoustic guitar backing, blistering lead guitar parts and a general sense of lethargy (but with that electric jolt still there). Sonic Youth wrote Teenage Riot about J Mascis, imagining him as president of the USA in an alternate reality. What seemed nonsense in 1988 now seems like good common sense- J would be a million times better than the current incumbent and his support for medieval theocracy, whatever the cost.

Dinosaur Jr wrote, recorded and released an album in 1987 called You're Living All Over Me. If you don't know it, this is a good place to start.

In A Jar

Saturday 20 October 2018

Let's Dance

I had a post about Richard Norris planned (semi-planned and half written in my head) about how I didn't expect that he would be tagged, to date, 37 times in posts here and how without realising it he is a Zelig-like figure in my record collection (and cd and mp3 collection). He appears throughout from writing for the NME in the late 80s to the the Jack The Tab album with Genesis P. Orridge in 1987, his output in the 90s with Dave Ball as The Grid, the songs he did with Joe Strummer as The Mescaleros started out, his music as one half of Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve with Erol Alkan, his solo stuff as The Time And Space Machine from around the time this blog started in 2010, his much more recent releases as Circle Sky and a multitude of remixes from way back then to now.

I got in from work last night to find Richard is sharing various unreleased tracks from his vaults starting with this one from four years ago called Let's Dance (not that Let's Dance). Free download for a limited time. A thumping, analogue acid house banger.

It was this track spinning on my car's cd player on Thursday morning that started the original post being written in my head, a remix of Gulp and a piece of space-disco so perfect it could convince you higher life forms were involved in its production.

Morning Velvet Sky (Richard Norris Remix)

And while I'm here Gulp's album All Best Wishes is a beauty, an album from this year that I keep coming back to. Gulp would easily fit in on a bill alongside Jane Weaver and Cavern of Anti-Matter for a really good night out. Silver Tides is the album's closer and is sublime.

Friday 19 October 2018

Perfect Motion

This record, especially in its 12" remixed form, is exactly what some dance nights sounded like in 1992. Sunscreem were from Essex and were remixed by the great and the good of the scene, in this case by Pete Heller and Terry Farley for Boy's Own. This is long, designed for dancing too and to be mixed into and out of. A long progressive house track which edges towards trance, up and positive with a pumping bass and drums, repeating synth parts and a couple of lines of vocal floating over the top. This samples Simple Minds, their early 80s electronic classic Theme For Great Cities, which I posted here recently. There's a breakdown at 6.40, a moment to pause for breath and raise one's hands in the air, someone would whistle, then some rave hoover bass comes in, and then the keyboard starts to build again. On and on in perfect motion.

Perfect Motion (Boy's Own Mix)

Thursday 18 October 2018

Memories Of The Night Before

Once or twice a month when I've amassed bits and bobs in mp3 form from various blogs (most to be found int he links to the right) I burn them onto cd, mainly to soundtrack my journey to and from work for a few days. Hence my car is full of cds with titles like 'Oct 2016 comp' or '07/18'. I used to write out tracklists but that happens less soften now so sometimes I pull out a homemade various artists cd and stick it in and see what happens. Last week I was struck by how brilliant a Soft Cell song sounded- this didn't come as a surprise and it won't surprise some of you either, I'm sure most of the bloggers who read this will have posted some Soft Cell at some point, but they just caught me and slapped me round the face a bit. The song in question was the 12" mix of Say Hello, Wave Goodbye, a hit from 1982. That's been posted somewhere else recently though so I'm going with this one instead, from 1981 which is just as brilliant, just as innovative- just listen to those synths for proof- and just as evocative of a life lived in bedsitland.

Bedsitter (12" mix)

Wednesday 17 October 2018

She's In Love With Heaven Above

The Soup Dragons appeared in my online life recently, a band I've never written about here before. In a way they perfectly illustrate the journey a certain kind of indie guitar band made between 1986 and 1990. In 1986 they appeared on the NME's C86 compilation and from there released a single called Hang Ten.

Hang Ten

Hang Ten is an endearingly shambolic, under-produced, two minute, three chord romp, slightly thrashy but not too thrashy, four young men from Bellshill, Motherwell, inspired by The Jesus And Mary Chain. Ambitions at this point for bands like The Soup Dragons didn't seem to go much beyond putting an album out on an independent label, getting a full page in the NME, being played by John Peel and undertaking a 40 date tour which always included a gig at Northampton Roadmenders.

In early summer 1989 they put out a single called Backwards Dog, a loud, filthy rocker that blared out of the speakers. I bought it on 12" and remember liking it but also thinking they'd possibly missed the boat a little, that things were changing around them and they maybe hadn't noticed.

Backwards Dog

But then in 1990 they released this...

Everything changed for guitar bands. The drugs, the jeans, the drumbeat, the video special effects. For The Soup Dragons this was partly forced on them by losing their drummer and buying a drum machine and sampler to plug the gap but it was also due to records like Bummed and The Stone Roses and that groove. Love beads not brown suede. White jeans not winklepickers. Northampton Roadmenders was still on the itinerary but now with a DJ in support. And having a hit in the real charts, not the indie charts, was obligatory.

The Soup Dragons hit the top five in the UK with their cover of I'm Free, a fairly minor Rolling Stones album track that Sean Dickson and the boys breathed new life into (with a toasting section courtesy of Junior Reid). Big Life, their record label and home to The Orb, Yazz, De La Soul and Junior Reid, then tried to follow it up by remixing Mother Universe and holding a more expensive video shoot. Both versions came out in 1990 along with a rejigged version of the album Lovegod. I like Mother Universe, it's got tons of period charm, it sounds like indie night in a nightclub, the midweek indie disco- but the earlier version is better than the hit chasing second.

Tuesday 16 October 2018

If I Let Go

Too insistent to be ambient (and the bpm count's too high) but pretty dreamy all the same- this is brand new from Circle Sky (a Richard Norris analogue modular synth project). This is low key and rather fucking gorgeous. That's my review.

Monday 15 October 2018

Monday's Long Song

Monday's long song this week comes from The Woodentops and an unreleased version of their song Give It Time, a single and album track in 1986 but constructed and mixed by Arthur Baker in '85. Clocking in at 7 minutes 34 it's not actually that long I suppose but most of Rolo's songs were around the 3 minute mark, rapid strumming and double time percussion making everything feel pretty quick. This one takes things more gently, Baker finding the space and a slower tempo. Those acoustic guitars are still there and some extended percussive sections. Lovely stuff from a band with a back catalogue full of the same.

Give It Time (Arthur Baker Mix)

People often lament The Woodentops failure to 'make it'. Rolo said the following at his Facebook page recently in response to a comment that they deserved to have been more successful...

'Back then I could not have been more busy. So many people before my eyes, insane huge crowds and banging indoor venues. More planes than trains and endless miles, the pressure was intense and I lost it many a time. I wasn't always a happiness machine. Usually but not always. I never actually began a band with the intention of being in the charts, I wanted to do something and just hoped some people might enjoy as much as I. All the ambition was directed at trying to get the band tight and convincing like the music I listen too. I wanted to add something to the sound of the town. So when it got to risking your life literally, to get to a tv station on the other side of Europe in continuous heavy rain in the fast lane, I noted that moment. Death by self promotion! Also by not being part of any scene, coming up with totally different ideas for more songs that intentionally didn't sound like ones we already had, we are hard to promote so we never would be a typical chart act. We fell into them for a bit sure. Mainly though it was international alternative charts which I would prefer to be in. I know we have songs out there that have influenced or been included in new musical movements, excerpts in films and tv, mentions in books and all sorts. David Bowie bought all the records we made and loved them and told me so. So I feel success came our way. I'm a happy chappy and alive. So I'm saying it's cool if we didn't or haven't headlined Wembley stadium. We play too fast for there anyway. You wouldn't be able to hear a thing'.

All of which made me smile.

Sunday 14 October 2018

Dance Your Life Away

Back at NTS Andrew Weatherall delivers another first rate edition of Music's Not For Everyone taking in artists from A (Annanan) to Z (Zahra Haji Fath Ali Tehrani). This one is an especially long, strange and in places heavy trip.

Included within is The Chairman's latest remix, a reworking of Dance Your Life Away by audiobooks, a male-female duo newly singed to Heavenly. Weatherall takes part of the bouncing bassline, cuts the vocal up into whoops and yelps which then becomes the single phrase in the basement. A kind of punk-funk, dubby, Slits partying in early 80s New York thing. I was a bit undecided at first but several plays in I'm converted.

Saturday 13 October 2018

Never Let Me Down Again

This is a rather tasty update of a 1987 Depeche Mode song from Rhythm Scholar, a song that saw the Basildon band enter the top ten all over Europe and move into the world of full on, all the medals, stadium groups. Rhythm Scholar keeps Dave Gahan's vocal , a bunch of drug references essentially, and some of the menace of the original and adds layers of sound, stretching it out, euphorically.

I wasn't much of a fan of Depeche Mode as a youngster. Their 80s electro-pop records sound much better to me now, now I've got some distance (maybe that's me not them). I found their 90s stadium rock stuff pretty uninteresting too but even that has some appeal to me now. 

Friday 12 October 2018

Wahre Liebe

Factory Floor's live soundtrack to Fritz Lang's 1929 Weimar sci-fi masterpeice Metropolis comes out today. I've been looking forward to this since the Heart Of Data/Babel 12" came out back in February. Their score is film length, an hour and fifty minutes long, and is out on double cd or quadruple vinyl (and you can imagine how much that costs).

In 2011 Factory Floor's Real Love single was remixed by Glasgow clubbing veteran JD Twitch, a controlled collision of analogue synths and digital drum machines.

Real Love (An Optimo Espacio Mix)

I was showing some young people (16-17 year olds) some clips from Metropolis earlier this week as part of their studies of Weimar Germany and its culture. I don't think the jawdropping special effects or the look of the film or its technical genius of the film was lost on them although some of the acting is very hammy 90 years later. They were equally if not more impressed with Nosferatu which they found genuinely freaky. And then one of them mentioned they already knew Nosferatu from this...

Thursday 11 October 2018


This piece of slow motion shoegaze comes from Malmo, Sweden, has been remixed by Robin Guthrie, is out on Sonic Cathedral in November and is four minutes of sugar-coated, off kilter bliss. It comes in like Lush and makes a stately procession through Cocteau's land, lost in a haze of FX pedals and echo-drenched vocals. I can chuck some more cliches in there for you if you'd like but it might be better if you just listen to it and then go to buy it at Bandcamp (only digitally I'm afraid, the 7" is sold out). There's an album from June this year called Pink Noise which I haven't had a chance to listen to yet but on the basis of this song I will be soon enough.

Wednesday 10 October 2018

Inner Acid

Earlier this year Mr. Fingers released an album called Cerebral Hemispheres, his first for 25 years. It contains 18 songs spread across 2 cds/multiple pieces of vinyl, and in some ways is an expanded version of the Outer Acid e.p. from 2017, but it also tries to summarise the various branches of electronic music Larry Heard has been responsible for and played with since the 1980s- deep house, jazzy dinner table house, bossa nova, even some bluesy guitar. It also veers off into darker places- some delicious acid tinged techno with some fairly unhinged sounds and minimal rhythms twisting inside and out. On the first disc (of the cd) it jumps from one style to another and then back again, a little unable to decide where it wants to go. On the second disc it finds a more consistent sound and tone, the acid and techno grooves becoming more dominant wit hthe odd diversion into dub. This one is a delight, the soundtrack to a long journey at dusk.

Inner Acid

Tuesday 9 October 2018

Exit Connection

A short post with a short song. This is a B-side from a 2015 single, a short, sharp blast of post punk guitars. Angular. Frenetic. Rocking. That sort of thing.

Exit Connection

Monday 8 October 2018

Monday's Long Song

Monday's long song today comes courtesy of Primal Scream and the production skills of Andrew Weatherall and Hugo Nicholson. In 1991 the Scream decamped to Ardent Studios, Memphis to chase the muse and record a follow up to Screamadelica. The results were the 12" record released in January 1992, the Dixie-Narco ep, four tracks led by Moving On Up, the desolate blues of Stone My Soul, the achingly gorgeous cover of Dennis Wilson's Carry Me Home and the title track for the album that wasn't actually on the album, a song that was one of the best things they ever did and at 10 minutes 46 seconds, a long song. Screamadelica is glide through the night with Denise Johnson on vocals, 'spaced out, star child, Screamadelica'. Space disco, sampled voices, Leftfield's Paul Daley on percussion, a big bass drum, stretched out sounds, funky horns and guitar, a break down and gear change after four minutes and some robotic vox over a distorted bassline. A band taking flight in the studio. Can you feel your hands, can you feel your feet, can you feel the rhythm?


Here it is played live on The Word, irritatingly only a tantalising 1 minute 12 seconds of it. For a while, despite all the desperate antics, The Word was the only place on TV that had the bands of the moment playing live. I always loved the dancers too, giving it maximum whoever was playing.

And here is some footage from a road movie/documentary that accompanied the Screamadelica VHS release of the videos from the album, with the band and Weatherall, all long hair and leather, wandering round the South.

Sunday 7 October 2018

I Walk The Earth

Before The Beta Band split up Steve Mason was working on solo material. No Style came out in 2000 on Alan McGee's Poptones label and set out his solo stall- shuffly drums, multi-tracked vocals, rising chord sequences and the extended, chanted outro part which stops and then kicks back in does the same thing for another minute or two. Looking back at Steve's albums from 2016's Meet The Humans, 2013's post-riots Monkey Minds In The Devil's Time, his Black Affair releases and King Biscuit Time records and the three Beta Band albums there's a real sense of continuity and progression, of refining his sound and style.

I Walk The Earth

Saturday 6 October 2018

Where Is England?

Sometimes unreleased songs are unreleased for a reason. The promise of unreleased tracks isn't always that much of a treat in the end, curios played once or twice and then filed away. The second cd of the new Joe Strummer album 001 has some buried treasure on it though. The Swede posted a lost Joe Strummer-Mick Jones song on Monday, the ten minute long U.S. North. This one is a revelation, especially for those of us who could tell that the post-Mick single This Is England had a great song hidden inside it. The album the five man Clash recorded, Cut The Crap, is best avoided apart from the lead single, a record hijacked by Bernie Rhodes who plastered it with tinny production, cheap synths and badly programmed drum machines. Joe's demo for This Is England, called Czechoslovak Song/Where Is England shows what could have been- Joe singing an early version of the song that would become This Is England, backed by Pete Howard on drums and Paul Simonon playing a wonderful dub bassline.

Friday 5 October 2018

The Cow's Wrong

The Beta Band released 3 e.p.s in 1997 and 1998 that sent lots of people into a spin. They were then anthologised as The 3 E.P.s and turned up in High Fidelity (and have just been remastered and re-released on vinyl if you've got £50 to spare). Then in 1999 they put out their debut album, a record the band themselves said it was 'fucking awful' and Steve Mason claimed it was 'probably one of the worst records that'll come out this year'. They said they'd been rushed, not been given enough money, not finished the songs, not been allowed to put out an ambient disc as a companion and that the production was poor. And you can imagine how that went down with the record company.

Twenty years later it's difficult not to feel like the 3 e.p.s  were the peak and that the debut album was a bit of a mess (and they followed it with 2 further albums both of which were much better). But it's also true that not all of The Beta Band is without merit and some of the songs are very good. Listening to it now it is also abundantly clear- and it was at the time I think- that they were doing something new, creating a new psychedelia for the late 90s which was not just a rehash or revivalist version of a 60s psychedelia. The loose structures, the mix of acoustic and electronic instruments and textures, hip hop beats and rapping, the use of dub and delay and repetition, layered vocals, the longer jam sections and stoner parts and the stuff that is chucked in from the wilder corners of their imaginations (barber shop quartets, marching bands), the sheer love of sounds- this is not a disaster, not 'fucking awful' and not the worst record of 1999 (that year saw the release of Californication and Stereophonics' Performance And Cocktails not to mention a Kid Rock lp. There's 3 for starters). There are a few mis-steps on The Beta Band but there are also some gems. Like this one.

The Cow's Wrong

Thursday 4 October 2018


More new stuff. Unloved, a threepiece made up of David Holmes, singer Jade Vincent and Keefus Cianca, inspired by the 60s girl groups, Jack Nitzsche and Hollywood's darker soundtracks, have signed to Heavenly and have a new song out. Their first album, Guilty Of Love released back in 2016, had a great sound and some good songs. This doesn't sound like a massive departure from that record, a bit denser and more fractured possibly.

I sometimes find that the internet has shorted my listening window for new releases. Things get posted online, I play them repeatedly for a few days until something else bright and shiny grabs my attention. When it finally gets a proper release it seems like the time has almost gone. I don't think it's the same as the concentration span issue the internet has created but the sheer wealth of stuff out there and the access to it. In the 80s and 90s you might hear a new release on the radio, tape it if you were really prepared. The cycle has changed. Not sure of it's better or worse but it's definitely different.

Wednesday 3 October 2018

Next Worlds

Something weird and a little bit wonderful from Los Angeles for Wednesday (courtesy of David Harrow, formerly of West London in the 90s). Oicho have given us an ep of dubby delights peppered with eastern instruments and melodies, four tracks well worth two of your quid/dollars. This sort of chuggy, cross pollination thing is really on a roll currently, a bit of a balm for the Brexit blues.

Tuesday 2 October 2018

Hooky's Technique

Peter Hook And The Light at The Albert Hall on Saturday night was a tale of three sets and a gig of two halves. Advertised as coming on stage at 8pm and opening with a short set of Joy Division songs the place was filled to burst downstairs from the way Hooky and the band took the stage. The Joy Division set was short and sweet, Hooky's voice more than doing justice to the songs and he didn't pull his punches. They started with Atmosphere and then played She's Lost Control and gave us a marvellous, growly rendition of Heart And Soul. A spirited run through Love Will Tear Us Apart closed this section, the audience joining in and taking over on the chorus.

Peter Hook clearly loves doing this, he's a part of the fabric of this place, a quarter of it's most musically adventurous group, a huge contributor to the story of Manchester since 1977. Between 1978 and 1989 his band travelled further, and through more difficult situations, than most groups do. He's got a band that can play the songs well and the audience love him. The breakdown in relations between him  and his former band mates is just part of the story now. The benefit for us is we get to see the songs played by one of the people that wrote them in smallish, atmospheric venues.

Off for ten minutes and then reappearing for part two the drum machine kicks into life and we're into Fine Time. From that point on the whole place is jumping as a thousand middle aged New Order fans live out what is one of New Order's peaks and their last truly great record, 1989's Technique. It's not quite a smooth and sleek as the album, which is to be expected- live music should carry a rougher edge, and Hooky's voice isn't always in exactly the right key being a very different instrument from Barney's. But there's so much to enjoy here as Technique gets played in order- All The Way, Love Less and Round And Round flying by, summoning up the summer of 89, a summer the vast majority of the audience lived through. The Spanish disco stylings of Mr Disco are sublime, filled here with the attack of two guitars, at times two basses, full drums, drum machine, samples. Vanishing Point- one of the best New Order songs not not have been a single lifts the roof of this old Methodist chapel further. Dream Attack. Boom.

Then a strange thing happens. They retire briefly and come back to play 1993's Republic, every song, in order. You can't go wrong with Regret and the three that follow are all decent New Order songs- World, Ruined In A Day and a pumped up Spooky. But after that the crowd visibly and audibly slumps and all that energy evaporates as Peter persists in the purity of finishing side 1 and then giving us all of side 2. I kind of admire the purity angle but Republic was a record made at gun point, trying to bring some cash in for an ailing record label. No one seems to have enjoyed making it or the circumstances surrounding it. Some of the songs I haven't heard for a quarter of a century and I'll be honest I didn't recognise them and couldn't name them- Liar, Chemical, Times Change, Special and Avalanche apparently.

So it's a relief when it's over and the eruption of enthusiasm and the fervour that greets the encore sends everyone home happy, delighted, singing in the streets outside. World In Motion, not everyone's cup of tea, but it gets the crowd singing along and then three complete crowdpleasers- Blue Monday, Temptation and True Faith. Temptation is especially well received, a song we've all danced to, loved to, lived to for decades. We've all sung 'I never seen anyone quite like you before' and meant it.

Mr Disco

Monday 1 October 2018

Monday Long Song

I've picked up Drew's Monday Long Song challenge with a song that according to my sources blew the lid off the at Convenanza last weekend. Frankie Goes To Hollywood had several secret weapons- Holly Johnson was a superb, subversive frontman; Trevor Horn's productions were stunning- loud, pulsing, bright and imaginative; they made good use of the 12" format to put out mixes, remixes, alternate versions and cover versions. Their 1985 single Welcome To The Pleasuredome was supposed to be their 4th number 1 single (it wasn't. Phil Collins and Phillip Bailey's Easy Lover kept them out). The lyrics were inspired by Coleridge's Kubla Khan, a poem I can still recite from memory having learnt it at school, around the time this single came out. This 12" version, the Fruitness Mix, is a monster, a jawdropping moment in a career full of them. The spoken intro is by actor Geoffrey Palmer, reading out Walter Kaufman's 1967 translation of Nietzsche's The Birth Of Tragedy (in full below).

The extended spoken word section over none more 80s synths, the drawn out arrival of the kick drum and then the transition into the song at 3 minutes 30, followed by the long disco mix, make this version over 12 minutes long and you've got to admire the sheer, brazen, we'll-do-what-we-like attitude and the knowing pretentiousness of the whole thing. It's also a great dance record.

Welcome To The Pleasuredome (Fruitness Mix)

I've always enjoyed the video with the lads stealing a car and ending up taking part in all sorts of fun and games at the carnival. There goes the supernova. We're a long way from home.

Under the charm of the Dionysian
not only is the union between man
and man reaffirmed, but nature
which has become alienated,
hostile, or subjugated, celebrates
once more her reconciliation with
her lost son man. Freely, earth profits her gifts,
and peacefully the beasts of prey of the rocks and
desert approach.
The chariot of Dionysus is covered with flowers and
garlands, panthers and tigers walk
under its yoke. Transform Beethoven's "Hymn to Joy"
into a painting. Let your imagination conceive the
multitudes bowing to the dust, awestruck -
then you will approach the Dionysian.

Now the slave is a free man, now all the rigid
hostile barriers that necessity!
Caprice or "impudent convention" have fixed
between man and man are broken.
Now with the gospel of universal harmony, each one
feels himself not only united, reconciled, and fused
with his neighbour, but as one with him, as if the veil of Maya
had been torn aside and were now merely fluttering
in tatters before the mysterious primordial unity.
In song and in dance man expresses himself as
a member of a higher community, he has forgotten how to
walk and speak and is on the way toward flying into the air,
dancing. His very gestures expresses enchantment.
Just as the animals now talk, and the earth yields milk
and honey, supernatural sounds emanate from him
he feels himself a god, he himself now walks about enchanted
in ecstasy like the gods he saw walking in his dreams!
He is no longer an artist, he has become a work of art
in the paroxysms of intoxication the artistic power
of all the nature reveals itself to the highest gratification
of the primordial unity. The noblest clay.
the most costly marble, man, is here kneaded and cut, and to the
sound of the chisel strokes of the Dionysian world of artists
rings out the cry of the Eleusinian mysteries
Do you prostrate yourselves millions
Do you sense your maker, world,
Welcome to the Pleasuredome.