Friday, 30 November 2018
This song came to me a week ago via a compilation cd a friend's husband made for me. He's a native of Sheffield and opened with a local act and their song Lemons And Limes. Not only is the song ace but is perfectly timed for my Friday series, a round up of songs named after foodstuffs that I have on my hard drive, which started with honey, then sugar and then wine. Today we do lemons (and limes).
Hiem are/were a duo made up of Nick Eastwood and David Boswell, both former members of Sheffield groups from the late 90s- The All Seeing I (who had 2 hits in the late 90s with The Beat Goes On and Walk Like A Panther) and Venini (a group containing a post-Pulp Russell Senior). Hiem recorded tracks with Phil Oakey and Roots Manuva and put out an album in 2014 called Escape To Division Street (a local reference). The album included Lemons And Limes, a spoken word plus synths track about wanting to open a nightclub that played 'half dance music and half indie' which would have lemons and limes dangling from the ceiling dripping juice on the dancers below. The version above is a remix by Fitzroy North.
Also sucking lemons were Birmingham duo Free School who really hit the spot with this 2011 12" single, a cosmic dive into the warmth, ten minutes well spent in very calming company. I'd forgotten how good this is.
A few decades earlier Syd Barrett left Pink Floyd and famously recorded a couple of solo albums before retiring form the music industry and retreating to Cambridge. Baby Lemonade was the opener to his second solo album released in 1970. Baby Lemonade is whimsical and nursery rhyme-like, with loud acoustic guitars and wandering vocals and, like most of Syd's solo songs, it doesn't really sound like anybody else at all except Syd.
That's it for lemons (I know there's that Led Zep song, but I'm not feeling Led Zep today). Beyonce's global smash, husband trashing album Lemonade unfortunately doesn't have a song called Lemonade on it. The album was named after her mother's advice to make lemonade when handed lemons. John Squire decorated The Stone Roses' debut album with slices of citrus, a reference to the fruit's ability to counteract the effects of tear gas and they wrote a song about it (Bye Bye Badman) but again, no lemons in the title. And it appears I own no songs about limes. Apples on the other hand...
Thursday, 29 November 2018
I took these photos of cranes on Saturday night after seeing ACR at Gorilla. This is the site of the old BBC building on Oxford Road undergoing redevelopment and currently occupied by cranes and enormous concrete columns. The whole city centre is changing rapidly, almost daily, and in places is becoming unrecognisable. They've built two new skyscrapers at the southern edge of the city centre that have appeared almost out of nowhere and completely change the skyline.
I found this through Mr Weatherall's last radio show for NTS and it's lovely. I thought some of you might have missed it and you really shouldn't. Lost Cat is Jo Case from Bristol who has put out this 3 track release called Some Loops. The opening song, Postcode, is a woozy, psychedelic wonder, all hissing drum machine with masses of reverb, nailing a feeling of some kind- you'll know the one when you hear it.
Wednesday, 28 November 2018
An extended version of Grace Jones' 1981 single is a good way to start the day even if this steamy, sweltering track seems most inappropriate for a Wednesday in late November. The bass is taut, the rhythm rolls, the guitars are choppy, the car horns are honking. Grace is sultry and insistent. Seven minutes twenty six seconds of New York in the early 80s. I've just noticed from the internet that we share a birthday, me and Grace Jones (May 19th).
Pull Up To The Bumper (12" Mix)
Tuesday, 27 November 2018
As Long As I Can See The Light (Adrian Sherwood Dub Lighting)
My own personal Woodentops revival continues- the band haven't been far away from my stereo for most of 2018. Sherwood remixed several of Rolo and co's songs. This is my favourite, vocals up front, crunchy guitars dropped in and out and frenetic pace maintained.
Love Affair With Everyday Living (Adrian Sherwood Mix)
Monday, 26 November 2018
This is the fourth time in as many years I've seen A Certain Ratio in the run up to Christmas. They signed to Mute last year and have a new Best Of album out but they're still playing small, intimate venues. Gorilla on Whitworth Street in Manchester was rammed on Saturday night, the sort of gig where people are so jammed in that it's difficult to move/dance. I arrived late, couldn't find my friends and found myself down by the side of the stage right by Martin Moscrop with a perfect view of his pedal board and Denise Johnson occasionally coming over to sing right in front of us, as the pictures above show. The first half of the set was usual trip into late 70s and early 80s Manchester, songs that are now getting on for 40 years old, a northern noir response to punk and funk- Do The Du, Wild Party and Flight all sound particularly alive and vibrant. Denise comes on and we get a superb run through the early 90s groove of Be What You Wanna Be. Mickey Way from 1986's jazz-funk Force gets a welcome outing, Moscrop moving from guitar to trumpet to cowbell to drums from one song to the next. Poor Jez Kerr has to play sitting down when he's not singing, suffering from sciatica- between songs he apologises for this and in a nod to the average age of the crowd says that he's got a bad back but probably so have half the audience. In reply a walking stick and a crutch get waved around from near the front row. New song Dirty Boy is played, fitting right in with the rest. After this it's the familiar crowdpleasers- 27 Forever with an extended section, a reworked Good Together and Won't Stop Loving You (in its Big E version rather than Bernard Sumner's remix). They finish with Shack Up, Denise's vocals all the way out front with Donald's drums putting the funk into the punk. ACR return for an encore and as usual start swapping instruments, drummer Donald on slap bass and Martin on drums before ending with the samba workout Si Firmi O Grido. Drums strapped on, percussion in hands, the band troupe off the stage and into the crowd, finishing the gig in the centre of the floor surrounded by the audience. Sweaty, tightly packed fun.
The Big E
Sunday, 25 November 2018
Nicolas Roeg has died aged 90. The films he made in the 1970s and 80s were the type of films you read references to and in those days where things were scarcer you hoped they'd eventually be shown late at night on BBC2 (with a VHS cassette close by). Performance is a counter-cultrue classic, Mick Jagger, Anita Pallenberg and James Fox all going slowly mad in a big house in Notting Hill Gate (and when it was being made Keith Richards waiting in his car outside the set, paranoid about what Jagger and Pallenberg might be up to). The soundtrack was legendary too and this (with my surname too, which added to it for me) is a genuinely great Jagger vocal with slide guitar from Ry Cooder...
Memo From Turner (Alternate Version)
Mick Jones paid tribute to Roeg, his films and especially Performance in Big Audio Dynamite's 1985 single E=MC2, peppered with dialogue from the film and a verse about taking a trip in Powis Square with a pop star who dyed his hair, mobsters, gangland slayings and insanity Bohemian style. The opening verse is about Walkabout (1971) and the 3rd verse is about The Man Who Fell To Earth, another late night, video tape film that had the capacity to freak the viewer out.
The chorus took me years to fully work out and I'd sung all kinds of words along to it but I think it goes...
'Ritual ideas, relativity
Holy buildings, no people prophesy
Time slide, place to hide, nudge reality
Foresight, minds wide, magic imagery oh ho'.
Happy Mondays 1988 masterpiece Bummed was also Roeg and Performance inspired with at least 3 songs referencing the film. Mad Cyril includes dialogue from it including the line that opens the song 'We've been courteous'. The Mondays played it on Granada TV for Wilson's The Other Side Of Midnight show, a band at their peak...
Saturday, 24 November 2018
Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation turned 30 this year, a double album that was some kind of apex of US indie-punk. I tested it out this week, seeing how it sounded after not having heard it for years. It's front loaded with Teenage Riot, their most essential song and the few that follow it are almost as good- Silver Rocket, The Sprawl, 'Cross The Breeze and Eric's Trip- but not quite as good. Lee Ranaldo's Hey Joni was the one that stood out to me, a noisy, full throttle tribute to Joni Mitchell (possibly) or a girl from Lee's past (possibly) that breaks down towards the end, twin overdriven guitars feeding back, with Ranaldo saying 'It's 1963, it's 1964, it's 1957, it's 1962.... put it all behind you, now it's all behind you'. Lost youth.
Their 1989 cover of Neil Young's Computer Age is a blast and a joy, pretty much my favourite Sonic Youth track (and somehow typical of them to cover a song from Neil's most misunderstood record, his 1982 vocoder and synths album Trans, an album that baffled his fans and record company alike). Sonic Youth rewire it for guitar and burn it up.
Friday, 23 November 2018
The series that I am not calling Foodstuff Friday moves on to wine. With two reggae posts earlier this week it makes sense to start with Tony Tribe in 1969
Red Red Wine
Red Red Wine was written by Neil Diamond in 1967. After he left Bang Records they released a version with a choir added without Neil's permission, so the song was something of a sore point with him and the single version has never subsequently been released on a Neil Diamond album. Tony Tribe recorded his two years later. Both were then trumped in the chart stakes in 1983 by UB40 who had a massive hit with their cover. Tony's version is the one for me.
Lee Hazlewood was a wine drinker. Summer Wine, a duet with Nancy Sinatra, is off his Nancy And Lee album (a record everybody should own).
Lee knew his way around a tune . His Cowboy In Sweden album also gave us this one...
Me And The Wine And The City Lights
In 1987 My Bloody Valentine put out the single Strawberry Wine, still edging their way towards the sound that made Isn't Anything and Loveless two of the definitive records of the late 80s and early 90s. Strawberry Wine is trebly, bright and poppy, a mid 60s Byrds influenced song, with sweet harmonies and Belinda on lead vocals for the first time.
Royal Trux were Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema, a couple who made earthy, growly, noisy indie rock 'n' roll in the 90s. When they separated in 2001 Jennifer went her own way and for a while made records as RTX. Cheap Wine Time is a distorted, rough and ready, nicotine stained song with guitar solos that sound like they lost their way in the early 70s and eventually wound up in Jennifer's flat, drinking in the daytime. Warning- it starts suddenly.
Cheap Wine Time
Thursday, 22 November 2018
I was sifting through a box of cds found on top of a cupboard recently- various bits of decorating and reorganising have been taking place which will eventually lead to a new storage solution for the overspill of records that has been taking place in the back room for a few years now. The box contained either cds I'd made myself or cds that came free with magazines. Some didn't the survive the process. Some got refiled in the box (but more neatly). Some got taken to the car. On the way to work on Tuesday morning I put a cd called Change The Beat into the player, a compilation that came free with Mojo in 2015 subtitled '14 tracks from Madonna's New York scene'. This came blaring out of my car's speakers and for 4 minutes and 13 seconds I was convinced it was the best song I was going to hear that day.
Everything about it is the maximum it could be- that taut, funky as fuck bassline (pinched by The Chemical Brothers at a cost for Block Rockin' Beats), those chanted backing vox, the horns, the timbales, the gunshot samples. Magical stuff from 23 Skidoo back in 1983. You just hit the jackpot.
Wednesday, 21 November 2018
More 70s reggae today this time from the man Bob Marley called The Crown Prince of Reggae, Dennis Brown. Stop Your Fussing And Fighting was a 1979 single, a slice of roots reggae that makes the world stop for a few minutes.
Stop Your Fussing And Fighting
Also in '79 Dennis appeared on Top Of The Pops with Money In My Pocket, a number 14 hit. It was a song Dennis had originally recorded in 1972 with Joe Gibbs. This newer version, backed with a deejay version of Cool Runnings, made Dennis an international star. He had already toured the UK with Big Youth in '77 and the following year moved to London, living in Battersea and benefiting from a major label distribution deal. Money In My Pocket has a killer vocal, an uptempo lament at his lack of love.
Tuesday, 20 November 2018
This 1975 single by Susan Cadogan is one of those songs that immediately enriches my life when I hear it, coming from that sweet spot in the mid 70s where roots reggae and lover's rock hit the UK charts regularly. Hurt So Good reached the number 4 and sent Susan to Top Of The Pops. Perfection in the form of a 7" single (or 2.86 megabytes of an mp3).
Hurt So Good
The song was originally a single Katie Love and The Four Shades Of Black on Muscle Shoals but wasn't a hit. It was then recorded by Millie Jackson in 1973 and attached to the blaxploitation film Cleopatra Jones. Here's Millie performing it on Soul Train.
Cleopatra Jones was Tamara Dobson, '6 feet 2" of dynamite and the hottest super agent ever!'
I found this too, an unofficial 2013 remix by Ennio Maccaroni. Not one for the purists maybe but I really like it, the skittering rhythms bringing it back to the floor four decades on.
Monday, 19 November 2018
Dark And Long is the still superb sounding dub-techno entry point to Underworld's dubnobasswithmyheadman album. The 1994 single version of Dark And Long, across various formats, gave us a whole load of different versions including this one from the cd single- 215 Miles, a twenty minute excursion into synth pads and pulsing rhythms. Clear your diary and enjoy the ride.
215 Miles (Dark And Long)
Sunday, 18 November 2018
In 2015 Richard Norris and Dave Ball reunited as The Grid and recorded using the Moog Soundlab at the University of Surrey. They have just put some of the results of this on the internet. One Way Traffic is a half hour dive into the sound of the Moog modular synth, a world of drones and lovely repetitive noises, pulses and waves of sound and rhythm. I think some of you may love this as much as I do.
The Moog Soundlab UK includes the Moog System 55 modular synthesiser and developed by Dr Robert Moog who 'established standards for analog synthesizer control interfacing, with a logarithmic one volt-per-octave pitch control and a separate pulse triggering signal.' Furthermore, 'The Moog modular system consisted of a number of various modules mounted in a cabinet. Each module performs a specific signal-generating or -modifying function. These modules offered unprecedented control over creating sounds by allowing a user to modify primary sound waveforms with amplitude modulators and spectral modulators and other modifiers. Envelope generators provided further control by modulating the attack, decay, sustain and release parameters of the VCAs, VCFs and other modules. The modules are patched together with patch cords with ¼-inch mono plugs. The patch cords and module parameter knobs could be adjusted in countless ways to create a nearly infinite number of sounds. The final sound was heard ('triggered') from the system by pressing a key on an attached keyboard or pressing on the ribbon controller'.
Now cover that up and see what you can remember.
Saturday, 17 November 2018
Digging through a stack of records that need filing the other night, mainly made up of ones bought this year and last, I found the latest Calexico album (The Thread That Keeps Us), an album that I played a couple of times back in January but found to be a bit dull overall. Which was a shame because the two songs that preceded it were both really good- Voices In The Fields and End Of The World With You- responses to Trump's America and a band sounding reinvigorated. The rest of the album seemed less good but maybe I should go back to it.
Back in 2000 Calexico released an ep called Even My Sure Things Fall Through, a collection of B-sides and extras. They were more Tex-Mex at this point, songs with mariachi horns and central American rhythms, the sort of songs that sound intriguing when caught in snatches through a tinny radio or open doorway and irresistible when played loud and close up. Crystal Frontier is a blast. Try it.
Crystal Frontier (Widescreen Version)
The song was inspired by a novel of the same name by Mexican author Carlos Fuentes, a book that explores the lives of people who straddle the border between the US and Mexico, people going to and fro, back and forth, living on both sides of the line.
Since its release 18 years ago the song has taken on an extra life- it was chosen to be beamed into the space shuttle Discovery to wake the crew up. NASA picked the song up from a recommendation by Tucson, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (whose husband Mark Kelly was the shuttle Commander). Gabrielle Giffords was later one of the victims of a gunman, shot in the head at a public appearance, along with twenty-four other people, six of whom were killed. She recovered to some extent and returned to Congress to vote in 2011. She has since retired from Congress but is an advocate of gun reform.
Friday, 16 November 2018
I'm launching into what may be an ill conceived Friday series here at Bagging Area. Last Friday I posted several songs about honey- songs by Death In Vegas, The Jesus And Mary Chain, The Pastels and Spacemen 3. Today's musical foodstuff is sugar, delicious, addictive, lipsmacking sweet stuff (that a report recently said is the real cause of the modern obesity crisis in the western world). A quick search of my hard drive reveals I'm spoilt for choice when it comes to sugar.
The lightest song on The Stone Roses debut album from May 1989 was about a girl, a sugar spun sister, opening with John Squire's crystalline guitar chords and Ian's softly sung vocals. The chorus turns things a little in what seems on the surface to be a fairly simple love song- the sky going green, the grass blue, M.P.s involved in solvent abuse- all these things would happen before she is happy with him. There's a bit after the second chorus where there's a pause and in the gap Ian sings 'my hands..... are stuck to my jeans' which is very nicely done (and which for years I misheard as 'stuck to my dreams'). The sugar analogy is back at the end as Squire winds things up- she is the candy floss girl, he the sticky fingered boy.
(Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister
In 1997 Yo La Tengo put out a career highpoint, the double album I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, an album which is a masterpiece of its kind. Sugarcube was in the middle of side 1 and later released as a single, 3 minutes 21 seconds of New York dreamy, soft noise perfection.
Lyrically it's a bit more oblique than The Stone Roses sugar spun song but I think it's about the same thing ultimately...
'Whatever you want from me
Is what I want to do for you
Sweeter than a drop of blood
On a sugarcube
And though I like to act the part of being tough
I crumble like a sugarcube
More sugar vicar?
AR Kane's sugar song came out in 1989 and is a lilting, off-kilter song, acoustic guitars and odd tunings and another case of sugar being a female who's a little too sweet.
There's loads more sugar on my hard drive- The Orielles have a song from last year (with an Andrew Weatherall remix to boot) called Sugar Tastes Like Salt, Slowdive's recent triumph gave us Sugar For The Pill, there's some Balearic Sugar Water from Kamasutra, Echo And The Bunnymen's glorious 1987 single Lips Like Sugar and Secret Knowledge's Sugar Daddy, a 1994 epic from Kris Needs and Wonder. I think I've posted all of these before at some point. There's plenty more sugar in my record collection too but I'll wrap this up with one more sugary delight before our teeth fall out. Four years ago Timothy J Fairplay released a 12" in his Junior Fairplay rave guise, a back to the old skool circa 1990-1 retro-rave track that I love to pieces. Created using solely a breakbeat and a Korg 1, a vocal whoop and a stacatto 'yeah!', and then released on one sided purple vinyl, it is fun bottled, the future backwards. Sugar Puss.
Now go and clean your teeth.
Thursday, 15 November 2018
Back to 1990 today and a hands in the air piano rave moment from N-Joi. The vocal track on the original version of the song was made up of samples from 3 different sources- Gwen Guthrie, Soul II Soul and Darlene Davis- which singer Saffron mimed for TV and sang live for performances, as seen here on Top Of The Pops...
Saffron went on to find fame as the singer of Republica, a group that included a former member of Flowered Up (Tim Dorney on keyboards) and a former member of Soul Family Sensation (Jonathan Male on guitar). Back in the late 90s I wrote some reviews and articles for a Manchester based magazine and got to interview Saffron (on the phone not face to face). I don't think the Saffron interview was published (probably because my interviewing skills were limited and the whole thing was a bit uncomfortable). Later on I co-interviewed Bez in a bar called The Temple Of Convenience. He was promoting his book Freaky Dancing. This interview went much better. Bez offered to take us out for the night with, and I quote, 'some classical music fella and the King of Cumbia squeezing fuck out of a massive squeezebox'. His opening gambit when we all sat down was to tell me that I looked like 'I smoked loads of smack' (which I didn't I hasten to add). Good fun and highly entertaining. Happy days.
Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Back at the start of the decade I downloaded this song from a music blog (Davy H's now defunct The Ghost Of Electricity).
Another Green World (The Blue Realm Remix)
Mojo Filter takes Brian Eno's Another Green World, the Arena theme tune for those of a certain age, and gets it all loved up. The voice in the song says 'L-O-V-E love' and that's largely what it sounds like. This is a piece of music so glorious, so uplifting, so beautifully out there, it should be posted on an annual basis. As it is, I haven't posted it since May 2012, for which I can only apologise. May 2012 seems like another world entirely doesn't it? Six short years ago but a world away in many ways. You don't need me to spell it.
Back in the mid 80s Alan Moore took Swamp Thing, a minor DC comics character and wrote a series of stories that redefined what comics could tackle. Illustrated by Steve Bissette and John Totleben it was a weird trip into all sorts of places comics didn't really go including inter-species sexual relationships. In the edition from April 1984 Swamp Thing had to come to terms with the realisation that he wasn't human, that he had lost his humanity and lived in the Green. Moore peppered his writing with pop culture references- this issue's title was Another Green World. There's a full account of the story of Swamp Thing #23 here. When I finally sold all of my comics Swamp Thing was one of a handful that I hung on to.
Today also happens to be my Dad's 80th birthday. Happy birthday Dad.
Tuesday, 13 November 2018
Stan Lee, Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief and creator of hundreds of characters including Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, The X Men, Black Widow, The Fantastic Four, The Avengers, Thor, Iron Man, Black Panther, Thor, Ant Man and Daredevil, has died at the grand age of 95. It's fair to say that a lot of our childhoods would have been very different without Marvel Comics and their cast of brightly coloured superheroes (and their flawed, all too human alter-egos). RIP Stan and Make Mine Marvel.
There's been a little resurgence of The Dream Syndicate in blogs in these parts this year kicked off I think by my post back in April, a film of Andrew Weatherall playing in Italy last year and dropping The Dream Syndicate's John Coltrane Stereo Blues into his set. Watch it here, it's fifty minutes you won't regret. Drew posted some Dream Syndicate, CC has posted some and I think The Swede too. So here's some more from Steve Wynn and co, the second song from their full length debut, an album inspired by 1966 and 1977 in equal parts.
Monday, 12 November 2018
I slept on Fontan's album last year for some reason, not really appreciating its charms. I reached for it recently and then played it several days non-stop while driving to and from work. I'm the one at fault here, I should have realised what a beautiful and inventive record it is this time last year but, y'know, better late then never. Fontan are from Sweden and put their records out on the excellent Hoga Nord label. Their self-titled third album opened with this track, Mangsebung, an atmospheric, gently psychedelic trip into space and back. And at over eight minutes long it more than qualifies for this series.
Sunday, 11 November 2018
Suicide in the Trenches
I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.
In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.
Siegfried Sassoon, 1918
Saturday, 10 November 2018
There's only so many ways I can write about Andrew Weatherall's monthly radio programme for NTS Music's Not For Everyone. Here's the one from last week with Lord Sabre back from 'doing important missionary work in the north of England'. The week that has just ended was a bit of tiring one workwise so two hours of open minded musical exploration may be just the ticket for Saturday. The tracklist is here.
Friday, 9 November 2018
Back in June I posted a new single from Death In Vegas. Honey is a slow burning, pulsing techno track graced by Sasha Grey's seductive vocals. I'm still playing it now, still finding it one of those songs that gets right into me and makes me feel alive. In September it gained a video, mainly close ups of Sasha's face while she coos that she would die for you.
The Los Angeles photographer Blake Little covered people in honey for a series of pictures and a book called Preservation. Being draped in honey might be rather nice but it must have taken ages to get clean afterwards. More here.
Honey is a bit of a theme in art and music- warm, sticky and sweet, an everyday luxury. More honey?
The Los Angeles photographer Blake Little covered people in honey for a series of pictures and a book called Preservation (including the one above). More here. Being draped in honey might be rather nice I would have thought but it must have taken ages to get clean afterwards.
Jim and William Reid's Honey, like their Candy and Cindy, was a love song to a girl or a drug (or both). Here they are on The Tube, introduced by Paula Yates on Friday night in 1985, still with Bobby Gillespie playing the snare drum. Black leather, pale skin, feedback.
Earlier this year I posted another Scottish band's tribute to Honey, The Pastels whose Baby Honey is a wonderfully shambolic B-side from 1984.
There are plenty of other honeys on my hard drive- not sure that's a sentence that is going to keep me out of trouble- Johnny Burnett's Honey Hush, Lee Hazelwood's Silk 'n' Honey, Orange Juice's Simply Thrilled Honey, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas (We've Got) Honey Love, Duke Reid's What Makes Honey? and Prince Fattie and Hollie Cook's Milk And Honey but this one seems to round this off the best. Spacemen 3 were into honey (of course they were). It was the opening song on their 1989 album Playing With Fire, an album I have revisited a lot earlier this year. Honey is a Pete Kember song that opens with a blast of wobble, some descending chords and plucked guitar notes. The whispered vocal arrives a minute in and everything is stretched and phased, pleasantly distorted. 'Honey won't you take me home tonight?' Pete asks, 'the night is warm and the stars are bright'. Pete's meditation drifts on, blissfully and before fading out just before three minutes. 'Surely there ain't nothing we can't do'.
Thursday, 8 November 2018
If yesterday's song could only have been written by Paul Weller in 1978 then today's is very much Joe Strummer but a year later. The Cost Of Living ep was released in 1979, a four track 7" single and one of the finest releases the band put out. Led by their cover of I Fought The Law and closed by the re-recorded version of Capital Radio it is bookended by raw, high octane rock 'n' roll. In between these two are a pair of songs, one sung by Strummer (Groovy Times) and one sung by Jones (Gates Of The West) that are lesser known but utterly essential Clash tunes.
Groovy Times opens with a burst of acoustic guitars, electric guitars and harmonica (a nod to Bob Dylan from Mick) and becomes a state of Britain in the late 70s address from Joe. He starts with the effects of economic recession- 'the high street shops are boarded up' - and then moves onto the fences put up in football grounds to pen the fans in, a wall of riot police with shields and then contrast it with housewives all singing 'groovy times are here again' (groovy, a word that in '79 would be completely associated with hippies from a decade earlier). The sleeve of the ep was packaged to look like washing powder and this song seems to be the where the sleeve comes from- ignore the news, focus on the adverts! The second verse picks up with more imagery of wasteland Britain and urban decay but never mind because the radio is still saying 'groovy times have come to pass!'. In the final verse Joe takes some kind of aim at 'the king of early evening ITV' (Bill Grundy) and apparently Elvis Costello ('put him in a dog suit like from 1964'). It's the work of men at the top of their game, branching out after the punk orthodoxy of '77 and the tensions and difficulties of 1978's Give 'Em Enough Rope album. Coming a few months before London Calling it shows a group throwing off the shackles and on a roll.
Wednesday, 7 November 2018
Forty years old this year, this song dropped back into my life recently, a young Paul Weller's rumination on place, identity, home and belonging. Tucked away in the middle of side two of All Mod Cons it can easily be overshadowed by its surroundings- A Bomb In Wardour Street and Down In The Tube Station At Midnight follow it- but its one of those songs which seems quintessentially Weller. Ray Davies is there in the lyrics and Motown in the music but no one else could have written these words at that point. It's also one of the few songs on All Mod Cons that is written in the first person (most of the songs on All Mod Cons are third person and observational). Home and place are topics he's come back to throughout his career but in some ways he said it all here and best in 1978, in two minutes fifty-four.
The Place I Love
Tuesday, 6 November 2018
I was back at The Albert Hall on Saturday night to see John Grant, the venue far fuller than it was the night before for The House Of Love (and in an unprecedented turn of events I was offered a ticket for Parquet Courts on Sunday night but 3 nights on the bounce was pushing it). I'm not really familiar with much of John Grant's work and was offered the ticket by a friend who'd got a spare. Grant is promoting his new album Love is Magic and spent much of the gig alternating between standing centre stage at the mic singing in his rich baritone over club-inspired thumpers, Roland synth basslines squiggling away, and sitting at the keyboards and playing more personal songs, accompanied by a full band including ex- Banshee and Creature Budgie on drums. Budgie's contribution was immense, live kit plus electronic drum pads. Dressed in cowboy shirt and trucker gap with a heavy beard Grant looks like he's come straight out of the Mid-West but his dancing suggests time spent in nightclubs and his lyrics are full and frank and witty. I'd listened to this one before going out...
I'm not enough of a fan to be able to tell you exactly which songs were played- the internet tells me that Glacier, Disappointed, No More Tangles, Pale Green Ghost and Voodoo Doll were favourites among those who were there. A lot of his songs reminded me of film songs or show tunes, clever lines detailing a life lived with mistakes but few regrets. Set closer Queen Of Denmark, a song I did know before the gig, was a highlight, the crowd singing along with him and waving their hands in the air. The last few songs saw Richard Hawley appear, double denim and red guitar, spraying feedback across the front of the stage and then playing face to face.
This song was second up, Grant's hips wiggling and hand gestures cutting shapes in the light show. Well worth a few minutes of your time today.
Monday, 5 November 2018
In 1992 the party was looking like it was over- bad drugs, too much partying, gangs, darker scenes, burnout. For Flowered Up, a group who were powered by chemicals and boisterous bad behaviour, a chance to rescue themselves by writing some songs presented itself just as tensions were boiling up. Instead of writing a bunch of songs though they came up with just one, one very long song- Weekender, a thirteen minute journey through the early 90s, a criticism of those who only go for it on Friday and Saturday nights, a celebration of highs and a depiction of lows, and a tribute to Jimmy from Quadrophenia. London Records refused to give it a full release so the band returned to Heavenly and it subsequently reached number 20 in the charts. The film that was made by Wiz to accompany it, starring Eastender Lee Whitlock and Bocca Junior's singer Anna Haigh, stretched it out further to 18 minutes.
'Whatever you're doing, make sure what you're doing makes you happy' said Liam Maher in Weekender. Flowered up broke up within two years, fractured by drugs, bad communication and personnel changes, people losing interest, the money running out, some issues at gigs (including arriving on stage at the original Madstock in 1992 45 minutes late). It is still, all these years later, a startling, original and essential piece of music.
The 12" release was partnered with a second single, Weatherall's Weekender, not one but two remixes by Andrew (keyboard player Tim had joined FU due to his connections with Weatherall from Windsor in the late 80s). Both remixes stretch the original track further, the A-side remix to a quarter of an hour and the B-side to seventeen minutes plus. Both bend the song into newer shapes with the female backing vox pushed up front, wobbly basslines, time and pitch shifting synths and keyboards and dub FX, the second one especially aimed at the floor with pounding percussion and drums under a descending piano riff.
Weekender (Audrey is A Little Bit Partial)
Weekender (Audrey Is A Little Bit More Partial)
Sunday, 4 November 2018
The House Of Love played The Albert Hall, Manchester on Friday night. I saw them a handful of times back in 1988-1990 (a gig at Widnes days before Terry Bickers was kicked out of the band was memorable for the wrong reasons and one in March 1990 with his replacement where they didn't seem to catch fire both stick in the mind). Guy Chadwick and Terry re-united a while back, buried hatchets and put demons to rest and released an album of new songs which was fairly well received but the main draw of this current tour is the promise of the debut album played in full. Which is what they do, opening with Christine and then blazing their way through the Hope, Road and Sulpher, the twin frontmen dressed in floral shirts and dark trousers, even their wardrobe choices still in that brief period between the end of The Smiths and the arrival of The Roses and the Mondays. On record the album is covered in a sheen, producer Pat Collier's 1988 haze. Live they are a little looser and more ragged but none the worse for it. The star here is Bickers, who occasionally explodes into life careering round his side of the stage with jolts, dropping to the floor, scissor kicks, all the while playing those startling lead guitar lines which are imprinted into my musical DNA. The two slower songs from the album Fisherman's Tale and Love In A Car glower and then detonate. It's good stuff, done well, without the issues that scuppered them 30 years ago- Bickers with his guilt about selling out and subsequent behaviour on the tour and Chadwick's desperation to 'make it'.
Once the album is done they seem to relax a little, actually speak to the audience and set about a second half of B-sides and other songs, all from the period between signing to Creation and the first album for Fontana (the Butterfly album). 1991 song Marble is a blast, a Camberwell version of the Velvet Underground for radio. Safe, a B-side from the 1989 single Never (but could have and should have been a single) bristles and burns. They introduce I Don't Know Why I Love as their Tina Turner song and then roar through it, Bickers guitar playing loud and to the fore. Early pre-debut album songs like Real Animal and Love get played and they finish with the pairing of Shine On and Destroy The Heart (John Peels' single of the year in '88). Everyone seems happy. To quote my brother's friend, a more succinct review than this one, 'it was good, I enjoyed it'.
Saturday, 3 November 2018
I was making a cd of remixes from this calendar year by Andrew Weatherall to listen to in the car and scrolled back through my posts from this year tagged Andrew Weatherall to check I hadn't missed any. There are plenty of memorable ones, remixes of Field Of Dream, Marius Circus, Craig Bratley, the roof raising one of Confidence Man, two super smart versions of a Noel Gallagher song, the recent jerky, punk funk audiobooks one and the weird dubbed out Eyes Of Others one. But I found that I'd forgotten that at the start of the year he provided two remixes of Sister, a standout song from Tracey Thorn's album Record that featured the talents of Tracey, Corinne Bailey Rae and Stella and Jenny Lee from Warpaint. The dub mix posted here is very chilled, spacey and right up my alley.
Sister (Andrew Weatherall Dub)
Friday, 2 November 2018
One of my favourite songs of last year was Paradise by Glasgow's AMOR, a song that still sounds as good today as it did in February 2017, a hypnotic, joyful, arms aloft piece of avant disco that swoons and soars.
You can buy it at Bandcamp digitally (the vinyl is long since sold out).
AMOR are four musicians with different musical histories who've come together to make dance music for the feet and heart. Their bio on Bandcamp cites Ron Hardy, The Blue Nile, Philadelphia International and David Mancuso as reference points. There's an album out next month with this as a opening offer and I think we have a late contender for those lists people will soon be making...
Thursday, 1 November 2018
The first days after the clocks go back always remind me how much I loathe travelling home from work in the dark- and this is just the start of it, there's another six months to go. Grim. So I'll take some snatches and glimpses of light where I can find it. I wrote recently about the new single from Circle Sky (a Richard Norris project), a beautiful low key ambient techno song I eloquently described as 'rather fucking gorgeous'.
The 12" is out imminently with two remixes, one from Ulrich Schnauss who strips it back and finds some little repeating melodies which he sets off against some washes of sound. Eventually a lazy drumbeat joins in. Half way through the vocal comes in, smothered in echo, and everything speeds up a little. Then it slows down and fades. Lovely.
The 12" also has this more insistent remix from Michael Mayer, a more austere techno reworking but the softness of the original track remains.