17 December 2004

Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin.

No Wave Christmas @ Just for a day. Fine trax by James White, Suicide, Christina, & more.

Beatles Christmas Records @ Sci-Fi Hi-Fi.

At work, we've just got a copy of a great new book called Irish Folk, Trad and Blues: A Secret History. It's by Colin Harper and Trevor Hodgett, a pair of Belfast journos who most definitely know their stuff. The Belfast connection is important, because they steer clear of bodhrán-toting Paddywhackery and have a clear perspective on the relationship between Irish and British folk music (these islands have a common Celtic heritage after all). What better excuse to print photos of fellow-traveller Brits like the Watersons, as well as the brilliant, beautiful Annie Briggs? And it's not just about folk music either, as is very clear from the prominent photo of Rory Gallagher on the cover. The writing is good, very knowledgable and witty, and there are plenty of excellent, rare photographs of the people who played their part. This book HAD to be written, and it's a bloody good job someone came along and did it properly. Leabhar an-mheasamh ar fad.

My brother Kev, not content with being able to play every instrument known to man, has lately become fond of the ukulele. I know, I know, but it's better than the accordion, believe me. He will be glad to know that there actually is a Uke Blog out there (I knew there had to be, somewhere): Ukulelia by name called. Damn good too. (Discovered via Pepper of the Earth.)

14 December 2004

My uncle, Patrick Collins, formerly of the Blue Bell Céilí Band
as well as the Berwyn Showband.

He passed away after a long illness last month.

There's a (slightly) longer appreciation of him here.

This is scanned from a newspaper, hardly a high-quality photo,
but I think it captures the essence of the man,
the way we'll always remember him.

08 December 2004

Oh Christ, I think he's even combed his hair...

A few select Chuck E. Weiss trax @ *sixeyes. Extremely Cool, indeed.

A couple of fine tunes from Declan Patrick Aloysius McManus @ Teaching The Indie Kids to Dance Again.

My dad is going to see Planxty tonight, and all I can manage (grumble, grumble) is this link to a feast of Dublin trad @ Radio Free Sauble.

Jim Fitzpatrick designed a lot of Thin Lizzy's early album covers, and also brought out a bunch of his own art books. The Book Of Conquests was always a favourite - kind of a graphic re-telling of Irish folklore, not quite a comic, not quite an illustrated book, more a sort of illuminated manuscript for the modern age... Fitzpatrick's style always hovered between the poise and elegance of old-school illustration and the hip kineticism of 60s comics artists like Kirby, Steranko and Barry Windsor-Smith. There's some fantastic art over at his site. You should go there, now.

Why waste your time here? I mean, here I am posting about Art, and this is supposed to be the Music blog, dammit.

Not A Lot Of People Know This: Fitzpatrick also designed the legendary Che Guevara poster. Guevara's dad was named Lynch btw, and that branch of the family originally came from Galway.

07 December 2004

Open the door, Homer.

Bob Dylan speaks - his first TV interview in almost 20 years for 60 minutes. Via cool hand bak. Not as cool as his Simpsons appearance, but what could be? (Yes, the link has screenshots.)

Some fine stuff from A Certain Ratio @ totally fuzzy. Hurry! (And no, they did not get their name from Mein Kampf; they got it from a Brian Eno song. Duh.)

More Sax Links.

Early days yet, but potential to become a fine resource for those who rattle the reed.

06 December 2004

A certain surprise.

John Martyn - Live At Leeds
Okay, it must be John Martyn month or something round here at musElectric. For which no apologies. After seeing him live last week, I went digging for old stuff. My old vinyl copies of Solid Air, Glorious Fool, One World and Grace & Danger seem to have gone the way of all flesh, but I managed to unearth this old CD reissue of a classic live LP...
Live At Leeds was, technically, a bootleg album, the only wrinkle being that the bootlegger was also the artist himself. John Martyn brought this album out under his own steam in 1976, frustrated by the music biz (and probably just plain out of money). You could only get it by mail order (unless of course you wanted to call by the house). His own record company either didn't want to bring it out or just plain didn't have the wherewithal. It was available in a limited edition of 10,000 at first, numbered and personally signed by the artist - this was in the mid-70s, mind, long before indie music reared its jangly head.

Live at Leeds got a CD reissue in 1998, and a bloody good job too. If you think about how moribund straight rock had got by the mid-70s, leaving the way clear for a bunch of pub rockers and young punks to try to break in, it's astounding that music of this quality was being given short shrift. Martyn's folk/blues/rock/jazz fusion was years ahead of its time, and the rippling, echoing patterns that he conjured up on both acoustic and electric guitar were so innovative for the time that I won't even bore you by listing the number of musicians who've been influenced by his style (but hello, The Edge, to name but one).

Danny Thompson, from folk-jazzers Pentangle, was an important part of this sound too, his woody, elastic-sounding double bass singing and thrumming like a mighty sea creature; Martyn's ideal musical foil. On the opening track, Outside In, the band reach into their (collective) sleeve and pull out an 18-minute long track that is completely impossible to categorise. If you want to call it folk, go ahead - but it has more in common with Miles Davis, Coltrane or even Pharoah Sanders. In other words, it was light years more 'progressive' than the rock bands of the day singing about elves or Yogananda. This track is particularly enlivened by the appearance, halfway through, of former Free guitarist Paul Kossoff, whose lyrical Les Paul phrases take the thing to a whole other place. A true classic of collective improvisation - a whole lot better than the bilge that Cream got away with on those overrated live albums of theirs. (Kossoff is only credited on the five bonus tracks, but if that's not him playing on Outside In, I'll digest my derby, make hashbrowns of my homburg even.)

Favourites like Solid Air, Man In The Station or (especially) Bless The Weather get a fine, sensitive treatment, but wherever possible the band breaks out into more of this type of improvisational magic. Bless The Weather, a gorgeous little tune in its own right, is completely transformed by having this sort of fairy dust sprinkled on it. Similarly, I'd Rather Be The Devil actually surpasses the original (on Solid Air) in my opinion - it original macho swagger replaced by something more puckish and playful, thanks to Thompson's nimble bass playing.

Sound quality, overall, is middling to good - nothing to write home about, but the quality of the performance transcends all that. The five bonus tracks on the CD reissue sound pretty lo-fi by comparison, but You Can Discover and My Baby Girl coast by nicely enough. So Much In Love With You is a mistake, though - Kossoff rejoins the band to play lead guitar and is obviously somewhat more, er, refreshed than he was previously. His playing is leaden and clumsy, and you can actually hear the band seem to back away from him like an unwanted drunk friend who's turned up at the wrong time. Martyn gets over this by turning up his own electric, and the band trundle through Clutches and Mailman like a barroom boogie band waiting for closing time.

Have no fear, though, they're only bonus tracks; I'm sure even the Mona Lisa has the occasional fly speck on it. And there are definitely better ways to remember a fine musician like the late great Paul Kossoff. Martyn fans will love this set; others may scratch their heads at first but if they're lucky, they'll be able to get into the unique, swirling sound that Martyn, Thompson and Stevens manage to create here. (Plus, their pisstake of Ravel's Bolero is a hoot.) A forgotten gem, and yes, JM appears to have stolen the title, and indeed the "fake bootleg cover" concept, from those London lads Thee 'Oo, who brought out theirs in 1970.

03 December 2004

Space age bachelor's marrowfat peas music.

Some sound clips of the legendary Esquivel.

Dead Boots dot com is a great place for, well, Dead boots.

(Via OpenDir Festival.)

I've put up a track called Elapsed, which is available via Yousendit for the next couple of days. Just trying to see if this is a viable way of posting sound clips, which would make this site a bit more interesting. It's about a 1.7 MB download; don't get too excited - it's just a minute or so of me mucking around on an acoustic, and the sound quality isn't exactly going to burn the house down. Done with ProTools Free, a JC acoustic with some nice mods, and mixed through a Yamaha four-track. Hopefully everything should work (fingers crossed).

Sorry, made a bit of a booboo in the title there. Of course I meant Space age bachelor pad music, which was popularised by Esquivel. Non-Irish readers may not have had the chance to partake of that Prince of Foods that is Batchelor's Marrowfat Peas. Too bad.

(And no, I don't know what an Irish product is doing at a site called the English Tea Store, but I'm sure they're all fine people, and we forgive them for Cromwell, and all that.)

02 December 2004

Knockin' me out with those Appalachian thighs

Some live trax by Hayseed Dixie, who played round this way not too long ago. First-rate bluegrass treatments of well-known metal tunes. I can see yer larfing, but fink abaht it... (From the Live Music Archive, via Kingblind.)

Band website: The Hayseed Dixie World Service.

Delia Derbyshire - pioneer of electronic music and (reverent hush) composer of the Dr. Who theme music. (Via the Grauniad wobleg.)
Vinnie Cooper and the Dead Snout Session
Eric Banzai and the Lost Accountants
Cobalt Peace
The Fulcrum Symphony
Sylvester Manlove and the Space Poodle Shrine
Multitude of Jugglers
The Mighty Martini Conflagration
Hours of fun with this random Band Name Generator.

Some scratchings from September

(taken from the other place...)

Weddings, Parties, Anything... some thoughts on the legacy London Calling reissue, and a tribute to its producer, Guy Stevens.

Does your iPod lose its flavour on the bedpost overnight? - yes, that cute looking little box with the white headphones can conceal a multitude of sins, crimes against the Taste Police even.

Brian Wilson's SMiLE - not exactly a unique subject to post about, but wtf?

Spirit of Eden by Talk Talk - bit of bumpf about this fine album, and a farewell to the late great Brian Clough.

There are tins, there was pork... - how Third Uncle by Brian Eno ruined my early life.

01 December 2004

More Martyn-al Musings

One is something of a happy camper. I got to see John Martyn not once, but twice, thanks to a couple of very kind friends who decided to return a favour and surprise me with another ticket for last night. I would have been quite happy with Monday night's performance, but last night was the icing on the cake. The band seemed a little more at ease, and the playing was slinkier. Martyn was in fine fettle as well.

Two great memories: John Martyn gooning around with a towel, fashioning an Arab headdress for himself and, hilariously, making himself look like Santa with hat and beard and addressing a female audience member in that trademark wicked Caledonian burr: "Hello little girrrl; would you like to come sit on Santa's knee? Because he's only got one left..."

At the end of the night two friends and I went out the back of the venue for a cigarette - we live in the West of Ireland, and as of last April you can't smoke in pubs here anymore. The Róisín Dubh backs on to a canal, and it's about a hundred yards walk to the street. John Martyn came out the back with his partner (a lady from Kilkenny) and bade us good night. He was determined to walk all the way back to the van, and his dog was equally determined to stay by his side until he got there.

If only I'd had a camera to capture the moment: John Martyn making his way along the bank of the Eglinton Canal, supporting himself on the railing with one hand and trailing his pooch with the other. What a fantastic memory.

The John Martyn revival starts here @ 50 quid bloke.

Sound engineer Sean McCormack has some photos of John Martyn, Mark Geary and Tom McCrae at his blog, In A Week's Work.

Thou shalt not bonk thy neighbour's wife...

xtc4u - Some stonking media clips of Swindon's finest, discovered via misericordia!, who also have some good stuff by Stump. Lyrics of Stump's classic Charlton Heston, courtesy of phespirit, here.

Mental As Anything @ Good Rockin' Tonight.

Eric Dolphy @ the naugahyde life.

On the first day of Christmas: Johnny Cash's Little Drummer Boy @ Spoilt Victorian Child.

Our first random referral!

39 plus VAT, a blog from Leeds.

30 November 2004

Catching the next train home...

John Martyn has his roots in the British folk scene of the 60s, but his music has always borne its own definitive stamp. From the very earliest days he was experimenting and testing the boundaries, seeing what he could get away with. He'd put his acoustic guitar through an echo box to create those signature, rippling patterns, he'd jam with jazz musicians and stir things up a bit. Folk purists may not have liked all the drums and effects, but anybody with two ears and a brain can see that the man has always been a pioneer whose work defies categorisation. To say nothing of that magnificent, unique voice, which is like an instrument in its own right.

I'd seen him play a few times before last night - sometimes brilliant, sometimes not so great, but a hero is a hero never the less. Fans were saddened to hear of the road accident last year, in which he lost his right leg below the knee, but that loss doesn't seem to have diminished him at all. If anything, it's raised his game a bit. One of my bosses is a diehard fan, and saw him play twice last summer. He assured me that the man has never been in better form, vocally or musically. So when I got the news that he'd be playing in the Róisín Dubh, I didn't hesitate to fork out the readies. Let's just say I wasn't disappointed.

Support was by John Dickinson, a burly Northumbrian who once played guitar in Paul Lamb & the King Snakes and has, in latter days, been carving out something of a solo career for himself. Dickinson himself is something special, with a fine lilting white blues voice and an absolutely wicked slide technique. At times, you could have sworn that his six-string acoustic had transformed itself into a pedal steel, he was that good. You don't often see support acts getting encores, but Dickinson came back for a well-received, bluesy treatment of old folk standard She Moved Through The Fair.

Martyn's own set? Well, I wasn't expecting the heavens to part, or some amazing revelation. Just a well-admired singer and guitarist putting the bad stuff behind him and getting on with the job. I would have been quite happy listening to a perfunctory, casual set with some tasty newer tunes and some old crowd-pleasers thrown in. The reality was something else altogether. This was the best I've seen John Martyn play, ever - thanks in no small measure to an absolutely sizzling backing band - Spencer Cozens on keyboards and effects, Arran Ahmun on drums, and Alan Thompson on fretless bass. The man himself spent most of the gig using his time-honoured rig - that impossibly sexy Gibson SG put through all manner of stomp boxes and a Jazz Chorus amp. Between them, these four men cooked up a sonic stew that would put any diehard fan in mind of the signature ensemble sound of Martyn's mid-seventies albums. They coasted and dipped through all stages of the man's career, and played with real flair and authority. Sometimes you really felt the roof was going to spiral off. And John Martyn, since he doesn't get around as much anymore, has put on a few pounds, but this has actually made a world of difference to his stage presence. He's like a big, rumbling mountain there in the middle of the stage. A mountain with a mean guitar. (Have no fear, he also picked up an acoustic to play some oldies like May You Never.)

When I got home, I got out a compilation CD of some of his best tunes and thought I'd listen to some of the old favs again before I went to bed. In the end the CD went unplayed, because the sounds I'd just heard were still ringing in my head, and I didn't want to disturb them. They're still ringing away, in fact.

Check out Big Muff, the homepage of the John Martyn Appreciation Society. There's also The John Martyn Website, a well-put-together fan page done with John's endorsement, which features some welcome guitar tabs and stories from the man's career.

I got lucky and managed to see him on Tuesday as well.

29 November 2004

A-live, a live-oh...

The week before last I got to see Charis playing an early-evening, all ages gig in the local. Charis keep getting better and better and they now seem to have added a lap-steel player to the lineup - suits perfectly. Singer John is a commanding onstage presence even sitting down with an acoustic guitar, and support from local singer/songwriter Ultan was pretty tasty too. Plus it's great to see young kids at indoor pub gigs. After all, there's no smoke to bother them any more, and it's a chance to expose these malleable young minds to the wonders of the hoochy-coochy rockety-roll music, which of course is a joy that every child deserves.

Don't just take my word for it, the band's own website have some great photos from the night, taken by snd engnr, paparazzo and blogger Seán McC.

The Dudley Corporation were playing that same night, and damn good they were too, but I have to say I got a real kick out of the support, Large Mound - if ever Ireland has produced an equivalent to Hüsker Dü, it's these boys. Apparently one member is emigrating, which may leave things in limbo for a bit, but hopefully we haven't seen the last of them.

Tonight should be good: I'm off to see the Scottish singer, songwriter, guitarist and folk legend John Martyn.

My boss is such a big Martyn fan that last summer he went to see him play in Campbell's Tavern and Vicar Street, and spoke in glowing terms of both shows. Martyn was badly injured in an accident last year, but from what I've heard his most recent shows have evinced a welcome return to form.

10 November 2004

After dinner mince

The chappy upstairs is a nice guy, but has a fondness for bad, kiddie's metal. He probably doesn't bring his library books back on time either. So while digesting the mackerel and rice, what better time to get acquainted with the Shuffle feature on one's portable EmPeeThree player of choice? Ah, that's better...

- The Posies

Last Chance to Comprehend - Latyrx

Si Tu Disais - Calexico

Cantara - Dead Can Dance

The Spanish Merchant's Daughter - The Stoneman Family (from the Harry Smith anthology)

A Little Girl Lost - David Axelrod

Old Master Painter / You Are My Sunshine - Brian Wilson

St. Elmo's Fire - Brian Eno

Skull X - Primal Scream

Outro (Metal fingerz scraped the chalkboard) - Scienz of Life

Attack El Robot! Attack! - Calexico

Honey Hush - Paul McCartney

We Haven't Turned Around - Gomez

Life on a String - Laurie Anderson

The Light Pours Out Of Me - Magazine

Terrorized - The Posies

Single Girl, Married Girl - The Carter Family (from the Harry Smith anthology)

Tune In - Gregory Isaacs

Let Us Love - Bill Withers

Wayland's Smithy Has Wings - Julian Cope

Wataridori 2 - Cornelius

About The Weather - Magazine

La la - The Polyphonic Spree

09 November 2004

This morning, on the way in to work...

Pardon the incessant playlisting, but this will have to do for the moment in lieu of something a bit more meaningful...

Strung Out On Strings - The Tubes

"You'll never know how far / I've gone with this guitar..." Maybe that's a bit too much information. Clever and listenable if not particularly remarkable track from The Tubes: Now, of interest mostly because of the cute little parody guitar licks that get thrown in all over the place.

Burn & Shine - The Posies

Always loved this one, at what used to be the end of the second side of Frosting On The Beater. Up pops a whammytastic guitar solo that proves they've been listening to their Neil Young.

Lyrical Stance - Minus 5

All I know about the Minus 5 is that (nifty random-play segue here) Ken Stringfellow of the Posies is involved. This is a rather agreeable slice of garage punk, actually, and the lyrics are exceedingly scrumptious, what with the lyrical stance being 'in [one's] pants', and all.

I'm So Glad - Skip James

A great performance: fingerpicking is deceptively clever and the man's voice swoops and dives like a reasonably glad thing. The Cream, and many others, have murdered this tune many's the time, but the gritty glory of the original is undiminished.

Hanging around the day (part 2) - The Polyphonic Spree

I still haven't given up completely on the Spree, though most of the appeal is in the warm, real sound of the instruments, the backing and the voices. I love their big, bright sound but I'm still not sure if the writing really has any substance. The song itself is hooky and worms its way in there. At least it did when I was listening to it on the way back from lunch. I can't for the life of me remember that chorus now, so ha!

Trip To Your Heart - Sly And The Family Stone

Completely around the twist, and brilliantly done - psychedelic funk from the crew that pretty much wrote (and re-wrote, and re-wrote, and then smoked) the rule book.

Jacques Derrida - Scritti Politti

A bizarre little musical triptych from Songs To Remember, the album when Scritti started to get a bit of attention. It starts off as a jaunty strumalong with subversive lyrics, starts messing with sassy backing vocals and ends up in a pretty good 80s white funk groove. Still don't know what the hell Green is on about, though, which is a fitting enough tribute to the French structuralist philosopher of the title.

Twenty Years Ago - Magazine

One of Magazine's most out-there tracks; I can't remember where this came from originally, possibly a b-side. Fantastic bit of rock concréte that proves once and for all that Magazine owed a lot more to the British rock avant-garde of the mid-late 70s than to the traditional punk influences. This is disorienting, intoxicating stuff that repays a few listens.

Natchez Burning - Howlin' Wolf

Eerie; Wolf's lonesome wounded croon sounding more barbed than ever as he sings - confides really - of intolerance and racial unrest in Mississippi.

16 Track Scratch - Calexico

Classy little mood piece, the kind of thing Burns and Convertino do so well. Cinematic and evocative, with just the right kind of grotty sounds.

Because You're Frightened - Magazine

The Correct Use Of Soap came out around 1980 and was produced by Martin Hannett (the record producer guy in 24 Hour Party People). It kicked off with this, which had previously gotten an airing on a Peel Session under the title Look What Fear's Done To My Body.

Turn On Your Love Light - Bobby Bland

Nowadays when we aging Deadheads hear this tune we tend to think of Rod 'Pigpen' McKernan, who made this song a party piece. Here it is straight from the real master's voice.

Who Is It - Mantronix

I'm pretty sure I got this from Actual Discs! Real Tunes! A pretty apposite slice of 80s electro, as it 'appens.

07 November 2004

Another Saturday nite.

Came home from the pub, fired up the 'Pod. What could one reasonably expect? Much of this stuff is music I downloaded from other music blogs, and I've tried where possible to give credit where due. Can't always keep track of it, mind, but sooner or later I'll be collating music blog links in the sidebar, have no fear.

You Wouldn't, You Couldn't Be True - Philip Upchurch

Twang Thang - Billy Butler

The Third Cup - Eddie Fisher

Soul Sides is the site where I got these three fine guitar tracks from. Upchurch seems to be making use of some sort of hybrid twelve-string, maybe it's got only a couple of strings doubled. "You Wouldn't" is pretty tasty, and makes interesting use of a choir and, yes, a harp. 'Twang Thang' is guitar playing against a brass section, and Butler's slinky, clever playing is familiar to me; not three bad. The Third Cup is my favourite of this batch, thanks probably to the understated rhythm section and Fisher's clever extrapolations. There's another track, elsewhere in the playlist, that isn't quite so good but I'll get to that.

The Red Flag - Billy Bragg

From The Internationale EP. One reason why the lords and masters of Jesusland won't be taking over the planet just yet: people still remember how to sing this. Life is short, but memories are long, at least here in The Rest Of The World.

Seems Like A Lifetime Ago (Part One) - Bruford

Bruford (Bill that is) did a solo album, Feels Good To Me sometime towards the end of the 70s, and this features the great Annette Peacock on vocals. Her fantastic pipes don't get preferential treatment in the mix (this is a drummer's solo album, after all) but That Voice can still do wonderful things to you, believe me. The backing is jazzy and fluent, with some fretless bass playing from the daysbefore it became popular or profitable (i.e. before it turned into a gimmick). (Courtesy Mystical Beast).

I'm A Mineralist - Nick Mason's Fictitious Sports

In 1978 the Pink Floyd drummer, fresh from producing a not very interesting second album for The Damned, decided to put together his own solo album. To this end he put together a cracking avant-jazz big band called the Fictitious sports that featured Robert Wyatt and Carla Bley. Such measures can only lead to trouble, as we hear. 'I'm A Mineralist' is a classic: Wyatt sings of a man who, like Arnold Layne, has a 'strange habit', and the hilarious lyrics pun themselves off the side of the planet. (Courtesy Mystical Beast).

Can't Get My Motor To Start - Nick Mason's Fictitious Sports

More from Nick Mason, Carla Bley and the usual bunch of weirdos. Funny and funky, not unlike Zappa in spots. (Courtesy Mystical Beast).

As Far As I Know - Paul Westerberg

From the Folker, album, er, as far as I know. Westerberg sounds all Beatle-y. Great as always.

A Time For Us - Joe Pass

Joe Pass is well known as a great jazz guitarist; here he tries to go middleoftheroad R&B and it just falls flat. Even his usual fine playing just doesn't lift a track that's completely uninspired. (Another one from Soul Sides).

Strange Angels - Laurie Anderson

A song of substance, despite the somewhat incongruous backing. First impression was that of Anderson jamming with the Notting Hillbillies - I'd put money on that being Knopfler on guitar. The backing is gooey, in spite of the pretty pedal steel licks, and Anderson's lyrics just sound geeky and out of place. Cute bit about your friends coming over and eating everything in the fridge though.

Sat Mahaori - The Khmer Fusion Project

This track is contemporary, with traditional sounding violin against a modern fusion backing. Won't set the world on fire but it's pretty tasty. (Courtesy of La Blogothèque.)

O Superman - Laurie Anderson

Can anyone explain why this was number one for what seemed like months, back in the early 80s? The only record I can remember being number one for longer than this (back then anyway) would have been Gloria Smith's version of 'One Day At A Time'. I know of about four couples who courted to 'O Superman' and loads of people who still speak of it with fondness. For a while it was coming out of radios everywhere and you just had to stop and listen. Got to be the most unlikely number one hit single ever, and as good a reason as any for digging out Big Science again and giving it a play.

Life on a String - Laurie Anderson

A bit middle-of-the-road-y for Anderson, but not bad; the track has lots of interesting ideas and her singing is unimpeachable.

I'm Sixteen - Dengue Fever

Gloria - Cambodian Rocks

As far as I know, Dengue Fever are a contemporary band of expat Cambodians who do their best to recreate old underground Khmer psychedelia. If this is only a recreation, then it's damn fine. Plenty of that throbbing surf sound, mad psych organ and a singer who goes up impossibly high. Great fun. Gloria, which sounds like it came off an old cassette, is good too, with Them's old epic getting the Khmer treatment and the band playing away nice and tight. Doesn't get the gritty suspense of the original but an agreeable cover all the same. (Courtesy of La Blogothèque.)

Fast Boyfriends - Girls At Our Best

As I mention below, don't even bother with GAOB, they're pretty terrible. (Yes, I'm writing backwards.) Even a wry one-note guitar solo doesn't redeem this. The lyrics are kind of funny, but don't even last four minutes before they turn over, ha ha.

Cyclo - Cambodian Rocks

If there had been a Far Eastern version of Nuggets, this would have been on it no contest. Brilliantly bonkers slice of Khmer psychedelia. (Courtesy of La Blogothèque.)

Antenna - Kraftwerk

One of those treats that sort of creeps up on you. Before the Beat Police came in and everything had to be cut to cadence, Der Kraftwerkelektronischemusik showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that electronic music can swing and be funky and have lots of heart, and didn't have to sacrifice melody at the expense of a cheap hook. Did we listen?

The Sky Is Full Of Stars - Gareth Williams

Was Gareth Williams something to do with This Heat? Who's the girl singing? What the hell is this? From Mystical Beast again, and the sound quality isn't great - it sounds like it was knocked together on a four-track and left in a dusty cupboard for a couple of years - but the tune is absolutely beautiful. A uniquely English bit of oddment up there with Robert Wyatt and Nick Drake.

Politics - Girls At Our Best

One of those up-and-coming bands you'd occasionally see profiled in the NME in the late 70s. I remember this lot because the singer was cute, but never got to hear them until I found this track at Mystical Beast and got curious. Shouldn't have bothered, it's terrible, and the singer's accent is so irritatingly posh it makes Sophie Ellis-Bextor sound like a fishwife. One for deletion methinks.

Pelz Komet - The Kingsbury Manx

I got their first album (is this the bit where I say 'eponymous'?) - pleasant sounding, but it largely passed me by. This, now this I like - it's from Aztec Discipline. The singer's voice reminds me a bit of Tom Dunne, which is a good thing actually. Closing bit sounds a bit like Belle & Sebastian, which is too.

( ) part 4 - Sigur Ros

What I like about Sigur Ros isn't the moody arctic soundscapes they conjure up, or the pretty vocals or the bowed guitars. All of these are grand, but taken by themselves wouldn't amount to much. Sigur Ros are consistently interesting to listen to because they make sure the natural timbre of each instrument (voice included) is brought out distinctively, and this adds up to a unique, natural sound. Plus all the usual stuff.

This morning I ripped...

The Tubes - Now (1977)

Smoke (La Vie En Fumer)

Hit Parade

Strung Out On Strings

Golden Boy

My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains


I'm Just A Mess

Cathy's Clone

This Town

Pound Of Flesh

You're No Fun

This is a surprisingly strong album thats worn well over time. Smoke has a great Bowie-ish feel, very showy, dramatic and arranged. Listen for the coughs when the drum kicks come in. Hit Parade is a pretty spot-on parody of how pop records used to sound back then, and Fee Waybill does a convincing Neil Diamond impersonation.

From there on it just gets crazier. Strung Out On Strings is the tale of a boy who loves his guitar maybe a bit too much. Golden Boy is the tale of a middle-class blues boy, and features great mouth organ that may or may not have been played by the composer of the following song. My Head Is My Only House... is a great, sensitive reading of Captain Beefhearts love ballad from Clear Spot, and apparently Van Vliet himself turned up at the studio and drew sketches of all the band.

Percussionist Mingo Lewis' showcase, God-Bird-Change is a harmless bit of showy fusion, I'm Just A Mess piles on the tortured-artist cliches, This Town is a smart, sassy reading of Lee Hazlewood's standard, and Youre No Fun starts out as a torchy bit of self pity that somehow or another manages to evolve into a Ramonesy rocker, getting faster and faster and punctuated with counts of one-two-three-four in the manner of the late Dee Dee Ramone himself.

[melodica melodica]

06 November 2004

Live, without a net...

Kometenmelodie - 2 Kraftwerk

So much I like the Electronicmusic, that I must write now of it. This is a jaunty little bit of spacerock that trundles along pleasantly through the outer asteroid belt. People are so fond of Kraftwerk's 'man machine' image, and the band themselves always played that up, but they never really lost the more organic, natural feel of this earlier stuff. It swings, quite frankly, and the simple, pretty melodies that lie at the heart and soul of Kraftwerk's best music are quite unique.

Hangin' Back - (this is somefing wot I knocked up myself on Remix)

A couple of samples, from 'Hangin' Out' by Chic, 'Body Heat' by Quincy Jones, 'Off Broadway' by George Benson, and I think there's a bit of the Undertones (that clanging guitar bit that comes in the second time through). Not bad on a later listen, but it's a pity the sound of the samples is a bit compromised (old vinyl, somewhat pitty and scratchy). Anyway, my gums are sore and I feel like rubbing some Bonjela on them.

Thankyou (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin) - Magazine

Believe it or not, the capaciously domed ex-Buzzcock, Howard Devoto, a man not exactly known for his loose-bootied funky strut, sings Sly Stone. Not as odd as it would appear on paper - Magazine turn in some solid playing, and the groove is made a lot more interesting by the angular, insistent guitar work of the late John McGeoch.

McGeoch passed away quietly a few months ago, almost unnoticed. After Magazine wound up, he joined Siouxsie and the Banshees and was a big factor in transforming their sound from its early jagged clang to something more strident and melodic (and chart-friendly). He also worked with Public Image Ltd. for a while, on the classic 'Album' album (known to CD purchasers as 'Compact Disc').

His musical technique was inspired by innovators like Manzanera, Belew, Ronson & Fripp. McGeoch played sax as well, and he took great delight in making a guitar sound Not Very Much Like A Guitar At All, Actually.

I'll Be Your Friend - Bright Eyes

I don't really 'get' Bright Eyes - the tunes are okay but it always feels there's something missing. This isn't bad, though, reminds me a bit of what it might sound like if Eels jammed with the Super Furry Animals. Thus do I damn it with faint praise and oddball comparisons.

Shot By Both Sides (Live) - Magazine

This was a part of a double live EP, as I remember, though it was ripped from the Maybe It's Right To Be Nervous Now boxset. Not a bad canter through their signature first single, but listening to it now you can't but notice Those '80s Sounds - the big, bubbling chorused fretless bass, the synths, the drums falling down a heavily-reverberated flight of stairs. Devoto would never pretend to be a great singer, but used his limited voice well, with a sense of passion and drama.

Circle Sky - The Monkees

Don't know where this came from; I downloaded it from Spoilt Victorian Child. It's fantastic. Mike Nesmith sings, as far as I can make out, and the backing is pure cowpunk. Even the Velvets would have been hard-pressed to play something as savage and powerful as this. Fair dues.

Hateful - The Clash

An early gallop through this London Calling favourite from The Vanilla Tapes. Though there are no lyrics as yet and the song is only a rough sketch, it's remarkable how tight and empathic the band's playing already is, especially considering that this is a song they haven't routined much yet. Strummer, Jones, Simenon and Headon are busy scraping away at an unformed lump to get at the song they know is inside there somewhere. Edifying listening for those interested in hearing how 'Hateful' came together, probably irrelevant to anyone who isn't a major Clash fan.

Make Love To Your Mind - Bill Withers

You'd know this was Withers straight away - the gently insistent two-chord vamp, the easy swinging groove, the smoky, worldly-wise voice.

Maybe I'm Amazed - Paul McCartney

Remember when the Faces covered this? Remember how they made a complete balls of it, but it was still fun? This is probably because McCartney writes songs that of their nature are difficult to fuck up. This is ripped from Wingspan but not too long ago I saw the original, McCartney solo album that it came from in the local second-hand emporium. Kind of rueful now that I didn't pick it up.

Considering that this was recorded on a four-track at home, not too long after the Beatles' split, it sounds fabulous, feels like a real band rather than McCartney overdubbing everything, and features a sterling vocal performance from the artist formerly known as Paul Ramon.

Saut Crapaud - Columbus Fruge

(from the Harry Smith Anthology)

POSSIBLY THE MOST WIDELY KNOWN OF ANY ACADIAN DANCE TUNE. FOR FULL NOTES SEE WHITFIELD'S "LOUSIANA FRENCH FOLK SONGS" ...It says here. An odd slice of Cajun played, no doubt, on one of those diatonic oddball squeezeboxes they have down there. From about 1920.

Walkin' Back To Georgia - Jim Croce

There's something solid and dependable about even Croce's minor tunes, such as this. Maybe not his finest moment, but this pretty ballad has just enough grit in it to keep the tender sentiments from cloying, and it's memorable too, with that little humming bit.

The Smile - David Axelrod

Quite nice, actually; I'm really getting into Axelrod's stuff at the moment. This manages to find room for a funky rhythm section, big, bold sounding orchestration, and some oddball guitar sounds. (At one stage there's a slide guitar imitating a theremin, or something.) Smart.

Back In Judy's Jungle - Brian Eno

It was a delight to take home the newly-released master of Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy, a favourite from my teenage years. Back In Judy's Jungle is completely bonkers - its clumping oompah beat is a deliberate avoidance of rock, swing or syncopation of any kind, but the backing band, which includes Robert Wyatt and Eno's old Roxy chum Phil Manzanera, drives this along very nicely.

Black Shuck - The Darkness

I actually thought this was Lizzy when I heard this first. You can only ask yourself, how much more 70s could this sound, and the answer is 'none'; none more 70s. Good fun nevertheless.

Operator (That's Not The Way It Feels) - Jim Croce

I love Jim Croce, but this isn't a favourite of mine. You can't fault the writing, the rueful wit of the lyrics, or Croce's easy, sympathetic delivery, though. Plus the gentle humour: "Thanks for the time, you've been so much more than kind; you can keep the dime."

Train In Vain - The Clash

This was originally recorded for a giveaway flexidisc with some newspaper. When that didn't come together, the Clash stuck this Mick Jones ditty on to the end of London Calling as a bonus track, so it was a complete surprise on first listen. Not a very strong piece of writing, but the Clash get a nice groove on here. (A run-off groove, even.) I love the popping octave guitar and the touches of mouth organ. But it ain't a patch on...

Revolution Rock - El Clash Combo

By a strange quirk of fate, random play now throws up the 'official' last track of London Calling, and it is nothing short of brilliant. Topper Headon alone should have got a knighthood for his fantastic percussive performance on this reggae standard; the drum kit alone sounds like a band in itself. Simonon is right in the pocket with his dubwise bass playing; the album's cover star is a very underrated musician. And Strummer, with his fabulous non-voice and bonkers adlibs, is wonderful as ever. Tell your mama, tell your papa, everything's gonna be all right...

Anthology: a tribute to music - Scienz of Life

I know nothing about Scienz of Life but I know I'm crazy about the Project Overground album. Over gorgeous jazz samples and basslines that always seem about to teeter into dub, the various Scienz-tists pay homage to their heroes beautifully.

The Wagoner's Lad - Buell Kazee


More of the Harry Smith stuff, from 1928. Kazee's banjo playing is so well-controlled it almost sounds classical.

Perpetual Adoration - The Bathers

Celtic soul at its best, and you can keep your shagging Deacon Blue. Chris Thomson could be best described as a sort of Scottish David Bowie, say around the time of Young Americans. His breathy, wracked singing ushers in a sweep of north Atlantic wind, over cold flagstones where wolfhounds are sleeping, where big dark trees are swaying and a girl is singing 'hushabye'...

It Ain't All Because Of Me Baby - Bill Withers

How do you turn a duck into a soul singer? Put it in a microwave until its bill withers.

Flavor Of The Month - The Posies

Clever little track from the excellent Frosting On The Beater.

Intro - Bad Brains

The Brains crammed more ideas and information into quick minute-mantras like this than more bands do into entire albums. Every home should have a copy of I Against I.

City - Primal Scream

The Evil Heat album errs mostly on the side of electronica, but you know they're always going to turn in at least one rocker like this. Plenty of tomcat piss and a Stooges-like stumble, not a bad wee chewn atall.

Work In Progress (Acoustic Guitar) - Nick Drake


At The Love Observatory - (somefing else wot I knocked up myself on ProTools Free)

Aargh! This still needs work, and the vocals especially need to be redone. I'm proud enough of the song, itself, though.

Remote Control - The Clash

From The Vanilla Tapes, in which our heroes holed up in a rehearsal studio above a garage in Pimlico, away from prying record company eyes, and began knocking together the album that became London Calling. Remote Control originally came from the first Clash album, and the record company brought it out as a single against their will. They never played it onstage again, and this warmup version from one of their rehearsals is a bit of a curiosity for Clash fans. It's by no means perfect or polished, and pretty much loses momentum after the middle, but a good example of how, even in throwaway, warmup mode, the band play with admirable cohesion.

Remarks by the Rev. C. L. Franklin

From young Aretha's Amazing Grace gospel album. He says it better than I can, so go have a listen.

A Scanner Darkly - Primal Scream

Again from Evil Heat. Very electronically driven, though more like an early Krautrock tune than club music. A decidedly Frippertronic guitar drifts in and out. In some ways it's a bit like early Kraftwerk again, with the synthesised motorik beat and synth melodies - which is pretty much where we came in.

I Against I - Bad Brains

Classic - a little three-part mini Rasta punk opera. HR sounds like a black Iggy Pop and Dr. Know offers most metal guitarists a serious run for their money. "Amighty watching, almighty watching, I against I against I against I against..."

Prison Cell Blues - Blind Lemon Jefferson


"The clear tone and long runs, so typical of Texas and Louisiana vocal style, are heard very well here. The device used in this song of reversing the line order of the first verse to produce the final verse is still frequently employed."

From 1928.

Get Your Hands Off Of My Woman - The Darkness

From the sublime to the faintly embarrassing. Musically, 'Get Your Hands' is excellent, with some fine riffing, but Justin's singing is just plain overambitious here and ruins an otherwise unimpeachable tune. Motherfucker.

Stackalee - Frank Hutchinson


"The murder mentioned here probably took place in Memphis in about 1900. Stack Lee seems to have been connected by birth or employment with the Lee family of that city who owned a large line of steamers on the Mississippi."

Steamers? Oo-er Mississippi! From 1927. If random play really had its shit together, 'Wrong 'Em Boyo' would come on right after this.

Poor Boy - Nick Drake

...but no, just some wealthy English kid noodling on a guitar into a wonky old reel-to-reel cassette some time late in the 60s. The guitar almost sounds like a piano, the strings are so thick and heavy. This is a more contemplative reading of the tune that got a more upbeat treatment (with chicks singing, yet) on Five Leaves Left. It's extremely pleasant, actually.

Water's Edge - Julian Cope

A pretty apt followup to the Drake track, actually, ushered in by a simple bit of fingerpicked acoustic guitar. From The Skellington Chronicles, which I'm getting into the more I listen to it.

Let Me Help - Bad Brains

First track on the second side of I Against I. I have nothing against The Darkness, really, but put them in a room with these guys and they wouldn't last two minutes.

Last of the Name - Kevin Duffy Band

For one night only, just like the circus, it's the KDB live from the Row Sheen, Dave. This is from either the first or second gig of the original lineup, with Steve Hanks throwing in a nice bit of trad flute. An old favourite from the repertoire of Kev's old band the Non-English Speaking Tourists, or the N.E.S.T. for short.

25 October 2004

Are you a hypnotist?

...The last song on the playlist (just below) was Are You A Hypnotist by the Flaming Lips, from Yoshimi... Strictly speaking, I hadn't really listened to it; I'd let it play away on the 'Pod while I answered the phone. (Silent alert can be a pain sometimes, especially when it makes your poor little phone hop around the place like a cricket on meth.)

Having decided to keep this, this podblog or whatever you want to call it, I'd found the most recently played songs in iTunes and copied and pasted the list into my friendly neighbourhood text editor. There the tune was at the bottom; credited but forlorn. I owed it to poor little Are You A Hypnotist? to give it a listen. And straight away, as the kettle hit the boil and the room filled with the scent of smoke and coffee, me and the 'Pod were off in a swirly, Japanese sci-fi, Eno-with-beats sort of world, the beginning of yet another adventure in random music listenage.

Cool Blues - Charlie Parker and Errol Garner Slinky, clubby sounding jazz (nice!), classic riff, a bit workaday compared to the anarchic charm of the original.

Heavy Metal - Teenage Fanclub

Fun little guitar workout from the first album A Catholic Education, sounds a bit muddy.

Share Your Love With Me - The Band

A pretty, heartfelt Richard Manuel ballad.

Buzzin' Fly - Tim Buckley

Not the soft, acoustic version familiar from Happy/Sad and Dream Letter, but rocked up and soulful; my favourite versh actually, from Honeyman.

Quiet - Smashing Pumpkins

Mid-90s guitar maelstrom that brings on that heady, dizzy, "grunge-isn't-a-drug-I-can-give-it-up-any-time" feeling.

Every Other Day - The Stars of Heaven

Just after the mid-80s, Irish guitar bands started to get all country. Well, they all learnt the intro to "How I Wrote Elastic Man". It helped that Ireland has always had a great graw for not only country, but western music also. From the days of Buffalo Bill Cody, whose family were originally from Dublin, through the time of Big Tom McBride and all his spawn, country has always been there, gnawing at the roots of Irish music. The Stars took the sort of sounds pioneered by sundry small-time American rock bands and added a big dose of overalls to the chowder, creating something transcendent but uniquely Irish - poetic and romantic but good-humoured and rowdy too. Always the beautiful losers of Irish rock, the Stars' best stuff came out in a couple of BBC sessions for John Peel's radio show, which they were fortunately allowed to release under their own steam. "Every Other Day" is by no means their best, more of an afterthought, but it captures perfectly a certain moment in Irish rock. How the SOH felt about Bonjela is not recorded.

Here Today - Brian Wilson (Pet Sounds Live)

Bright, happy revisit of the tune that ushers in the second side of Pet Sounds. Wilson's excellent band have their work cut out for them trying to emulate the big, breezy sound of the original, but sound like they're having a good time trying.

Thousand Fold - Jeff Buckley

B-side of "Everybody Here Wants You". I've heard another version of this, maybe on Sketches for MSTD. This is just a bare-bones 4track demo, unfinished and jagged sounding, but some fantastic singing as usual.

Big Bottom - Spinal Tap

Many bass guitars. Brain-curdling synth. And those heartfelt lyrics, often derided as sexist, but usually only by women, of course.

Precious Moments - The Posies

Overall, Amazing Disgrace, which this is from, is my fav Posies album. The production by Nick Launay is faithful to the drums-and-wires sound the band need, but imaginative enough to bring out the best in the songs, stuff that would have disappeared under a heavier hand. "Precious Moments" is well thought out with a great use of dynamics, and those voices blending flawlessly as usual.

Ted's Tune - The Revenants

The Revenants were always going to suffer by comparison with the Stars of Heaven, simply because Steven Ryan's voice is so readily recognisable, but they were a much rockier beast. Good stuff, too, for the most part. Always liked this one; simple and agreeable and not too much fuss:

"Seems like every player on the block is getting better every week

They're doing bends and runs and treble stops and I'm still stuck on G."

Victoria - The Fall

Why shouldn't Mark E. Smith cover a tune by Ray Davies? They have a lot in common after all, as reluctant poets laureate of different musical generations. Neither is what you could call a strong singer, but they've made the best of their vocal limitations and created distinctive voices for themselves. And they are writer's writers, whatever about the musical end of it; they use recurring themes and the past is important to them, though they'll never be curators. And this sounded great barrelling out of radios when it came out in the mid-80s. Not a landmark Fall tune, though it was good to see them in the charts by whatever means, but a perfect choice of cover for the time.

A thought for the foolish, a word for the wise.

Last night I hit the pub with my pal the Osh, met a couple of cool art girls, and enjoyed a couple of pints and a hot port. Full of free radicals after having spent much of the morning working out.

Some furthur thoughts on what I listened to last night:

The ugly and the beautiful - The Real Tuesday Weld

"But... but it's the same chords as She's Electric by Oasis!" Ha ha. This isn't a bad song at all, and soon outgrows that unfortunate little similarity.

River of Orchids - XTC

XTC had been away for years, and then reappeared with Apple Venus and this. Not the sound diehard fans would have expected, but this has everything that's good about XTC. Partridge and Moulding take it in turns to sing: "I heard the dandelions roar in Picadilly Circus!"

Takin' My Time - Little Feat

From the first, uh, 'eponymous' album, when they had Roy Estrada from the Mothers playing bass. Plenty of promise, and good strong playing, but not very well produced, and Lowell George has yet to come into his own. This is an agreeable enough piano-and-strings ballad with Bill Payne to the fore.

Sorry For Laughing - Josef K

From Postcard Records, the Sound of Young Scotland... This is a classic, because it sums up a certain giddy enthusiasm, because it's of a time, and because it is one quite glorious racket. If Cole Porter had bought a cheap electric guitar and joined a garage band, he might have sounded like this, great mixture of the winsome, the louche and the completely bonkers. Given the euro-dance treatment by Propaganda a couple of years later.

The Stars of Track and Field - Belle And Sebastian

By a nifty bit of random-play technological serendipity, more fine chords from Caledonia. It took me a while to get into B&S but I'm glad I did now. Tuneful, memorable, and plenty of Scottish wit to temper the dippy bits.

King Harvest - The Band

As Harry Smith would have said, RURAL LABOR FLUMMOXED BY POLIT BOSSES. NOSTALGIA FOR SIMPLER TIMES; SYNDICALISM FAILS TO ASSUAGE. Not regarded as a high point of the Band's repertoire, it's one of those self-conscious 'portrait of Americana' things that Robertson was fond of writing; different voices evoke different characters and states of mind. They'd done this sort of thing better, but I still like this quite a bit.

Amazing Grace - Aretha Franklin

Play this on Sunday, so you don't have to go to church. Sixteen minutes of searing, soul-drenched gospel. Not just The First Lady herself, but the whole Southern California Community Choir sound fine on this. I'm sure the man upstairs approves.

Photographs And Memories - Jim Croce

I love the guitar intro to this one, and the arrangement is pretty and unforced; a bit too cloying in places. Croce does ballads very well, even minor ones like this; on balance it would have been better without all the sugar sprinkled on top.

Terrorized - The Posies

Who cares about having 1,000 odd songs in your pocket? All I want is a box that plays this, all the time, forever. It's beautiful and heartbreaking and one of my favourites and no, I don't know why.

Genesis - Me & Sarah Jane

From Three Sides Live. Pretty forgettable, way too fussy to engage the interest. Bring back the loony in the flower costume.

Happy Ever After - Shack

Michael Head knows how to write (and arrange) a melodic, tuneful ballad that tugs the heartstrings without tipping over into too much gooey stuff. It's from ...here's Tom with the weather, which I prefer to its predecessor, HMS Fable. But why is New York, New York such a wonderful town?

Since I Met You - Shack

Something to do with people pulling plastic guns and shop assistants twitching, but the chorus is classic and the Head Brothers as usual fail to disappoint, even if this isn't the most focussed number from The Fable Sessions.

Dead Disnee - EL-P

If you've heard El-P you know what to expect - deranged beats and disturbing noises, scattershot vocals, all stirred together in a soup of hip-hop cacotopia. The falsetto chant of the title scares the shit out of me. Does exactly wot it sez on the tin, then.

Critical Mass - Teenage Fanclub

Don't know if the Fannies ever heard of Dublin band The Stars Of Heaven, but they sound close to them on this one. They're starting to come into their own in terms of writing, and Critical Mass has one of those great circular guitar riffs that were to become TFC's stock-in-trade. The vocals sound very diffident, buried and shoegazey.

Gypsy Woman - Tim Buckley

Fifteen minutes of suede-fringed blue-eyed funk from Live At The Troubadour, near the end of his career. Great jamming and some white-hot singing.

24 October 2004

Some thoughts on a weekend's listening...

One for the vine - Genesis

One of the better cuts from Three Sides Live, which isn't one of Genesis' best live showcases.

Venice Mating Call - Tim Buckley

Buckley helps out on percussion for this mercifully short instrumental from Live At The Troubadour, and completely ruins the tune - damn white people got no sense of rhythm. He gives the alternative title as "All We Are Saying Is Give Smack A Chance". Ha, ha.

Heaven Up Here - Echo and the Bunnymen

Rowdy, boozy first track on side two of the classic Bunnymen album of the same name. Sounds like the band are playing and struggling to make their way up a flight of stairs at the same time.

Get Up Jake - The Band

The band were past their peak when this came out, though it had been appearing in live sets for years. Not terribly important in the canon of great lost Americana or anything, but not a bad little number all the same.

Tree - Sebadoh

The lo-fi bards go all psychedelicore on us, but it's great - strong and simple, it builds and does its business without getting all hippy or, indeed, dippy.

Cornish - Town Shack

So is there really such a place as 'Conamargh'? Such questions merely split hairs as the Head brothers turn in another fine bit of rambling psychedelic rock, fleshed out with compelling guitar playing and harmonies. Written by John Head, actually.

[????] - Billy MacKenzie and Paul Haig

Wish I knew what this was called. It came from an Uncut sampler and for some dumb reason I mixed the title of this up with a Lee Dorsey number. The CD is now in a landfill somewhere and I may never know.

Blister In The Sun (live) - The Violent Femmes

I used to play this in a terrible band with a complete bozo of a lead singer, but even such ignominy does not diminish the fun of this song, or the great grin that always springs to the chops whenever those familiar opening chords are heard.

Electric Mainline - Spiritualized®

The other evening I met Reg in the college bar after work. I gave him a go on the iPod and he got stuck in while I went outside for a ciggie. When I came back he was looking out the window, zoned, with a big grin on his face and this playing on the 'Pod. A new convert.

Sally Go Round The Roses - Tim Buckley

Sefronia gets a bad rap. It's no masterpiece by any means, but there is some good writing and a sympathetic backing band - just none of the magic of Happy/Sad or the untrammelled weirdness of Starsailor or Lorca. A perfectly serviceable reading of an old R&B hit, though I prefer the live version on Honeyman.

Sweet Surrender - Tim Buckley

Live treatment of this Greetings From L. A. gem. Lacks the strings and funky choir of the original, but it's a fair fist and Buckley Sr.'s voice swoops and soars to order.

Robert Mitchum - Julian Cope

An old number from the legendary (?) Crucial Three, co-written with Ian McCulloch. Good fun, from Skellington, which gets more interesting the more I listen to it.

Crop-Dust - The Fall

Not the most appealing of Fall tunes, with MES sounding sick and bleary, but repeated listenings betray a thoughtful arrangement, and real lyrical depth.

Captain's Table - Shack

The Head brothers Michael and John have been practicing guitar in their bedrooms for years. Yet somehow they can't quite get around that Donovan fingerpicking trick. Never mind, they've instead come up with another compelling little fingerstyle of their own invention, and use it on which to hang clever, whimsical but oddly compelling tunes like this.

Next To You - Bell X 1

Young bands with guitars will be expected to expectorate forth certain influences. Record company types will gnash their hair if they fail to have at least one tune that will make punters prick up their ears and go "That sounds a bit like *******, doesn't it?" Bell X1, who used to be Juniper before Damien Rice left them to go solo, sound like they have enough gumption to outlive the phony expectations of the music business.

Hip Priest - The Fall

The sound that this particular incarnation of the band put together is a masterpiece of quiet menace - no wonder it was used in the Silence of the Lambs soundtrack. A top vocal performance from a man not noted for his vocal prowess, and the backing positively crackles with malignity.

Coup 23 - Skidoo

Of recent vintage, from a reformed Skidoo, this could have been recorded at any time between here and the 80s. The big bold brass and ranks of overdubbed slap bass call Material and Defunkt to mind. When I first heard this I didn't care much for it, but it's grown on me.

Is America Dead? - Kim Fowley

Hey, America's dead, go live in Europe. They ain't got any electricity or vitamins, but what the heck? If things had went other than they did twelve years ago, this man could have helped Jimmy ShitzSquirrel on the road to stardom. Why was this not prevented? Do two people in the world deserve each other more?

Concierto de Aranjuez - Jim Hall

To be a jazzer, and to make a go of the "Concierto", you're inevitably going to invite comparisons with Miles Davis and Gil Evans' masterful reworking of it on the classic Sketches of Spain. Jim Hall manages to sidestep this by going for a more straightforward, proper-jazz-with-a-rhythm section treatment. Clever and compelling.

The Right Profile - The Clash

Joe Strummer found Guy Stevens in a pub off Oxford Street and asked him would he produce the next Clash album, which turned out to be London Calling. They got to talking about the late film star Montgomery Clift, who died alone, broke, and messed up on drink and downers. The band had, on the evidence of the Vanilla Tapes, been playing around with a bouncy little three-chord riff in the studio, and Strummer brought in lyrics inspired by Clift's story. With hindsight, there's also a certain amount of Guy Stevens, another messed-up beautiful loser, informing the spirit of this gleeful bash.

Koka Kola - The Clash

Even the weaker tunes on London Calling manage to redeem themselves by being funny. It's the album where the Clash finally discovered (or at least came to terms with) their sense of humour. Witness here, where they take a pretty insubstantial number making fun of frozen-nosed record exec types and jizz it up so it skips along with a certain verve.

Comedy - Shack

One of the finest and most memorable tunes from the Fable Sessions, this should have been a hit. I believe somebody even covered it, though for the life of me I can't recall who.

Streets of Kenny - Shack

More from Fable, a gripping portrayal of slipping back into heroin addiction - "I fell in love with the red telephone again". As usual, the copy of Forever Changes is never far from reach in the Head household.

Pool Hall Richard - Faces

Slack, beery and declaiming complete shite three inches away from your face - but you love it.

With A Hip - Echo and the Bunnymen

This is the second track on the classic Heaven Up Here album, part two of one of 80s rock's most enduring diptychs. (As opposed to Bono, who is one of 80s rock's most enduring dipsticks.) Part one is the mighty Show of Strength, its big slow glacial riffs disappearing into this frantic scrabble of rhythm and guile.

I Must Have Been Blind - Brendan Perry

If Dead Can Dance hadn't had a singer of the calibre of Lisa Gerrard, Perry's excellent baritone voice might have gotten better exposure. His subsequent solo stuff showcases it well, pitched somewhere between Scott Walker and the lower register of St. Timothy himself.

Unfaithful Servant - The Band

One of the Band's most beautiful ballads, this flows like a mighty river and unfolds like gently rolling countryside, Danko and Manuel's voices blending perfectly.

Don't talk (put your head on my shoulder) - Brian Wilson

From the live Pet Sounds. Brian invites us to close our eyes and listen. Why not?

28 January 2004

Prometheus Unpaid.

Ah, the tragic flaw of overweening pride. The thing the Greeks called hubris. Not a thing that is good at all, the same hubris. And I too have been guilty of this. Right here, in this blog. Not too long ago I posted about my secret ambition to be, not an ordinary mild-mannered everyday smalltime blogger, but a THEATRE CRITIC. I flew into a turgid fancy, if you'll remember, flagrant in its narcissism and wholly uncalled-for. I fantasised about having minions at my beck, doxies on my arm, drugs up my nose, and our fair, smooth-browed Taoiseach on the other end of the phone. All complete idiocy of course. I apologise for inflicting all that muck on you.

For when I come to consider that which is my true calling, the noble craft of theatre criticism, I understand now that I'll never realise my ambitions by dwelling on such idle reveries. This is the time for action, not contemplation. To which end I've sent off a few pieces I've written for consideration. Some of the responses so far have been encouraging. Some, too, have been less than heartening:
"Oh you're from Galway? I've heard of Galway. My uncle's milkman's fiancee's dog's pedicurist went there on vacation once. Anyway let us know if you come up with anything else, er, Brian, isn't it?"

"This theatre criticism stuff is all very well, sir, and you have a certain facility for it, but don't you think the smart money these days is in those new blog thingies they're all talking about? I was looking at one the other day and it was great fun, all about imaginary blue catlike beings and punk woodland animals and stupid search referrals. What was it called again? No, wait, come back."

"We'd like to thank you for these submissions. Careful research by our highly-trained crack team of textual interpreters has determined that every word was, in fact, generated by polyglot monkeys with typewriters. Who exactly are you trying to fool here? Do you think we're complete idiots?"

"You, sir, are the greatest hero in human history and we would be happy to publish some of your magnificent musings on Mr. Shakeyspar. Please send 250 euro to defray printing costs and we'll be sure to put it in the March issue, and we'll even send you back 50 copies to sell to your friends."

"This is terribly written. We've checked - there is no such word as 'Fresnel'. We'd be interested in reading anything else you've done, though. Have you tried keeping a weblog?"
I've received no little interest, and plenty of encouragement, from a publication called Incomprehensible Bollocks Monthly, who have described my work several times in quite glowing terms. It's not clear yet whether they'll actually print any of my work, or pay me money for it, but such matters are moot. I have a Doc Marten on the bottom rung of the ladder, and that's the important thing. I feel I have finally found kindred spirits, others who understand me:
"Notwithstanding a certain crumpling, epidermal quality, tempered with outbreaks of plush metacarpal limburger tendencies, there remains a certain frisson of quasi-tectonic, almost mixolydian furniture displacement."
So, things are looking up. Until then, I accept that I am just going to have to roll up my sleeves, apply some elbow grease, and do some honest-to-goodness, no-frills, thankless but remunerative hack work for local papers. I'm not proud. Nor do I much fancy goething before a fall. So for the time being I'll be churning out stuff more along the lines of:
"Fair play to the Bailenamagairle Players for their fine rendition of Jonjo McPhooster's delightful romp, Me Mammy's Afther Joinin' The Guards, Who's Going To Make The Dinner So? Sangwidges at the interval were provided by the lovely Sorcha Ni Phlabbergast and spot prizes were given out by Father O'Botulism."
Genius is pain.

21 January 2004

No, I don't want my driveway tarmacked.

This whole "thing", this -- this "blogging" as I believe the less cultured call it -- it's never really come naturally to me. Sure, I suppose I "engage" with it on a regular basis. But this is in much the same manner as I "engage" with my backside when I wipe it, or the way that people with dysfunctional hearing "engage" with the tuneless excesses of the rockety-roll music.

Keeping a cheap little online diary has never been one's true vocation of course. One was meant, as I'm sure the sapient looseletter will have noticed, for much finer things, much more noble pursuits. These quotidian minutiae, this daily parade of (pfuh!) "links" and (ptui!) "content", such matters mean little to me beyond a way to bide one's time, as it were, until a more meaningful opportunity presents itself. A stopgap, no more.

For once one has inhaled (don't mind if I do, thank you very much) the rarefied air of sublime inspiration, of true art, then why return to the acrid fug of the sussurating snakepit that IS the thankless demi-monde of (shudder) Electronic Vanity Publishing?

I was not born for this blogging thing. I should have been, ought to have been a THEATRE CRITIC, DAMN IT!

Yes, a theatre critic. Scoff if you must. Your base concerns are not mine.

Picture it, if you will: the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the optics in the theatre bar. Delicious imported powders sandblasting my nasal passages and easing down the snot at the back of my gullet. Hot brandy and port to wash them down. Expensive cigars. During the intervals, plenty of opulent decolletage to admire. Younger hopefuls at my beck, acolytes of theatre criticism, hanging on my every word. Learning the craft from my wise old avuncular self. They cut my lawn, refresh my drinks, procure for my delectation the finest punetang. Meanwhile, inside, of course, a bunch of pantomime fools are stumbling around under a proscenium, talking loudly and avoiding the furniture. The first act passes, a distant irrelevant rumble, while, still in the bar, I finish the Times crossword, inscribing the final character and laying aside my pen with a studied flourish.

The mobile communication device, nestled in my pocket next to a ninebar of the finest Moroccan, trills pleasantly. Bored, I decide to take the call. It is my admirer, young Bartholemew J. He sounds in a bit of a pickle.

"Tell us! You know about dese t'ings, Brenno. Is it anny good? Is it?"

"Relax, Taoiseach," I tell him. "You can read all about it have someone read it to you tomorrow morning. Now go back to following the subtitles on TG4 with your finger."

Then, of course, a quick call to my loyal army of polyglot monkeys with typewriters, now much better off and ingesting a finer class of monkey chow. I confabulate with them briefly - fair, generous and respected employer that I am - offering them a few, er, enticements to get the thing rattled off and ready for the courier first thing on the morrow.

It is time I realised my true vocation.
"So it is, with a phalanx of amber fresnels (*) illuminating the beads of sweat on the immaculately appointed brow of Gorpth Fnorgerskal (fresh from his three week engagement in ORPHEUS UNPLUGGED at the Sawmill), that a sort of hush descends on the auditorium. As he speaks the final syllables of McDingus' famous Fifth Soliloquy, something that is neither visceral nor spiritual, but somehow a bit of both, partaking of the noumenously plastic and the timelessly antedeluvian in equal measure, seems to possess the room.

"It is not, friends, merely a play. It is a sort of History. And if theatre truly is about bums on seats (at the end of the day), then the preciously placed posteriors in the Grand Scarab Theatre last night must have been, dare we say it, quite moist ones indeed."

(*) I said "Fresnels". It's a word!
Let's face it. The very essence of theatre criticism courses through my veins. Read it back. The use and placement of the word "must" in the final sentence I find particularly piquant.

True talent will out. And the sooner this tawdry ball of clay that calls itself a "planet" learns to deal with it, the better.