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?