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?

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