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.