Sunday, October 25, 2020

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 477 Tim Buckley


The most conventional moment from Tim Buckley's most out there album Starsailor. Put on the jukebox for a dear, departed friend on his birthday. He was a huge Tim fan.

Songs About People # 1,199 Alger Hiss

One of the earliest victims of the American Post War drive towards Anti-Communist purges and witch trials.

This Is The Kit - Off Off On


I wondered, when I started listening to this, earlier on in the day, whether I really fancied hearing another This Is The Kit album. Not that I don't like them, because I do, but you fairly much know what you're going to get with this bunch. Tuneful, thoughtful, reflective Folk music. Nowt to complain about. But there are plenty off purveyors of this kind of thing these days.

Of course, Off Off On, remarkably the band's sixth soon lulled me under its spell. They do their thing very, very well. For This Is The Kit, essentially Kate Stables and the musicians she works with, are masters of this particular art. It's a great knack they have, to be able to draw on such ancient traditions and make them poppy and immediate. The stuff you feel like dancing around to the kitchen to.

I'm not informed enough of the band's stuff to know where this stands in terms of their overall body of work. But if you're going to listen to one This Is The Kit record, it might as well be this one seeing as it's their latest and it's just great. It's immediate, it's warm, it's inventive. In turns it's upbeat, then laid back. Then it's something in between the two. It dances to the rhythm of its own drum. In short, I love it. Go on treat yourself. Proper Sunday morning record.

Albums of The Year # 64 The Hanging Stars - A New Kind of Sky

 I was diue to see this lot play in March in a small pub in Gosforth, Newcastle. Then Lockdown happened.

From the opening bars of their latest album A New Kind of Sky.It's fairly clear exactly where The Hanging Stars are coming fromThey inhabit utterly the territory called Cosmic Country, in this case the patch once occupied by Gram Parsons and the countrified Byrds and first brought forth on albums like The Notorious Byrd Brothers and Gilded Palace of Sin.

Theirs is a gorgeous, swirling awestruck sound. The band, and they're from London not California or Texas, are fine musicians one and all and they understand exactly how to hold back as required and let the music flow from them with a measured, unhurried step. This is a record made by people who know all too well what they want to do and how to go about doing it.

Being in awe of a particular kind of music and setting out to recreate what makes it so special is not always the easiest trick to pull off. Bands as good as Ride and The Rockingbirds have in the past have fallen into the trap of being too reverent to similar source material and failing to bottle the magic they sought to capture.

The Hanging Stars do very well in this respect on A New Kind of Sky. Purely and simply because the songs on here are very good ones and they're not merely trying to catch a lift on a time machine taking us back to '68 or '69. This is a record that sounds just fine in the here and now and manages to be more than pastiche or period piece despite its unashamed influences.

The songs sound just fine and dandy and with a couple of exceptions towards the end of the record cast a spell and hold it. No real surprise that there's nothing here good enough to grace the albums mentioned above but there's certainly much to enjoy and possibly send you back to the originals to discover just how great they were once more. On Three Rolling Hills they conjour up the mariachi spirit of prime time Love, on (I've Seen) The Summer in Her Eyes they remind the listener of just how special The Byrds were at their peak.

Track after track flows with convinced momentum. The band have an ace in their hands in the shape of steel fiddle player Joe Harvey-Whyte and his deft touches inspire moments where the band seem to defy gravity and allow their songs to float in the ether.

The Hanging Stars are a fine band and this is a class record. It seems that they're destined to remain a cult concern as this kind of music is something of a niche concern these days. They're playing in a pub just down the road from me a week on Saturday and I'll do my best to be there because judging by this they'd really be something special in a small room. In the meantime, this will more than do.

Fear of Music - The 261 Greatest Albums Since Punk & Disco # 79 The Au Pairs - Playing With a Different Sex

                     'The Au Pairs need to be rediscovered because like Patti Smith and The Slits,                                                                                     they proved feminism was sexy.'

This is Uncool - The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk & Disco # 84 Earth, Wind & Fire


Song(s) of the Day # 2,473 Dead Famous People


It's staggering to consider the sheer number of fine artists thrown up by New Zealand in the Eighties and Nineties and associated with the Flying Nun record label. The main players are well known and relatively claer enough for those with the remotest interest in these matters but lesser lights are still showing up and coming to my attention.

Take Dead Famous People as the latest example. Not a band I was even aware of until a few weeks ago when I read a review of their new album Harry and gave it a listen.A band that made little impact first time round, a couple of John Peel sessions and a period spent in London, before splitting in 1990.

Now they're back with Harry, their thrid album in all and it's a sunny little record, parking itself somewhere between Aztec Camera, Go Betweens and The Chills. Highly Poppy, highly positive, yearning, lovesick and very listenable. A band that have clearly not forgotten what it feels like to feel young and fancy another slug of the elexir.

This is a world where 'hold your hand' is always destined to rhyme with 'understand'. Some of these songs more than brush with cliche, (quite knowingly, to give the band their due), but that doesn't stop them being highly alluring for those prone to this stuff. 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Songs About People # 1,198 Sun Ra


 A track for one of the great Outsider Artists of the Twentieth Century. 

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 476 Jacques Brel


This sounded quite magnificent the other evening. An absolute, blazing barnstormer from a man who had to end of them.

Albums of The Year # 65 Hamerkop - Remote

 An interesting look given the year we've had. From March:

Electro duo Hamerkop filch the melodic synth pulse of the likes of Suicide, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Blancmange, add glacial female vocals of their own and ride the whole charabang to the oasis of consumate bliss on their great new album Remote.

The end result is the polar opposite of remoteness to be frank. This is a consummate, warm and immediate record, sounding quite of its time though the fuel that fires its engine is clearly that of the Synth wave of the early Eighties.

By the time guitar appears prominently for the first time on the title track I was hooked. This comes across as the kind of thing Paul McCartney might have come up with had he been inspired by Kraftwerk as greatly as he had been by Little Richard. The melody on display here is utterly fabulous. Hamerkop comprise Kiwi singer and multi-instrumentalist Ananbel Alpers and drummer and Baltimore drummer and studio engineer Adam Cooke. Together they sculpt an altogether alluring sound that hints at moments of transcendental catharsis.

Fear of Music - The 261 Greatest Albums Since Punk & Disco # 78 Gang of Four - Solid Gold


'The best completely tuneless record ever made.'

This is Uncool - The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk & Disco # 83 Sister Sledge


Song of the Day # 2,472 Electric Manchakou


As so often Julian Cope directs me to the obscure and ratehr wonderful. Electric Manchakou. Italian Stooges wannabes of the Nineties.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Albums of The Year # 66 Alex Chilltown - Eulogies

 From the end of January.

England's dreaming. In 2020. Difficult to credit a record as good as this and sounding like this, coming out now. Alex Chilltown have appeared on this blog before. A couple of months back as a Song of the Day as I couldn't wait for their debut album, which I knew was coming, to actually arrive. Well now it's here and I'm writing about them again.

There's something really exciting about this lot, though it's a little difficult to say exactly what it is that's so exciting. Perhaps it's because they're part of a heartening renaissance of decent young guitar bands from London that have surfaced in recent years. After the Fat White Family extended family, Shame and Goat Girl to name the most obvious examples.

It's also because Alex Chilltown are rather difficult to define. Sure, their name is a play on the mighty Alex Chilton's and they may well have listened to some Big Star records along the way. But actually that's almost a complete red herring. The record sounds very British, or actually more English, rather than something made in Memphis. But it's just the sensibility that's difficult to describe more deeply . In order to get a handle on Eulogies, (the name of the record), you have to work a bit harder.

For they hide the traces of what exactly has given birth to this very skilfully. I'd say the point of inspiration starts from the early Seventies and Bowie, most obviously, then going on to the late Seventies through the Eighties and into the early Nineties and any number of inspired English mavericks from Robert Smith, Richard Butler and Peter Perrett to Luke Haines and Brett Anderson. This is a record that evokes suburban terraced houses and estates, and adolescent Friday evenings, spent in teenage bedrooms or tearing around on high streets, drunkenly constructing your adult self before returning to the safety of the family home and slightly concerned parents.

It's good to know this process still goes on. Of course it does but it's important that it continues to be documented. This record reminds me of when I did just this myself in the early Eighties growing up in South West London. It's heartening to see that the essence of this experience can still be so artfully realised by guitar bands and the poetry of teenage dreaming. This is a very English art form after all. It's obviously not yet entirely extinct.

Josh Eshaw is the man at the heart of the Alex Chilltown and in photos he exudes an androgynous cool that we've seen before, most obviously in Bowie, Bolan, Butler and Anderson. All sons of the suburbs. A pop star of the old school! Whether he'll actually realise that status himself  remains to be seen. In Eulogies he and the rest of Alex Chilltown have made a very fine start. 

Song of the Day # 2,471 Tim Maia


Glorious freeform funkiness from Brazilian manchild genius.

Fear of Music - The 261 Greatest Albums Since Punk & Disco # 77 Brian Eno - David Byrne - My Life in the Bush of Ghosts


'Feels more chillingly accurate about the twenty-first century than tomorrow's news headlines.'

This is Uncool - The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk & Disco # 82 XTC


'Swindon's finest's first chart showing is one of the Great Lost Hits of the period...'

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Songs About People # 1,197 Mickey Spillane

                                                                     Hard boiled man. 

Albums of The Year # 67 Paint - Spiritual Vegas


I'm pretty much a sucker for whatever trots out of The Allah Las stable. They're one of the most distinctive bands going. Not that there aren't any other similar groups out there, there are possibly far too many, but everything that any one of these Californian hippie slackers puts out seems to be distinctively theirs.

One of the offshoot projects they indulge in is PAINT, which customarily allows lead guitarist Pedrum Siadatian to truly unleash his inner '66 West Coast love child. Not a million miles away from what the Las do anyway but so determinedly laidback and gently frazzled in this case  it's almost horizontal. As if Syd Barrett and Skip Spence had paired up inadvisably in the late Sixties.

There's very little on PAINT's latest Spiritual Vegas, that you might call essential really. At least on the surface. It's all far too self-consciously, almost artfully throwaway for that. Each of the sixteen tracks here is come and gone before you know it.

That doesn't mean there isn't quite a lot worthy of a second glance. Quite the opposite really. It's highly more-ish for fans of these things. Some things really stand out. Land Man for example has already been posted on my end of year run down list.

Siadatian is a considerable talent, even though he is far too self effacing to present himself as such. Several of the songs on Spiritual Vegas would easily grace an Allah Las album.I'm curious to see how much I come back to this despite the fact that it seems uneccesarily to draw its own disposability. I supect it's actually more accomplished than that. Only repeated plays will tell.

Buying items at bargain prices can improve a person’s mood. 5. Shopping is a much more addictive activity than anything else. 6. Stores are good at making people feel many positive emotions. 7. Shopping when feeling bad can lead to increased spending. 8. A number of different factors can affect how shoppers behave

Fear of Music - The 261 Greatest Albums Since Punk & Disco # 76 The Jam - Sound Affects


This is Uncool - The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk & Disco # 81 Tubeway Army


Heavy metal played by the Smash robots. Oh how I love those inverted commas.

Song(s) of the Day # 2,470 Garcia Peoples


You will probably have made up your mind of exactly how you think, less than forty seconds in to New Jersey Gracia People's latest album Nightcap at Wits' End. The band certainly don't waste any time in letting you know precisely what floats their boat.

This is ludicrously retro stuff, both in sound and sensibility. Round about 1972, I'd say, halfway through a joint, halfway through a Robert Plant soliloquy or a Jimmy Page solo. Or should that be Jerry Garcia solo. The band name themselves after him after all? 

This is a record you absolutely have to buy into the legacy it draws on to 'dig'. Sorry, but that is exactly the word that you have to use in this particular case. Garcia People's buy the whole Tolkien, Dungeons and Dragons, gatefold sleeve package, lock, stock and barrel. There is really nothing that indicates that this record was made in 2020, except perhaps its production.

I'm not completely averse to this sound, though I found most of the conceits it dabbles in ridiculous, even at sixteen. Garcia Peoples are a trim and trained band, they pull off the arcane and odd guitar chord sequences quite masterfully. The lyrical stance is unashamedly wide eyed and awestruck. This is an album I find it easier to admire for its playing than its guiding principles.

The duelling guitars are fine, so is the glossy, spiralling atmosphere of the songs. The record has a smooth and silky warmth. But I couldn't buy into the whole vision because there is something I find essentially daft about it. It also doesn't particularly add to the rich heritage it mines. Merely prostrates itself in somewhat 'I'm not worthy' supplication at the altar of rock of the early Seventies.

This record will surely find a broad and appreciate audience. Probably among 70 year olds as well as those of 20. There were moments when it clicked into the kind of ecstasy that Television achieved during Marquee Moon. But for the most part it reminded me of Tull, Yes, Zep and Wishbone Ash rather more. I recommend it to devotees of that particular way of looking at the world.

I was reminded during my listening to this of nothing so much as the Patrick Fugit character in Almost Famous listening to his sister's record collection, eyes closed, mouth agape. Rather like that film itself Nightcap at Wits' End offers an attractive promise of pure escapism from the harsh realities of modern exiatance by virtual immersion in the comforting pleasures of the deep and distant past. But the vision that results never completely convinces. Or it doesn't convince me at any rate. I'll give it seven. OK then seven and a half

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Iggy & David in Moscow


Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 475 Black Sabbath


Bit of Sabbath in an empty pub with Abbey the barmaid on a Monday Covid-19 October evening in The Telegraph.

Songs About People # 1,196 Billy Graham


Evidently sincere tribute to the tool of the trade of the great TV evangelist who passed a couple of years back aged 99.

Albums of The Year # 68 Pool Holograph - Love Touched Time and Time Began to Sweat

 From a few days ago:


Sometimes I make an impression of an album within a few seconds and listen onwards with that impression in mind, not sure of what I think until a central question is resolved.

Such was the case with the quite magnificently entitled Love Touched Time and Time Began To Sweat, the  third album from Chicago quartet Pool Holograph. The question I asked myself was one concerning influence and I continued listening to see if they managed to answer that central issue to a satisfactory degree.

The influence in question is that of three bands in particular. Because Love Touched Time sounds immediately and very specifically like Omni, Deerhunter and Television. Lead singer and guiding light Wayne Grant directly channels Bradford Cox and through him Tom Verlaine's agonised wail from the early days of CBGB's, while the band jump and spark very much like Omn throughout . These are unmistakable connections to make and I listened onwards, intrigued to see if he and they managed to transcend their reference points.

I'd say they, and the record do. It occupies a particular space. Arty, angular and oblique. Full of those passionate yet remote strategies that Television first brought to the table of Rock and Roll way back when. 'Never the rose. Without the prick.' If you don't care for Television and Deerhunter you probably won't care for Pool Holograph, if you do you probably will. I'd say it's as simple as that.

I do, and I do. Love Touched Time and Time Began To Sweat, chimes and aches in all the right ways. I'll return here in a few days in my Albums of the Year rundown. A lowly placing perhaps, because as good as it is it never totally transcends where it comes from. But a quite lovely record nevertheless.

Fear of Music - The 261 Greatest Albums Since Punk & Disco # 75 Adam & The Ants - Kings of the Wild Frontier

'If ever a pop album rode to glory on a sort of madness, them this it.'


This is Uncool - The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk & Disco # 80 The Undertones


'It could've just been his 19th Nervous Breakdown I guess.But what would make you so nervous in a little place like Londonderry.'

Song(s) of the Day # 2,469 Order of the Toad


Glaswegian Psychedelicists enjoy themselves thoroughly on recently released Re-order of the Toad.
Somewhere between Pentangle, Incredible String Band and Jefferson Airplane with some Monochrome Set touches thrown in for good measure.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Songs About People # 1,195 Abu Nidal


                       Glasgwegian C-86 types recall Abu Nidal. The Palestinian name to drop right then.

Spencer Davis 1939 - 2020


Albums of The Year # 67 Bill Fay - Countless Branches

 From January. Seems way back now:

Talking of transcendence, Bill Fay's Countless Branches, which came out a week or so ago, slots into a particular category almost of all of its own. This is meditative, ruminative stuff from someone who must suspect he may not have too much time left on the planet and is determined to make every second count. It ticks along to a different clock than other records, and sings its own tune. It's often unashamedly sentimental and infused with fragile passion.

Nature is a natural companion for this kind of pursuit. As you get older your relationship with the world around you change you see the eternal all around you. That which will outlast you. This is what Fay is up to here. The songs on Countless Branches are full of wonder and regret. Many of them instantly numbering themselves among the best of his long career.

He's enjoyed a late renaissance that few, least of all he himself I suspect, would have expected. It's very well deserved, as every song here has a trembling, wistful quality. They're poignant and deeply heartfelt, eulogies to himself and a world that perhaps is dying with him.It may not be a record that cheers the heart but it does offer plenty of poetic consolation. Fay doesn't claim to have the answers but he does ask a lot of the right questions. A special record.

Fear of Music - The 261 Greatest Albums Since Punk & Disco # 74 Killing Joke - Killing Joke


Definitely one of the cooler bands towards the end of my time at secondary school. The ones the hip kids wrote on their school bags and pencil cases. Never quite saw it myself.

This is Uncool - The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk & Disco # 79 David Bowie


                                          'The last great Berlin-era single is one of Bowie's finest.'

Song of the Day # 2,468 Beabadoobee


Monday, October 19, 2020

Albums of The Year # 68 Maria McKee - La Vita Nuova

 From March:

Maria McKee, once of Lone Justice and probably best known for the huge Show Me Heaven single is back, with La Vita Nouva , (taking its name from Dante's elegy to unrequited love), her first album for thirteen years. It's one of the most ambitious albums you're likely to hear this year, a full on, no holds barred document of self scrutiny and self realisation of the sort seldom made anymore.

In many respects it's an old school album. The kind of record that used to be relatively commonplace, from the likes of Bowie, Scott Walker, Dory Previn, Leonard Cohen, Laura Nyro, Tim Buckley, Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush but that very few attempt nowadays, Nick Cave perhaps but not many others come to mind. McKee, has been through seismic life changes in the course of making it, moving partially to London, ending a marriage of over twenty years and coming out in terms of her sexual identity.

So what does it sound like? Lush and incredibly overwrought frankly. The arrangements are baroque, orchestral  chamber pieces of the most ornate and elaborate stripe all the bows have bows on them. Some of the songs are quite beautiful balancing acts of reach, some just don't come together, Down to the Heart of London is one of the best things here, showing McKee frolicking around her new hometown, no doubt in full flowing Victorian gown with Blake, Swinburne and Vaughn Williams swimming around her head.The lyrics here are every bit as ambitious as the musical trappings.

Perhaps the greatest influence on what's going on here musically is McKee's late older brother Bryan, eighteen years her senior and a man who had to play second fiddle to Arthur Lee for the most part of his time in Love but was still responsible for at least two of their finest numbers in Alone Again Or and Old Man. The arrangements of La Vita Nouva are pure Love, Gothic elegies recast for a female sensibility.

It goes on for too long. At least two tracks could have been pruned at no loss to the overall impact of the record but McKee is clearly in full showboat mode. The best songs here actually attain the heights they strain for. You might need a lie down afterwards but if you're like me you'll be back for another listen. An impossibly brave and admirable album.

This is Uncool - The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk & Disco # 78 Roxy Music


'Stuttered with insouciant elegance and like Heart of Glass made being dumped seem as desirable as an Anthony Price suit.'

Song(s) of the Day # 2,467 Tugboat Captain


London's Tugboat Captain pretty much conform to indie rules and regulations in tick box fashion on latest album Rut, their third in all.

The songs on Rut chug and chime in workmanlike fashion. They have an 'Oh well, best gone with it,' response to life's adversities which is commendable but also a little frustrating at times.'What if I'm just used to things not going my way,' they sing. 'What happens if tomorrow's like today? Please don't stay the same. Oh I just need a change.' Hmm. Ray Davies wrote plenty of songs about the masses resignation to their fate almost half a century ago. But did so with genuine poignancy that's lacking here.

This is certainly a characteristic of Indie sensibility, going back to obscure John Peel session in the Eighties. This is the real life, a chronicling of the mundane, something to tap your toes to while make yourself a morning cuppa and a slice of toast. Tugboat Captain do their job, but could do with a little more fire in their belly to my tastes. 'They're in a rut. They've got to get out of it.' 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Songs About People # 1,194 Fred Hampton


                  American militant and revolutionary. Shot during a police raid in December 1969.

This Searing Light, The Sun and Everything Else - Joy Division -The Oral History - Jon Savage


'Tell me the story of The Beatles again Daddy.The greatest (rock) story ever told and told and told and TOLD.'

Charles Shaar Murray wrote this in his NME review of Shout! Philip Norman's biography of The Beatles in April 1981. Strangely, almost forty years on they have some pretty strong competition. Typically, from a Manchester band.

The Joy Division bandwagon keeps rolling and rolling. Considering they were only together for less than four years their legacy is incalculable. But anyone who has an even passing interest in the band and Rock culture will know the story back to front and inside out. So why tell it all again?

Because it's such a good story and such an important one frankly. Jon Savage's This Searing Light, The Sun and Everything Else assembled from interviews old and new with the main players is as good a piece of evidence to the significance and endurance of this particular myth as any you'll ever find.

Some bands are good, some mediocre, some poor but very few are actually important. Joy Division were and are important. They mattered and matter. Not just their astonishing music but the way that they gave everything in a way that few bands actually do. Where they came from and where they went. Also as a bold and permanent statement from the North .

This is more than a book about music. It's about the incredible contribution it and the band made to empowering and rebuilding a whole city and region with belief and unstoppable pride. This sounds glib but read the book.

You get a ridiculously strong sense of the main casts character's coming out to you as you read. Bernard Sumner's sensitivity, just how funny Peter Hook is and how eccentric Stephen Morris is. How profound and foolish Tony Wilson was. The terrible sadness of Debbie Curtis and Annike Honore.

But most of all this is Ian's tale of course. His incredible ambition, his astonishing talent his phenomenal pain but the beauty he wrought from it in partnership with the rest of Joy Division. In the last twenty pages once his suicide and funeral have been detailed, each of the main players assesses exactly why he did what he did. The accumulation of evidence of the previous three hundred pages led me to the conclusion that it's no real surprise at all. That there was an absolute and dreadful inevitability to where this was all going given the circumstances of his life and the nature of his art.

I've always really enjoyed Savage's writing but didn't buy the book immediately when it was published last year. I wondered whether I really fancied hearing this story one more time, knowing exactly where things were heading. I was wrong to doubt it. I've devoured it in a series of long sittings in the last week or so and recommend it enormously.