Monday, August 19, 2019

Songs About People # 926 Philip Larkin

Former Soft Boy celebrates Larkin.

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 27 Mud Slide Slim & the Blue Horizon

Song(s) of the Day # 2,037 The Black Watch

Californian band The Black Watch write a lot of songs with the names of famous and notable people in the title. This I know because they've supplied me with five songs in a row in that particular series on my blog over the last few days.

They have at least two other features that are worthy of note. Firstly that they're fantastic and secondly that they're obscure and hence worthy of bringing to other's attention to signal that they're fantastic. This post is all that I can do about that.

The band themselves are quite aware of the fact that they are under recognised. After all they titled their career retrospective, (released this year), 31 Years of Obscurity which tells you all that you need to know except for bout the brilliance of the songs contained therein.

I could have chosen virtually any one of its 22 tracks to post here. They're all great in different ways. Literary, humorous, lush and melodic guitar led songs, reminiscent of  The Go Betweens, The Clientele and other fellow travellers. The fact that the face of singer and primary songwriter John Andrew Frederick is on the cover of this indicates that he deserves most credit. That's an enormous amount of credit. I can only suggest you hear the record.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Ride - Repetition

I've always had a lot of time for Ride. They remind me of the time when I had hair. Of my youth.In fact I had a few years on them when they first turned up with that glorious burst of records at the end of the Eighties and turn of the Nineties. Never really a particularly cool name to drop, they were nevertheless excellent at what they did, walking the line between guitar based pop and noise based art, they put out some fine records between 1989 and 1992.

They've been back together for a few years now. They played what was probably one of the finest gigs I've ever seen down the road from me at The Newcastle Carling Academy some time back. The albums they've put out since they're reformation, 2017's Weather Diaries and the recently released This Is Not a Safe Place don't quite do it for me, but this, Repetition from the latter is worthy of note.

It's written by guitarist Andy Bell, who is enormously proud of it, saying it's one of the best things he's ever done. I know what he's talking about. It's concise, melodic and powerful. Lyrically it says more than Ride generally do, using Eno's Oblique Strategies card method as a metaphor for their mode of creation and career in music, who they were at 18 and who they are now. I think it's great.

Songs About People # 925 Christopher Smart

The last of five in this mini series within a series from the marvellous Californian band The Black Watch. This one, for Eighteenth Century English poet Christopher Smart, helpfully also providing its subject's dates of birth and death in its title. 

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 26 Jethro Tull - Aqualung

Song of the Day # 2,036 Fionn Regan

A few years  back I went to Laugharne Literary and Music Festival in Wales. Irish singer songwriter Fionn Regan played a short set in the local church there. He was an obvious and definite talent, somewhere between Dylan Thomas, (fitting as Laugharne was where Thomas wrote Under Milk Wood), Dylan obviously and Donovan.

All these years down the line Regan hasn't changed much. He still writes the same kind of songs, considered bubbles of observation of the moment. Cala, his sixth album is no masterpiece, but is worth a listen.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Hold Steady- Thrashing Thru the Passion

Strangely, after a couple of bumper months there have been few new albums released thus far in August that have really grabbed my attention. That's fine, there have been plenty of good songs. One of the more interesting LPs is the new Hold Steady record, Thrashing Thru the Passion released yesterday.

It's perfectly clear what you're going to get with the Hold Steady. They haven't really changed the formula since their first record. Anthems of the existence of the commonplace guy. Blue collar anthems about what makes the ordinary extraordinary. Full throttle but smart and nuanced Rock and Roll with tumbling urban musical frameworks set to American street poetry.

They do this all very well on Thrashing Thru the Passion. Anyone who has appreciated any of their stuff will find plenty to enjoy here. Hardly claiming new territory but certainly settling into middle age with assured bruised dignity.

Songs Heard on the Radio # 322 Kelly Finnigan

Lovely Seventies Soul from the here and now.

Songs About People # 924 Steve Albini

A strange love song to Steve Albini.

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 25 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Four Way Street

Song of the Day # 2,035 DJ Shadow

DJ Shadow and De La Soul. Very little to say about it except that it's old school. And fabulous!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Songs About People # 923 Theodore Roethke

Another fine song from the Black Watch to keep this particular series ticking over. This one mentions the highly distinguished but also highly eccentric American poet Theodore Roethke. One of his peccadilloes was claiming to be a highly ranking tennis player, hence the song title.

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 24 Leon Russell - Leon Russell & the Shelter People

Song of the Day # 2,034 Anderson .Paak

Something highly impressive although also highly Prince indebted from the latest Anderson .Paak album Ventura.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Clash - I'm So Bored With The U.S.A.

Songs About People # 921 Magic Johnson

Five in a row now in this series from  stalwart Californian operators The Black Watch, who have been operating since the mid Eighties.

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 22 Gordon Lightfoot - Summer Side of Life

Song of the Day # 2,032 Butcher the Bar

Quite gorgeous amalgam of an Elliott Smith somehow maintaining an upbeat perspective and Teenage Fanclub at their hazy, mellow, golden peak. From Manchester band Butcher the Bar who have been around for years and remain something of an insider's secret. This, Haunts, something of an instant classic is from their album III which came out a couple of months ago and is also well worth a listen. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Pixies - Catfish Kate

Following Iggy yesterday, here's something new from another one of the grandees of all Rock and Roll. Pixies with a song called Catfish Kate ahead of a new album. Deeply familiar, essentially it could easily have been on Doolittle or Bossanova, when first I heard it I thought it was a bit limp. Since then I've listened to it continually, each time finding its familiarity progressively more moving. The way Pixies can make chord changes so effectively, impacting on the emotional mood of the listener. the way Charles Thompson's lyrical world is so refined and specifically his. The way they're middle aged but still just so damned good! Not conquering new territory, just reclaiming theirs. Somehow no-one can do what they do. They know it.

Elliott Smith

Belated acknowledgement that 6th August would have been Elliott Smith's 50th birthday. In honour of this a tribute was held in New York with the wonderful Joanna Sternberg headlining.

Songs About People # 920 Edie Brickell

Swedish song for Edie.

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 21 Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers

Song of the Day # 2,031 Nerija

Monday, August 12, 2019

Courtney Barnett

Songs About People # 919 Dave Mustaine

Song for Megadeth guy from the new album by The Whips. Played with a spirit he'd surely appreciate.

Iggy Pop - James Bond

Iggy Pop is back. With an album coming in September and this goes before it. This made me smile on a Monday morning. With a sound like a 2019 update of the sensibility that Iggy and Bowie fashioned back in '77 with The Idiot and Lust For Life. He's definitely not the first and he's still got the second. We're lucky to have him! This will stick in your head on the first play and would sound great on the catwalk.

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 20 Paul & Linda McCartney - Ram

Song of the Day # 2,030 Dans Dans

A recommendation from my Belgian friend Dom, who came to stay this weekend.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 19 Steeleye Span - Please to See the King

Song of the Day # 2,028 Haim

I haven't really gone for Haim's stuff previously, but this, their latest Summer Girl is something and knows it is. It takes it's juice from elsewhere, Walk on the Wild Side, and Can I Kick It as well as Sheryl Crow, strangely. It sounds like something Luscious Jackson might have done back in the day. With a Paul Thomas Anderson video to boot. It struts.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 410 Sleater Kinney

The latest Sleater Kinney stuff rather passes me by. Happier to go with this.

Songs About People # 916 Toni Morrison

For the late, great Toni Morrison. 

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 16 Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin - Histoire De Melody Nelson

Song(s) of the Day # 2,025 Duster

They were dressed for success. But success it never came. Possibly because they were wearing spacesuits. San Jose. California trio, Duster released their first album Stratosphere in 1998, something of a 'space' concept and it's pretty much the indie hep cat's dream cult record although it's only really come to inhabit that status given the passage of time, being barely noticed except by proper devotees at the time.

Locating the tender spot between Slint and Pavement, if Stratosphere hadn't actually been recorded and put out there it would probably have had to be invented. It really doesn't do anything that those two bands didn't do themselves comprehensively over the years, which is probably why they are so much more generally revered and remembered, but it's a fine album nonetheless.

There's an understated minimalist grace to proceedings throughout. The album cover describes the record it houses well. You suspect the band spent a fair bit of time staring at their shoes and effects pedals onstage.Sometimes there are vocals, sometimes there aren't. It doesn't really seem to matter much either way. Duster maintain their poise.

Other names could be thrown in as potential influences. Wire's Pink Flag is probably the year zero as far as this particular musical sub-genre is concerned. Pere Ubu and Mission of Burma are somewhere in Stratosphere's DNA too. But really it's a definitively Nineties American Indie record, intent on maintaining a defeatist shrug, all the while sending Mayday signals to an oblivious Ground Control before drifting out of range once and for all. The rest is static...

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Covers # 108 Surfer Blood

Hey Ya was always ripe for a makeover by an indie band at some point and here are Surfer Blood doing just that. They play it pretty straight although you don't get the 'shake it like a polaroid picture' bit.

Songs About People # 915 William Faulkner

One for the grand old man of the American South.