Former Soft Boy celebrates Larkin.
Monday, August 19, 2019
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Friday, August 16, 2019
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.
Thursday, August 15, 2019
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
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
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.
Monday, August 12, 2019
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.
Sunday, August 11, 2019
Saturday, August 10, 2019
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.
Friday, August 9, 2019
Thursday, August 8, 2019
Wednesday, August 7, 2019
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...