Thursday, September 19, 2019

Songs About People # 951 Myrna Loy

One for an early superstar of the Silent Screen.

Newport Jazz Festival

The Daisy Age (Saint Etienne Presents) # 13 Justin Warfield

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 58 Dolly Parton - Coat of Many Colors

Song(s) of the Day # 2,068 Jenny Hval

Jenny Hval's latest album The Practice of Love starts quite magically with Lions, an electro-pulsed opener that invites us to take notice of the miracle of the universe around us. In terms of the way it sounds, not a million miles away from the fabulous records that Jane Weaver has been putting out over the last few years, it raises the bar high for whatever is coming next. 

Norwegian Hval hasn't really got the strongest voice in the world but it's perfectly serviceable for a really likeable record that pitches her tent somewhere between that of Weaver and Agnes Obel's in the campsite for  reflective contemporary musical existentialists.

Bolstered by guest turns from the likes of Laura Jean, Felicia Atkinson and Vivian Wang. The Practice of Love plays a confident innings. The title track, coming midway through the record, gives Laura Jean a monologue that foregrounds some of the album's main concerns, what it is to be alive, child-bearing or not child-bearing, our purpose of being on the planet and other important quandaries.

The record strides onward, confident but hardly startling, a cool way of starting the day, (at least that's how I started mine yesterday). A fine album without being an exceptional one - though it may be a grower. It would sound just great for a half hour's browse around a Rough Trade Record Shop, perhaps its natural habitat.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Songs About People # 950 Gene Cernan

The last man to step on the moon and the last of this particular mini-series within a series. I'll write about the wonderful record it comes from shortly.

The Daisy Age (Saint Etienne Presents) # 12 Monie Love

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 57 Grateful Dead Live Double

Song of the Day # 2,067 Gruff Rhys

I planned to write a review of Gruff Rhys's excellent Babelsberg last year but never got round to it. He's back already with a new album, Pang!, powered by Welsh lyrics this time which will probably mean it will gets less critical attention than Babelsberg. This is a shame, but probably matters little to Rhys who has stoically long walked his own path.

Anyhow, it's another record of note, an album of gentle reflection and idiosyncratic whimsy that slots well into the man's noteworthy catalogue, stretching back almost twenty five years now since the first emergence of Super Furry Animals. Pang!, feels like a small declaration of utopian independence. Somewhere between Folk and Krautrock. It's a splendid record. Here's the title track.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Songs About People # 949 Harrison Schmitt

The most recent living man to walk on the moon. A geologist, appropriate given the song title.

The Daisy Age (Saint Etienne Presents) # 11 Digable Planets

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 56 Gilbert O'Sullivan - Himself

Song of the Day # 2,066 Gerry Cinammon

Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Cinammon has built himself a considerable fanbase over the last couple of years on the base of a word of mouth wave. I hear his songs now all the time coming out of jukeboxes. He's just great. Here's one from his album of 2017 Erratic Cinematic.

Monday, September 16, 2019

New York Dolls

Ric Ocasek 1949 -2019

Songs About People # 948 Charles Duke

'God taught me things that I don't know. God stopped me being an asshole. God gave me strength to start loving my wife. God swept up the dust of my life.'  The opening lines of the song and pretty much the story of Charles Duke and his moon experience.

The Daisy Age (Saint Etienne Presents) # 10 Naughty by Nature

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 55 Humble Pie - Performance: Rockin' The Fillmore

Song(s) of the Day # 2,065 Those Pretty Wrongs

Jody Stephens is the only original surviving member of Big Star. This is sad but undeniably true. Hearing him sing on his latest project, Those Pretty Wrong's new album Zed For Zulu is a heartening experience. It feels, from the opening strums of the record, that Big Star are in town. This, for me at least, is a very good thing.

The album is distinctly. Big Star, a band who after all, when they put out their first album, (the instant classic # 1 Record), were already nostalgic revivalists, they yearned for the golden age of The Beatles, The Byrds and The Kinks, for lost youth. So it's a joy to report that Stephens understands perfectly the essential kernel of that elixir even all these years down the line and is able to cast a new spell, so much like the one his band did way back then, and never threaten once to put out an ELO record.

Working in partnership with Luther Russell, this truly is a golden project. Those Pretty Wrongs, named after a line in Shakespeare sonnet but sounding like a lost Sixties Garage band, stick effortlessly to their pre-prepared script. Zed For Zulu is the sound of the human heart breaking again and again and relishing the moment. Here comes the sun.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Songs About People # 946 James Irwin

Born again after his moon landing. Irwin was the first of the men on the moon to pass, with his death  in 1991.

The Daisy Age (Saint Etienne Presents) # 8 Jungle Brothers

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 53 Black Sabbath - Master of Reality

Song(s) of the Day # 2,063 Emeli Sande

In many ways quite conventional Soul and R& B stylings, albeit with modern productions values. But Sunderland born Sande has been around long enough to earn her stripes and some of the songs on display here on her latest album Real Life are really rather lovely. Others spend time in the realms of cliche but Sande has a trouper's voice pitched somewhere between Anita and Whitney.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Pixies meet NME

The NME interview mentioned below.

Pixies - Beneath The Eyrie

Listening to Black Francis and Joey Santiago's long, recent interview with NME is illustrative. They're doing a job. Over thirty years into their career they're not particularly bothered about giving any other impression. They're not on a mission. They're not here to save the world. If that's a let down to you don't bother to buy or even listen to their new album, Beneath The Eyrie, or go see them live. Because of course there are plenty of others who will be more than happy to take that opportunity. Pixies place in the scheme of things in 2019 is utterly secure. Adamantine.

Given a chance I would go see them playing live tonight like a shot. Or any other night for that matter. I can remember now, just like it was yesterday, playing Surfer Rosa for the first time at the top of the family house where I spent my late teenage years and early twenties. Hearing Bone Machine and Break My Body ripping forth like  eagles tearing up flesh. Seeing them playing live with Francis's mouth blowing up like a bullfrog. Kim hanging out with the crowd afterwards, They were the best band in the world then and they knew it. For a good five years they stalked the earth.

Now the're well into their second act. That thing which Scott Fitzgerald famously said didn't exist in American lives. In Pixies case this is definitely not so. They're getting their happy ending. Something of the John the Baptist for Nirvana's Christ back in the day, though those that saw them and luxuriated in their records knew just how damned good they were. Now the light is all theirs. Their concerts sell out in hours. I've given up hope of seeing them again in my hometown because the touts snap up everything straight off and then sell them off at exorbitant prices which I'm not willing to pay. I saw them back in the day anyhow. In 1989. That's good enough for me.

Beneath The Eyrie is also good enough for me. It's Pixies being Pixies. Accept no imitations. Because this is the real deal, (apologies). The original article. Well at least three quarters of the original article. Francis, Santiago, Lovering plus a new female bassist who is pretty much Kim Deal anyhow, plays her basslines to a 'T' , does her backing vocals, even sings a song herself on the new record the way Kim did. If a thing ain't broke don't fix it.

Because this is Pixies by numbers, Pixies by cookie cutter. Middle-Aged Pixies. The twangy, desert guitar, the mythological Post Modern take on Rock and Roll. Songs that remind you of Gigantic, songs that remind you of Wave of Mutilation. Shouldn't be a problem when they play this lot on tour. The new songs are the old songs. It's all incredibly knowing. A set of in jokes for those who loved them and will never stop loving them.  That ghostly, Sci-Fi music. If Pixies have film equivalents nowadays they're the Coen Brothers. Because their take on genre and atmosphere is just peerless. Nobody does it better. Makes you feel bad for the rest.

So if they aren't exactly ripping Rock and Roll a new one does anybody really have a right to expect them to? After all they already did that. Thirty years ago. In a way very few others ever did before or since. Pixies have every right to enjoy their extended stage call. Their place in the sun. If they treat it all like a nine to five then frankly we can only be grateful that they're still clocking on.

Songs About People # 945 David Scott

Stayed on the moon for three days with James Irwin in 1971. 

The Daisy Age (Saint Etienne Presents) # 7 KMD

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 52 Isaac Hayes - Shaft

Song(s) of the Day # 2,062 Merival

Belated recognition of a record that I took to on its release a few months back. Lesson the debut album from Torontian singer-songwriter Merival, much championed by the Balloon Net website.

It's a sparse, elegant affair that speaks of wisdom beyond her years. Anna Horvath, (for she is Merival), crafts a series of minimal, touching tracks that leave an imprint on the listener's consciousness long after they are gone.

'One of the things I wanted to know was if every spot on earth that someone had walked on became visible, say, bright orange, would there be any spots that weren't. How many? How big? Where?'

Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire. Lesson ponders the imponderable, not coming to any easy conclusions but having great fun not doing so.

It's a graceful and at times weightless album that locates the soft spot between Mary Margaret O'Hara, Jesca Hoop and Hugo Largo if that comparison point makes any sense. An album to be grateful for and an n artist to keep an eye on.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Songs About People # 942 Alan Bean

Thoroughly relishing the opportunity that this mini-series allows me to listen to Darren Hayman's marvellous 12 Astronauts again and again. This one is for Alan Bean, who was Number Four, took to painting his space related experiences in his retirement and passed last year.

Joan Shelley - Like The River Loves The Sea

When I saw Joan Shelley's latest record, Like the River Loves The Sea on top of Rough Trade's new list of albums to listen to last week, I thought, (though probably subconsciously), 'I don't have time for a tasteful, well mannered, crafted Folk album of the old school'. Well as it turns out I definitely do, as I'm discovering on my first listen through to it.

Shelley is not remotely flashy. The songs here are completely pared to the bone. But she understands innately the essence of this strain of Pastoral Folk, in that it's rooted in the eternals, the landscape and cultural consciousness we share, the changing and passing of the seasons and our need to understand processes that we never fully can.

It's a beautiful, lean record, embroidered lightly by Shelley's calm, lilting voice, and an innate feeling and empathy for beauty and the essential verities of things. Altogether a quite lovely album.

The Daisy Age (Saint Etienne Presents) # 4 Del The Funky Homosapien

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 49 Moody Blues - Every Good Boy Deserves Favor

Song(s) of the Day # 2,059 Dayme Orecena

A special record in every respect. Soniocardiogram, the new album from Cuban singer and musician Dayme Arocena is a powerful fusion. Going back to her Havana roots, mixing up Jazz, Rumba and Salsa.  Altogether, quite intoxicating.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Cafe Racer, Flatworms & Parsnip

Great line up and artwork. The gig is coming up in a week or so.

Songs About People # 941 Pete Conrad

12 Astronauts the new album from Darren Hayman, is an absolute gift to a series like this particular one. A wonderful record in its own right with a set of twelve songs each dedicated to a different American astronaut, the select group of men who set foot on the moon. So we'll have a few of them   over the next few days (until I get tired of posting them basically), starting with the third man who got there, Pete Conrad.

The Daisy Age (Saint Etienne Presents) # 3 Sunshine Men

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 48 Gene Clark - White Light

Song(s) of the Day # 2,058 KRGA

As reviewed by the fine Did Not Chart blog listed on the right of this page:

'The Big Star death disc industry - releasing different demos, alternate mixes and live versions in different packaging to people with more money than interest in new music - hasn't come close to unearthing a song as good as Mysterious Lady. Or the b-side, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which is even better.

There's no escaping that Big Star (or perhaps more accurately Chris Bell) is the number one influence on Chicago's Ryan Krga. You can add the Everly Brothers and Badfinger if you want. But these ringing guitars, sad-eyed laments and country-tinged breakdowns pull off the Chilton/Bell trick brilliantly and stand tall on their own without ever coming close to pastiche.'

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 417 Husker Du

Probably the closest thing Husker Du came to an actual hit sounding record. From their final studio album, 1987's Warehouse: Songs and Stories.

The Daisy Age (Saint Etienne Presents) # 2 A Tribe Called Quest

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 47 Funkadelic - Maggot Brain

Song(s) of the Day # 2,057 L'Epee

By now we know what Anton Newcombe likes and the effect he wishes to replicate. That whole psychedelic fuggy haze that first cast its spell from '66 to '69 and the bands that drew on its heritage in the late '80s and '90s, most particularly Jesus & Mary Chain, Spacemen 3, Spiritualized and Mazzy Star. Newcombe has grown highly adept in terms of replicating that vibe and though his sound can become somewhat samey as he rarely varies his palette much, he does turn out some pretty good records.

His latest project  is L'Epee and their debut album Diabolique is pure Gallic Pop Noir. Collaborating with singer Emmanuelle Seigner and The Liminanas, the record rattles along familiar rails to occasionally impressive effect.

Possibly best sampled a couple of songs at a time rather than by listening to it right the way through. the album comes across as an imagined meeting between The Velvet Underground and Serge Gainsbourg in Paris in '67 with Brian Jones showing up in the studio too, utterly off his face but dressed in all his dandy finery. It has moments where they produce the desired hypnotic drone effect perfectly.You have to doff your cap to L'Epee for their artistry, there are some really great songs here, while wishing they could have been a bit more imaginative at points to allow the listener who is aware of where they're coming from and where they wish to go slight respite.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

The Daisy Age (Saint Etienne Presents) # 1 De La Soul

Almost certainly the compilation of the year. Bob Stanley a fine music critic and a man with quite immaculate taste, puts together the best of the late '80s and early '90s hippest movement to quite stunning effect. Not avoiding the obvious selections if they're simply too good to leave out, he sets off with the undoubted leaders of the scene De La Soul and the first single from their unfairly maligned, (at least at the time), second album, De La Soul is Dead.

Songs About People # 940 Kim Wilde

Charlotte Hatherley, also of Ash, pays tribute to Kim Wilde, with a full on, kitchen sink New Wave thing, back in 2004.

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 46 Randy Newman - Live

Song(s) of the Day # 2,056 Adam Green

Roger Miller and Lee Hazlewood. These seem to be the role models for what Adam Green, formerly of The Moldy Peaches, (though that's a long time ago now), has decided he'd like to be as he moves towards middle age. Listen to Little Green Apples by the former and My Autumn's Done Gone by the latter to identify the kernel of what's going on over the half hour course of Green's latest and quite splendid album Engine of Paradise.

It probably won't get too much critical attention. It seems that Green's moment in the sun will prove to be mostly the work he did at the turn of the century with Kimya Dawson in the Peaches. A knockabout, comedic duo, they were fortunate to emerge at the same time as the incredible moment when The Strokes and umpteen other notable young New York based talents appeared.

The Moldy Peaches probably wouldn't have got the column inches they did if it hadn't been for that. Not that they weren't a fine band but they were self-consciously obscure in their concerns. Then, a few years later they were enshrined on the indie canon once and for all when Anyone But You and a number of Dawson songs where chosen for the OST of Juno. Cutesy for sure. Infantile perhaps, but finely crafted and as warm as a family living room with the open fire blazing in November.

Green hasn't garnered particular notice from taste-makers since he and Dawson went their separate ways. Except for those who cared and continue to care. This is a shame because he has a pretty good work ethic and has been putting out good records on two or three year intervals ever since. Still, he doesn't get much mainstream attention nowadays. Pitchfork gave up reviewing his records a few years back.

Frankly, this is their loss. I'm not really sufficiently an expect to judge where Engine of Paradise ranks overall in Green's body of work but it ranks pretty highly on its own terms with me right now. It's a loving, crafted and nostalgic record for those unashamed to wear woolly cardigans and be sentimental.After all 2019's Autumn is rolling in, and this is as homely and likeable an album as you're likely to hear all season.

Green favours the kind of chamber arrangements that Miller, Hazlewood and indeed Jimmy Webb based so much of their careers around. That in in itself is enough to recommend it to those of a particular musical disposition. What he sprinkles on top is a wry, lyrical and vocal irony not a million miles away from that associated with the late, lamented David Berman.

Berman, who passed only recently in the saddest of circumstances, is still sore, subject matter for those who loved his work. Green is not an artist of this stature but he is someone to treasure nevertheless and it's nice to have Engine of Paradise, a glass half full record to act as a counterpoint to Berman's last record, the glass half empty, (as things transpired), Purple Mountains album.

So, this is a go to record for those who like the kind of stuff I've detailed in preceding paragraphs. Apparently, a concept album of sorts 'about the clash of humans with machines, the meeting of spirituality with singularity and the biderectional relationship between life and the afterlife.' I can say nothing at all about all that. Anyhow, it's a very fine record and I commend it to you!

Friday, September 6, 2019

Songs About People # 939 Jasper Johns

No holds barred free noise tribute to the great American painter, sculptor and printmaker.

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 45 Deep Purple - Fireball

Song(s) of the Day # 2,055 Bananagun

Australian band Bananagun go full on with their first single release. Full on if contrived  Psychedelic weirdness , taking Os Mutantes, Spirit, Can and Broadcast as their starting points. No points really for originality but plenty for gumption. Good tunes too!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 415 Iggy Pop

Second night since Rosie's re-opened and second night I was there. I know, but I do live just round the corner. Turned up late on Saturday evening planning to just have a couple before heading back for the football. Didn't make it for the football. 

There's an advantage of turning up at a pub well into the evening. This is that virtually everybody is drunk while you are still sober. This allows for a certain amount of manipulation. Rosie's is still great but its jukebox is rubbish. They replaced a perfectly excellent one with one that has a poor selection of songs, no way of forming your own playlists and most importantly no function telling you how many songs are still to play before you hear the one you have put on. You might have to suffer fifteen AC/DC tracks first, and if you knew that you could nip round the corner to The Newcastle Arms where their jukebox, (the very one that Rosie's used to have), would tell you all you wanted to know as well as having everything you wanted to play on it.

So, back to the advantages of being in a pub where virtually everybody else is drunk while you are sober. Because the crap jukebox Rosie's has now has one important redeeming  feature. You can play the song you want to hear next for two credits jumping the queue of everything else that people have put on before you. A slightly expensive option perhaps but it means you can indefinitely circumvent the possibility of the fifteen AC/DC songs and maintain your own good mood for a small extra cost. So long as you can resist the hordes of drunken punters who think that going back to AC/DC might be a good idea, the world is your oyster.

It takes a bit of determination to pull this off but the music playing in the establishment I'm drinking in is important to me so I stuck to my task. I had to guard the jukebox and press the two credit option as each song I selected started to play to keep back the tide of shocking music that inevitably occurs once people have lost their critical faculties late on a Saturday night . This meant fending off a lot of inebriated individuals or couples who wandered across hoping to get AC/DC back on, or god help us Oasis. I told them, 'look I have a playlist of songs'. That put off some but not all of the most determined drunks. I told them they had no idea how long they would need to wait to hear their song. Some would not be put off even by that. So I let them use one of my credits, knowing I could use the nuclear option of the two credit function to hear my song before they got to hear their's. Worth twenty pence of anyone's money in my book. Sometimes life allows for small victories.

                                                             I put on Lust for Life. It seemed apt.

Songs About People # 935 William Henry Hayes

Another from Skyscraper Stan for William Henry Hayes, also known as Bully Hayes a ship captain who engaged in blackballing in the 1860s and '70s. By all accounts a bad, bad man.


Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell!

I listened through to the latest Lana Del Rey album, the oddly named Norman Fucking Rockwell! last night. it's a quality item but Del Rey has always known exactly what she was doing since she first appeared with Video Games all those years back and though it's not hugely different from records she's put out before it will offer those who venerate her plenty more of what they look to her for.

What Del Rey offers is old school doomed romance influenced by classic Hollywood as much as Rock and Roll with widescreen scope and reach wrapped in oddly modern trimmings. She's certainly not afraid to swear or be brazen when it suits her as if clearly apparent from a cursory glance at her titles or a listen to pretty much any of her songs. Whether this actually adds anything to her package is questionable although it gives her the edge she clearly craves, but I'd say her real talent lies in her songwriting, arrangements, artistry and delivery.

Norman Fucking Rockwell! delivers in spades, there are some very, very good songs on evidence. No-one yearns quite like Del Rey nowadays and there's plenty to relish here. It's another highly accomplished album. Whether it will be able to convert the sceptical is probably doubtful as she's really covered this territory many times before but this is immaculate coffee table product.

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 40 Kris Kristoffersen - The Silver Tongued Devil & I

Song of the Day # 2,050 Skyscraper Stan

Skyscraper Stan is a New Zealander based in Australia and capable of epic parables of life that echo Leonard Cohen. Here's one from his latest.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 414 Wings

Rosie's in Newcastle re-opened last night after a two minute closure for refurbishment. I was there of course. It's my local. I'm pleased to say that it hasn't become a wine bar as was a prevailing rumour.  Fortunately it has the same vibe. This went on, from Young Sean, a good friend of mine and former barman at the place. Although living through the Seventies led me to be slightly wary of Wings it sounded great.

Parsnip - When the Tree Bears Fruit

A couple of years back, Parsnip, a Melbourne four-piece, first reared their collective heads on here with their debut single which I posted on Christmas Day. Since then, they've returned intermittently with fine, whimsical, songs and EPs as they made their way towards their debut album. Here it is, a great work of pop confection, eleven track When the Tree Bears Fruit, released yesterday.


The question with this outfit was always going to be whether their particular brand of childlike poesy would stretch to merit a thirty minute listening experience. I'm delighted to be able to report that it does. I've just spent the required half hour in its company to check it out and will be back for more. I'm sure of that.

What Parsnip do is soft harmonised kitsch psychedelia of the kind first peddled by The Strawberry Alarm Clock and their sort way back in the day. The other obvious seeds of their inspiration are Flying Nun records of the early to mid Eighties, most particularly The Chills and Look Blue Go Purple. Even occasionally early Orange Juice.

As with many of these three bands best records, When the Tree Bears Fruit is a retreat to the Arcadian idyll of happy childhood. A series of lush, melodic neatly but deliberately loosely constructed tunes that celebrate the moments in life when the universe felt infinite and anything seemed possible.

Discover the record's charms for yourself. It's regressive tendencies remarkably never grate because the intentions are genuinely sincere and wiser than they might appear at first glance. The profundity of the nursery rhyme. Parsnip are much sweeter than their name might suggest and this is one of the rough and ready Rough Trade friendly DIY  treats of the year. A record whose appeal I feel sure will endure.