Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Songs Heard on the Radio # 39 Michel Polnareff

French Garage from 1966. Rumoured to feature Jimmy Page. Thanks to Green Gartside for playing this and drawing it to my attention.


Copy Cats # 3 The Chanters

The second song by The Chanters posted today. This isn't just thrown together you know.

Things I've Found on My Local's Jukebox # 63 Courtney Barnett

On the day she arrives in Newcastle, she's finally made it onto the Jukebox at Rosie's which may mean she's arrived full stop.

Song of the Day # 437 The Chanters

A # 9 American hit in 1961 after the band's demise. From Queens, New York.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Instrumentals # 27 Caetano Veloso

A thing of beauty.


Spot the Pop Star!

Record Sleeves # 29 King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King

Well of course! Painted by computer programmer Barry Godber who unfortunately died of a heart attack in February 1970 shortly after the album came out. Here's a link to further information and the back and inner sleeve.

Songs Heard on the Radio # 38 Porno for Pyros

Thank you Jarvis!

March 30th 1963 The Chiffons

Began a four week run at Number One in the US.

Courtney Barnett

So one day away from her getting to Newcastle, here's my obligatory daily Courtney Barnett post. My brother-in-law, who's a graphic designer and draws up record sleeves among things did this at the request of Courtney's record company as a promotional item for their tour. Here it is getting used! Oh and she's just sold out three night at the Bowery Ballroom, in New York next month.

Copy Cats # 2 The Shirelles

David / Williams / Bacharach

Song of the Day # 436 Arcade Fire

Now I'm surprising myself. I've always found Arcade Fire to be an enormous amount of sound and fury signifying very little. At least to me. Last night with a long train journey up to Newcastle I tried out a few things I hadn't really listened to on my Ipod. Including their third album The Suburbs.  It's all melodrama of course, at a sustained, vaguely hysterical pitch, But some of it hit the spot last night, like a film you hadn't chosen to see at the cinema but which catches your interest on a long distance flight. And this song seemed the best on the record to me.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

March 29th 1946 Terry Jacks

Somewhat kitschy, but I remember it being Number 1 in the early Seventies and my older sister liked it. Of course I had no idea then  it was a cover of a superior Jacques Brel version which I'll post here for your judgement. Kurt Cobain also showed some fondness for the Jacks record so he gets hung here too. Then original English version of the song by The Kingston Trio is also below for your delectation. Four Seasons in the Sun!

Songs that Mention Other Songs # 3 Courtney Barnett

'Just then a song comes on. You Can't Always Get What You Want.'
Two days before Courtney lands in Newcastle. Strangely this song seems to veer towards 2,000 Light Years From Home as it draws to a close. 'And in the taxi home. I'll sing you a Triffids song.'

Copy Cats # 1 Can't Seem to Make You Mine

And while we're on the subject. Gary US Bonds brings me to Johnny Thunders great Eighties album where they paid tribute to some of the songs that meant most to them in their youth. Starting with The Seeds 'other song'. The one that didn't sound like Pushin' Too Hard.
and here's Thunders version.

Song(s) of the Day # 435 Gary US Bonds

An artist I only really investigated for the first time yesterday. I'd long associated him with Bruce Springsteen who'd always revered and supported him but yesterday discovered that he was held in similar high esteem by The New York Dolls which gave me an entirely different impression of him. His golden years were 1960 and '61 when he amassed a total of five Billboard Top 10 Hits and he soundtracked tens of thousands of American High School lives. These two come from '62 and charted lower and typically these were the two that The Dolls and Johnny Thunders later covered. Much else in his wonderful back catalogue is also worthy of investigation. The man himself is still touring over fifty years later!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

March 28th 1969 Cheryl James (Salt)

Instrumentals # 26 Duane Eddy

Record Sleeves # 28 Tom Waits - Swordfishtrombones

Song(s) of the Day # 434 Kendrick Lamar

'Everybody want to cut the legs off him...'

A brief glance at this blog will make it clear that I'm no authority on modern Hip Hop but this is just brilliant! It's also shipping out in truckloads both here and in the States. It's very unusual for me to pick something that happens to be Number #1 in the album charts at the time but this also happens to be better than almost anything else in there. All the swagger, invention, anger, pride and sheer drama that this kind of music still does best.

'No better than a white man with slave boats.'

Friday, March 27, 2015

Teletubbies do Joy Division

27th March 2000 - Ian Dury

Song of the Day # 433 Come On

'Mike's mother, looks like the Mona Lisa...'

One of the constant joys of writing this is the constant joy of stumbling over bands that slipped through the cracks, that I or it seems the most of humanity never knew existed. There seems to be no end of them.Here's one from the late '70s New York Punk scene. Talking Heads fingerprints all over it of course but that's hardly a bad thing. First song Mona Lisa sounds to me pretty much like a lost classic. Here's our old friend Robert Christgau writing about them.

'New York City 1976-80 [Heliocentric, 1999]
Who are these guys? There were five of them, including a female guitarist--neatniks all, favoring white shirts, black pants, and short hair. Half of this belated testament was recorded CBGB 1978, a final track Hurrah 1980. But I'd never heard of them, and when I checked with New York Rocker's Andy Schwartz, he remembered only the name. On the evidence of these 16 homages to first-growth Talking Heads, from long before it was determined that the world moved on a woman's hips, we were missing something: the halting yet propulsive, arty yet catchy ejaculations of the uptight nerd as subversive geek. A five-year-old sex fiend joins suburban tennis players exposing their underthings join two straight songs about kitchens join the incendiary "Old People": "Get out in the streets/Turn over cars/Elbow young people/Set garbage on fire." Not important, obviously. Funny, though. B+'

An here's a biography from Richie Unterberger:

One of the most forgotten bands of the late-'70s New York punk and new wave scene, Come On recorded the self-released single "A Kitchen in the Clouds"/"Don't Walk on the Kitchen Floor,," and showed up on the ROIR compilation Singles: The Great New York City Singles Scene with "Disneyland." With their jagged funk-rock rhythms, spiky amelodic guitar figures, and the yelping, half-hysterical vocals of lead singer Jamie Kaufman, Come On were probably more similar to the Talking Heads than they were to any other major New York band of the time. There was also a lyrical minimalism that was in some respects similar to that of some Talking Heads material. The fragmented, almost non sequitur narratives of housewives playing tennis, five-year-olds and their sexual fantasies, and "Businessmen in Space" suggested, as David Byrne sometimes did, a not entirely charming half-lunatic. That similarity with the Talking Heads doesn't go terribly far, however. Come On weren't nearly as good, and certainly lacked any of the pop hooks that the Talking Heads boasted at least occasionally from the very beginning.

David Byrne, appropriately enough, was a supporter of the band and took David Bowie and Brian Eno to see them at CBGB's. There was a meeting with Eno in which the possibility of collaboration was mooted, although apparently nothing came of that. Jamie Kaufman has said that other admirers of the band included Thurston Moore, Klaus Nomi, artist Jeff Koons, actor Willem Dafoe, and performance artist Ann Magnuson, none of whom were nearly as famous in the late 1970s as they would become, and hence probably not in a position to help Come On become more famous. (Two of Come On's members did go on to work with Nomi.) The "A Kitchen in the Clouds"/"Don't Walk on the Kitchen Floor" single, together with demos and tracks done live at CBGB's and a live version of "Disneyland," were assembled for a retrospective CD compilation, New York City 1976-80, released on Heliocentric in 1999. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March 25th 1942 Aretha Franklin

Album Reviews # 42 Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

'Johnny's in the basement, 
Mixing up the medicine.
I'm on the pavement,
Thinking 'bout the government.'
Bob Dylan

'They paved paradise. Put up a parking lot.'
Joni Mitchell

'Frankly Mr. Shankly, I'm a sickening wreck.
I've got the Twenty First Century breathing down my neck.'
Morrissey, The Smiths

'Jen insists that we buy organic vegetables and I must admit that I was a little skeptical at first. A little pesticide can't hurt.'
Courtney Barnett

The Courtney Barnett backlash has begun. At least in my life. A man named Stagger Lee who I reference on a fairly regular basis on here because he consistently directs me towards great music dissed her this morning on his Facebook page. Another poster then commented that she'd rather cut her ears off with a rusty spoon than get a free download. My response was that I liked her because she made me happy. The thread has been growing all day and I can no longer make head or tail of it. Such are the joys of music critical cut and thrust on Social Media nowadays. Still it provoked me into finally getting round to this after a couple of days on holiday of prevaricating and sitting in pubs drinking beer, reading. I'll now proceed to make amends and get round to reviewing her new record.

Barnett and her band are reaching some sort of indie critical mass in terms of the attention they're getting. She has 77,000 Facebook likes which is not bad going for someone who makes the kind of music she does and more than likely had ten times less just a year back. But then Kanye West has 9 and a half million which I suppose puts it all into some kind of perspective. She won't be headlining Glastonbury any time just yet. But Pitchfork and The Guardian seem to be scrambling over each other to praise her to the high heavens, she's becoming a regular on 6 for Music the UK radio station of choice for middle aged UK hipsters, and she's on her way here now, (to the UK where I am), for a pretty much sold out set of venues one of which is at Newcastle University where I'll be next week.

I saw her live first round about a year ago in a much smaller venue when she was still a word of mouth concern. I'd been put on the case by my sister and brother-in-law with whom I fairly much share tastes and interests. They directed me towards Avant Gardener which is pretty much the prototype Barnett track. If you don't go for that and its Wes Anderson inspired promo then you're unlikely to fall for anything else she has to offer.

Since then her star has continued to rise. In my universe and others. She seems to have made some inroads in American college and indie circles. I've heard her record playing in local stores and customers approaching the counter to ask who it was and purchase their own copies. The kind of wish-fulfillment scenario you see in Hollywood films starring the likes of Tom Hanks about music sensations or John Cusack about Record Store life. Her compilation of early EPs Sea of Split Peas must have shifted a few copies in the interim, to the likes of me who spend far too much time skulking in these places as we mark the hours since our return to vinyl like prodigal sons who can't bring themselves to leave the parental home again now they're back again after years away.

But now the much anticipated first album proper is upon us and the standard British backlash is surely due too. The Guardian wheeled out veteran music journalist and close affiliate of Kurt and Courtney, (Love that is), Everett True to pass judgement on it last Friday and he raised a lot of the doubts discerning listeners might have had about it in a thoughtful review before giving it a clean bill of health and five stars. 

In many respects the album is a tough prospect for Barnett, having received pretty much relentless critical praise up to this point. With Avant Gardener and History Eraser her early singles and most immediately commercial songs she'd laid out her template and everything else from this point on is likely to have diminishing returns at least in terms of credibility among the Indie community as her bank balance improves. But as she gets richer, will she get better?  Avant Gardener particularly seems like a song within a particular vein that it's difficult to improve on if you like that kind of thing and I doLiterary, wordy, humorous but thoughtful, self conscious and self effacing, melodic country, garage and grunge inflected rocky pop songs for Velvet Underground, Go Betweens, Nirvana and Lemonheads fans. Sung in an Australian accent which is actually key in grounding it in a clear, unborrowed sense of place, personality and identity that very little Pop Music has these days. This all however, is still not the whole story or everything that's riding on this new record. 

There are two Courtney Barnetts When I saw Barnett last Spring, she and her group came on like a Garage band, half Nuggets, half CBGBs, half Seattle Grunge (yes I know that's three halves), jettisoning the more thoughtful, contemplative moments of her early EPs until the second encore which she did alone, when she played something quieter, (Depreston from the new record I suspect), before heading offstage. Understandable perhaps with a band behind you but not doing full justice to the talent that wrote Out of the Woodwork and Porcelain. which owe little or nothing to the artists I've mentioned in the preceding paragraph and are more truly I suspect heartfelt personal statements than the 'up' stuff.

Still, she's young and Sometimes, thankfully strikes a good balance between the two styles. While there's nothing on here as good as Avant Gardener, which bridges the space between her two styles better than anything else she's done up to this point. I didn't really expect there to be a song that quite matched it, just as nothing quite ever matches a first kiss and anyway there is more than enough on this new record that attests to her talent. It'll be a record I play for years to come which is testament enough after only a week living with it. As True pointed out in his review it's a grower and it seems more than sufficiently assured to ensure her star continues to climb for a fair while yet.

There are exercises in songwriting, like opener Elevator Operator, a third-person narrative about  a young man who appears to be about to throw himself off the top of a high building but then doesn't. This lyric is sufficient in itself to explain why Barnett has garnered so much attention in such a short

'Oliver Paul, twenty years old

Thick head of hair, worries he's going bald

Wakes up at quarter past nine

Fair evades his way down the 96 tram line

Breakfast on the run again, he's well aware

He's dropping soy linseed Vegemite crumbs everywhere

Feeling sick at the sight of his computer

He dodges his way through the Swanston commuters

Rips off his tie, hands it to a homeless man

Sleeping in the corner of a metro bus stand and he screams

"I'm not going to work today

Going to count the minutes that the trains run late

Sit on the grass building pyramids out of Coke cans"

Headphone wielding to the Nicholas building

He trips on a pothole that's not been filled in

He waits for an elevator, one to nine

A lady walks in and waits by his side

Her heels are high and her bag is snakeskin

Hair pulled so tight you can see her skeleton

Vickers perfume on her breath

A tortoise shell necklace between her breasts

She looks him up and down with a botox frown

He's well used to that look by now

The elevator dings and they awkwardly step in

Their fingers touch on the rooftop button

Don't jump little boy, don't jump off that roof

You've got your whole life ahead of you, you're still in your youth

I'd give anything to have skin like you

He said "I think you're projecting the way that you're feeling
I'm not suicidal, just idling insignificantly
I come up here for perception and clarity
I like to imagine I'm playing SimCity
All the people look like ants from up here
And the wind's the only traffic you can hear"
He said "All I ever wanted to be
Was an elevator operator, can you help me please?"

Don't jump little boy, don't jump off that roof
You've got your whole life ahead of you, you're still in your youth
I'd give anything to have skin like you

Don't jump little boy, don't jump off that roof
You've got your whole life ahead of you, you're still in your youth
I'd give anything to have skin like you.'

As I said, it strikes me as an exercise, rather than a song focused on the human condition and what makes us what we are, but it's very nicely achieved and I'd imagine Robert Forster and Grant McLennan, particular heroes of mine of course given the naming of this blog and how much of it I've spent writing about them would doff their caps to its not inconsiderable lyrical artistry and melodic nous. No mean feat pulling off an entirely realised short story during the course of a three minute Pop Song and putting out a tune to boot. Most others who've tried in the last forty years have fallen short in one respect or the other.

From here she proceeds to Pedestrian at Best which came out a few weeks back as a taster for the record. It made me uneasy at the time. The lyric, though extremely skilled, sounded slightly forced as did the accompanying video. It seemed a subconscious attempt to shoehorn something particular, small and fully formed for a broader commercial audience. Dilution. It's Nirvana-lite of course, not that I mind that but initially I was disappointed and slightly underwhelmed by both the song and its promo and it made me slightly hesitant about the forthcoming record and whether it would live up to my expectations. Fortunately it's not typical of an overall shift in sound or lyrical direction and as a result it slots in better here and feels more comfortable than might have been expected.

These two tracks indicate I imagine why some not inconsiderable expectation might be building behind Barnett for this record. I visited Canterbury's HMV earlier this week and there it was, in pride of place both in the CD and Vinyl section as the main release of the day. My brother in law who is a graphic designer and has worked on record sleeves and similar marketing devices with Rough Trade among others for many years was asked at short notice to produce a chair resembling the one on its sleeve to accompany her and her band on their trek across country next week. Promotional wheels rolling forward.

From the second track on the album becomes considerably more left-field and idiosyncratic which I suspect will be what fans of Barnett's were hoping for. There's less of a sense of a songwriter stretching herself to see what else she can do and more of the feeling that she's refining and building on the talents that made her worthy of notice in the first place. 

For the rest of the first side of the record the pace becomes considerably more laid-back and the lyrics and melodies are allowed to breathe to a greater and more satisfying degree. The musicians also get the opportunity to show what they can do. The band has expanded from a trio to a quartet since I saw them last with the addition of Drones guitarist Dan Luscombe who fills out their sound considerably.

Third song An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York), begins the wind down and is a move into the basic sincerity which is one of her greatest basic strengths. A song to listen to when missing someone. 

'I lay awake at four. Staring at the wall. Counting all the cracks backwards in my best French. Reminds me of a book, I skim-read in a surgery. All about palmistry. I wonder what's in store for me. I pretend the plaster is the skin on my palms. And the cracks are representative of what is going on. I lose a breath. My loveline seems entwined with death. I'm thinking of you too.'

This is why Barnett is drawing the attention she is. Luscombe's guitar starts buzzing like an irritable wasp and the song winds out. Done and dusted in just over three minutes.

Small Poppies maintains the plaintive mood but is more expansive stretching out to seven minutes though it doesn't feel it, allowing its Hispanic sounding guitars uncoil at leisure without ever once seeming overcooked. It seems concerned with self-loathing, (why not?), and once again bound up in  the ideas that invade your thought patterns when you just can't sleep and you're all alone in the early hours.

The album is now grounded on firm emotional foundations and the side closes with Depreston, one of the songs that was put out there months before the album arrived as an indication of where she might be going. Depreston is definitely intended as one of the record's main calling cards. Listening to it on Spotify the other evening while eating dinner at my brother and sister-in-laws, (different ones from the aforementioned, and less acquainted with Barnett's music), it leaped out from the speakers obviously to all of us in terms of melody and mood as having commercial legs.

It's also my younger sister's favourite. But then she's currently engaged in house-hunting and the kind of world weary ennui that overcomes you while doing it, imagining living in empty space that's not yet yours, realising you may be about to move into a 'deceased estate' . So a song about mortality and ageing and the people you choose to spend your life with and the shared memories you create, have created or will create with them in those shared spaces. The passing of time. Very well realised.

So, lots of ticked boxes. However, my abiding problem with it remains. It reminds me, inescapably  of Journey's AOR staple, 'Don't Stop the Feeling', a song that has become horribly ubiquitous over recent years since it turned up on Glee .Songs that remind me of Journey aren't likely to end up in my Top 10 list come the end of the year. Still, my problem, and I sincerely hope I haven't made it someone else's.

So at the end of the first side she's holding out well in terms of her promise of putting out well-crafted songs, nuanced with personality, melody and lyrical resonance and a well-judged blend of Courtney loud and Courtney quiet. So where does she go on Side 2? Well pretty much to the same places via a different route. 

Tracks One to Four are grounded more immediately in a less introspective place than we've just come from. Aqua Profundis! is about fancying someone in the next lane at the swimming pool and getting your act together to impress them too late because you black out instead. Two minutes, no chorus. You can taste the chlorine. 

'Felt my muscles burn. I took a tumble turn. For the worse. It's a curse. My lack of athleticism. Sunk like a stone. Like a first owner's home loan. When I came to. You and your towel were gone.'

Dead Fox comes across as a Mid-Era Beatles album track melodically and is chock a block with modern stream of thought. About ecology, driving, shopping, the basic transient emotions we all experience as time passes.

Nobody Really Cares if  You Don't Come to the Party was singled out as the weak track on the record in Everett True's initial review though he admitted he was coming round to it with repeated listens. It's generic, but hey there are songs no stronger or weaker on the Nirvana and Lemonheads albums Barnett draws on as sources of main inspiration. It has a fine Dylanesque title, another sturdy melody, and the following lines to recommend it most.

' You say you'll sleep when you're dead. I'm afraid I'll die in my sleep. I guess that's not a bad way to go.'

Debbie Downer despite its slacker title is musically more grounded in Sixties Garage, complete with fairground, swirling organ. The line that jumps out here is, 'I'm growing older every time I blink my eyes. Boring, neurotic, everything that I despise.' Much as she loves him, Barnett is not cut out to be Cobain. Despite her obvious struggles, she's claimed in interviews to have a mid-life crisis every day, there's a natural buoyancy to her thought patterns.

At least during the faster pop songs. The drawn out slower stuff is more problematic and for me where Barnett touches on greatness and gives a glimpse into the genuinely troubled soul she has, which lets face it she shares with most of us a lot of the time. Because it's here that she really dwells on the issues of the passing of time, mortality, the triviality of most of what we experience and our place in the scheme of things. The unanswerable questions. In the poppier tracks she contradicts herself jokingly quite consciously from one line to the next as if nothing is worth dwelling on and it strikes me partially as an act of self protection. During the introspective songs and there are two more coming up to round off the record, she goes to one place and stays there, Explores the moment, the emotions she's going through and the songs resonate and echo, like ripples in a pond or the stone dropping through water that has caused them.

In this respect the record is like night and day. Kim's Caravan which may be the best thing on the album is about night or at least about the hours that draw in towards it. Barnett is too young really to have such thoughts or at least she shouldn't be able to nail them and put them across quite as well as she does. The song starts with a dead seal on a beach that has already been saved three times this weeks and goes from there to where it must to dwell on our own mortality and sense of it. It's thoughtful and resonant and profound and light and pleasurable at the same time in the way that all good culture is, even Pop Culture, perhaps specifically Pop Culture because on the surface, it more than almost any other Art form appears so disposable. 

The song is about a lone walk down a beach, Sunset Strip, Phillip Island not Los Angeles, begins as a narrative then becomes a drift into thought. About the state of the Barrier Reef and of course about what we're all doing here.

'We either think that we're invincible or that we are invisible realistically we're somewhere in between. We all think that we are nobody but everybody is somebody else's somebody.'

This strikes me as pretty damn good whatever you choose to compare it with. The rest of the track spreads out and becomes an impression rather than her standard narrative similar to Small Poppies on the first side. The guitars veer off into expansive Neil Young territory as Barnett repeats the same cluster of lyrics, echoing and unpacking the sentiment quoted above over and over until the track lands up where it started a la Marquee Moon with Barnett at home, inside, staring at an imagined watermark image of Jesus on the ceiling. It's one of those songs that lasts a while but passes in a moment and seems to hold back time while it's playing. The kind you put on again when it's over so that's what I'm doing now.

And so to Boxing Day Blues a smaller thing, but a perfectly formed album closer, not a million miles from Patti Smith's Elegie from Horses in mood and feel. Its lyric introduces a house with an open door and seems to be another love letter to Barnett's partner and it seems as if you're intruding on a private moment. Then the record's over.

Buy it. It's very good. Barnett and her band (whose role in the overall sound and feel of the record should not be understated, though I haven't gone into that aspect of the record sufficiently here), have created something that will last and seems sure to deepen their fan base, critical standing and not least I hope their individual and collective bank balances. All three would be deserved realisations. I know I'll play the record for years to come and it will continue to mean a lot to me. I may come back and tinker with this review as I do. Courtney Barnett is gifted and a great gift. I'm grateful to her and look forward to seeing her play next Tuesday in Newcastle. After which, I'll report back again.

Song of the Day # 431 Ellis Island Sound

Group made up of Pete Astor, formerly of The Loft and Weather Prophets and David Shepherd of State River Widening. Wikipedia, which generally knows, describes their music as varying 'from electronic-tinged soundscapes to neo-Krautrock and folk and African-tinged reveries.' Worth seeking out in any respect. They have a new album out next month.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Songs About People # 82 Stereolab

Very nice! Made me want to listen to it immediately again and seek out more from its makers, London band The Proper Ornaments.

Songs on my Canterbury Local's Jukebox # 1 Boris Gardener

Always room for another spurious series.The Bat & Ball in Canterbury is situated across from Kent County Cricket Ground. An old school pub in every respect. Ragged and rough round the edges. I find myself in there when I'm down to visit my Mum and Dad every few months. It could badly do with a lick of paint and is also lacking a sign which makes it seem as if it has a disused gibbet above its front door. Nevertheless, it has an old school landlord whom I go to have a chat with about football, cricket, politics and life when I'm in town. This came on the jukebox while I was chatting to him this afternoon.

Songs Heard on the Radio # 36 Du Blonde

Authentically Newcastle. The new persona of Beth Jeans Houghton who's from there. Out soon.  Rock and Roll in the grand tradition. I thought of the Gun Club and P.J. Harvey which is a pretty good combination whichever way you look at it.

March 24th 1948 Lee Oskar

Danish harmonica player from War. Now has his own harmonica business.

Mathieu Saikaly and Pauline

Now I know nothing at all about these two but it's beautifully done. A Gainsbourg cover of course.
p.s. a cursory piece of research helped me to find out that the guy won the French equivalent of American Idol.

Song of the Day # 430 Gilberto Gil

More Tropicalia. This time from Gilberto Gil and the compilation album of the same name.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Os Mutantes

Randomly, it seems to be Tropicalia day round my gaff. Here is a wonderful clip of the original line up of Os Mutantes playing two songs off their still blinding debut album on French TV in 1969.

Record Sleeves # 26 Led Zeppelin- Physical Graffiti

Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit

As this is the contemporary artist this blog has consistently supported the most, the release of her first full album today feels like a bit of an event. I'll try to review it at some point this week as I'm on holiday and have some time for these things. Then I get to see her again back in Newcastle next Tuesday. In the meantime, here's a  picture and a link to a stream of the record http://courtneybarnett.com.au/stream/.

Song(s) of the Day # 429 Hollie Cook

Daughter of Sex Pistol drummer Paul Cook and taking its lead from Seventies Reggae and Lovers Rock which went hand in hand with the Punk coming out at the same time. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Songs About People # 81 John Belushi

Great song and homemade YouTube video about a pretty one off comedian. Directed here as with several things on this blog by a man named Stagger Lee.

Sleaford Mods

Sleaford Mods are currently a dream come true to the British Music Press searching around for something vaguely interesting to write about. They don't do to much for me but certainly produce interesting press like this Guardian book review.

Grammar Wanker: Sleaford Mods 2007‑2014 by Jason Williamson – review

Drug comedowns and fist fights – an angry and uncompromising collection of lyrics. Who else in modern English music is doing anything quite like this?

This article contains language some readers may find offensive

Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods performing in August 2014.
Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods performing in August 2014. Photograph: Andrew Benge/Getty
Contrary to what you may have heard, rock music is not quite dead. Its foreground is often dominated by people of pensionable age, hot new acts often arrive when they are in their mid-30s – or even older – and musicians are no longer expected to reflect the social and political currents of their age. But there are arguably more of them around than ever before, and a lot of them are very artistically accomplished. Last month, for example, I bought the new album by a talented group from Sweden called the Amazing – which, like so much modern rock, offers an amorphous air of yearning, redemption, and sadness, while coming very close to meaning nothing at all. But in that record, and others, I have learned to quite like the sense of vacancy. Indeed, after years of expecting guitar-toting herberts to have read Marx and have something to say about the developing world, dropping those expectations feels surprisingly liberating.

And yet, and yet. Among critics in particular, there remains a longing for music that deals in hardened social comment, as evidenced by the feeling of relief bound up in the belated recognition of the Nottingham duo Sleaford Mods. In early 2014, their first notice in the Guardian hailed “the most uncompromising British protest music made in years”, and the fact that the album they released the previous year was titled Austerity Dogs only heightened the sense of the cavalry coming over the hill. Their songs were – and still are – bound up with the arse-end of modern work, the grimmer aspects of weekend hedonism, and a very contemporary awareness of horizons shrinking at speed. Who else in modern English music is doing anything similar?

To call Sleaford Mods “rock” may seem misplaced: they do not use guitars, and their live performances are built around a solitary laptop. But their 40-something lyricist and ranter Jason Williamson is the product of a rock background, and their debt to punk, in particular, is obvious. What’s more, the bracingly sparse arrangements over which he spits out his words – programmed drums, bass and not much more, composed by his creative partner Andrew Fearn – sometimes sound like the basis of rock’s last stand: as if the only way it can possibly leave behind its mountain of baggage is by being stripped down to its merest essence.

Grammar Wanker, published before Christmas in a limited edition of 500 copies but now granted a “standard hardback” edition, puts the focus on Williamson’s words, and the world they portray. On close inspection, these 66 sets of lyrics are not really works of protest. For a start, many of them are funny. Second, for all that there is the occasional mention of politics, they deal in something different: a relentless social realism in which there is an absence of value judgments and any alternatives being proposed.

A little later, with echoes of their fellow East Midlander Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night & Sunday Morning, there comes this: “That’s the trouble with people like you and me / we get stressed out about pallets and fucking nothingness /cos that’s all we got / we walk around all our fucking lives telling bosses / and anyone else to fuck off /Fistfight after fistfight after fight / until all we got left is a forty minute break / cos everybody’s too scared to tell us /we’re only allowed twenty.”

There is similar sadness in the words that seem to shine a light on Williamson’s own thoughts, often by describing drug comedowns: “Impending angina destinies / the regret of 14 years wasted / I cry my fucking eyes out / cos yesterday, I really miss my bastard yesterdays.” More broadly, he is good at evoking the condition of a generation that will not give up the chemical recklessness it discovered in the late 1980s and early 90s, something examined in a very bleak piece titled “Graham”: “Loads of old people necking pills / ecstasy has truly taken its toll on some of these faces / the fucking eyes have hills.” He also repeatedly nails the sense of popular culture being reduced to endless retrofied options that always come with the tang of disappointment: “I fuckin’ hate Northern Soul / it’s like Motown’s on the dole.”

Williamson’s latest work differs from the earlier stuff in the book in that it is more clipped and chaotic (the pieces in the last quarter often read a bit like cut-ups), sometimes sacrificing narrative in favour of mood and a sense of place. As with a lot of printed lyrics, his most recent pieces tend to prove that reproduction on the page is often beside the point: the best way to absorb this stuff is to play it loud, and use the written word to keep up. But every now and again, as in “Tied Up in Nottz”, the words work as poetry: “The smell of piss is so strong it smells like decent bacon / Kevin’s getting footloose on the overspill / under the piss-station / two pints destroyer / on the cobbled floors / no amount of whatever is gunna / chirp the chip up.”

It sounds like a flash of the modern English condition, but that is only half the point. To watch Williamson deliver these lyrics on stage is to not only get a sense of 21st-century life, but people whose drive to say something about it sets them apart from 99% of modern musicians. To go back into the mists of rock history, the sensibility that defines Grammar Wanker is redolent of what Tony Wilson famously said about Joy Division, complete with the obligatory swear word: “Every other band was on stage because they wanted to be rock stars. This band was on stage because they had no fucking choice.”
Grammar Wanker is published by Bracketpress.