Thursday, June 30, 2016

100 Mavericks # 48 Richard Hell

Malcolm McLaren on Richard Hell:

' here was a guy all reconstructed torn down looking like he's just crawled out of a drain hole, looking like he was covered in slime, looking like he hadn't slept in years, looking like he hadn't washed in years and looking like no one gave a fuck about him.

And looking like he really didn't give a fuck about you! He was this wonderful bored, drained, scarred, dirty guy with a torn t-shirt.'

The Heart of Rock & Soul # 927 Junior

'A great example of the importance of recording subtleties in eighties black pop. Back in 1982, I found it impossible to resolve how great Junior's Stevie Wonder growls and homespun advice on not growing up any sooner than you have to sounded on the radio with how flat they sounded at home. Finally it dawned on me that I was listening to the British version of the record. Tee Scott had remixed for the American release (which also eventually came out in the UK) brightening the top and fattening the bottom until a not bad piece of Brit-funk became the equivalent of an outtake from Songs in the Key of Life. Without Scott's changes, Junior would never have had - or deserved - the only hit of his career.'

June 30th 1978 The Buzzcocks

'United Artists released The Buzzcocks single 'Love You More', at 1 minute 29 seconds it was the second shortest single ever released. Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs 1960 hit 'Stay' was the shortest hit at one minute 28 seconds.'

Song of the Day # 893 Allo Darlin'

A Breezy, melodic if slightly generic Australian English combo from London. But occasionally their songs leap from the box. Like here for example where guitarist Paul Rains begins to invoke the spirit of Johnny Marr's work in The Smiths. From their 2014 album We Come From the Same Place.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Things Found on my Local's Jukebox # 137 Cab Calloway

Scotty Moore 1931-2016

Songs Heard on the Radio # 134 Van Morrison

Van Morrison is always very comforting in times of need!

The Heart of Rock & Soul # 928 Jerry Lee Lewis

Songs About People # 203 Mark Twain

Not so much about Mark Twain this one so much as background information about how he took his name!

100 Mavericks # 49 John Cale

          The first of three Velvets on here. A deep voiced viola playing, avant garde musician. Producer of The Stooges, The Modern Lovers and Patti Smith and maker of several utterly stately and smart solo albums.

June 29th 1943 Roger Ruskin Spear

Song of the Day # 892 Eleanor Bodel

A bit of Sixties Swedish kitsch. A cover of a Neil Sedaka song, which may be a second first for this blog in one post. Later taken higher in the charts by a disco Euro Pop version by Eruption in the seventies. Not my normal bill of fare but hey, it's a pop song.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

100 Mavericks # 50 Edwyn Collins

Gauche, fey and utterly against the grain. 'He looked like a boyish Bowie with a great swoop of draping hair. He wrote great songs and dressed uniquely in flannel shirts, New Wave sports coats, and tapered trousers, like a cross between Joy Division, the Byrds and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

The first Orange Juice singles Falling and Laughing and Blue Boy were driven by Chic-style grooves played without Chic-level skill.'

The Heart of Rock & Soul # 929 Dionne Warwick

Song of the Day # 891 Steven James Adams

I was there in The Central Bar in Gateshead, three months back, when this was performed.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

100 Mavericks # 51 Takashi Mitzutani

Leader of Japanese band Les Rallizes Denudes, possibly the ultimate cult concern of all. Julian Cope writes about them, extensively and expressively in his book about leftfield rock from that land Japrocksampler.

'Note: Their career has been down in the dumps ever since bass player Mariyasu Wakabayashi helped hijack a JAL Boeing 737 back in 1970 (see Book Two, Chapter Five). Their last official release was a double live LP recorded back in 1977. And nobody even knows quite what the official name of their band is, or even what its most popular French form means because there are no such things as 'rallizes' in the French language. And yet the cult that surrounds Les Rallizes Denudés increases in size year after year. This is because, in a world where the sacrilegious reunions of former punks like the Velvet Underground and the Stooges have destroyed utterly the myth of their legendary non-conformity, devotees of Les Rallizes's Takeshi Mizutani and his black-clad cohorts can relax safe in the knowledge that their erstwhile heroes would rather commit collective hara kiri than sell out their gruelling 37-year-long self-imposed isolation up in the wildernesses of northern Japan by doing anything remotely as gauche as releasing a new record. Combine all of this attitude with leader Mizutani's intense devotion to re-recording the same small canon of material over and over again, and you have the blueprint for a rock'n'roll cult that transcends all others. When French movie maker Ethan Mousike trekked across the globe to make a documentary about the Rallizes (and at his own expense I hasten to add), Mizutani refused to allow him to film the band close-up, insisting instead that Mousike set up his tripod in the dressing room, thereby allowing the camera lens to focus on less than one-third of the stage. When, after twenty minutes of this suffocatingly boring footage had elapsed, Mizutani contemptuously jumped off stage and kicked the door shut. our heroic French director chose not to remonstrate with the churlish Mizutani, preferring instead to allow the film stock to conclude naturally, thereby allowing Les Rallizes Denudés's errant metaphor its full reign.'

Songs Heard on the Radio # 133 ELO

Now I don't really like this song, and it goes against my instincts to post something on here that I don't much care for. But there's the Nick Cave quote at the top of the page and this is a particular, definitive memory for me and always will be and it's just come blasting out at me from my radio. When this single came out in 1979, I was at secondary school. My name is Bruce and the chorus appears to go, 'Don't bring me down, Brrrruuuuccceee!' The greatest nerds and irritants in my school would cross the length of the playground at break time to chant this at me with happy abandon. It seemed to go on for months, if not years. So, more than thirty five years on I'd like to say, thanks a lot ELO!

P.J.Harvey at Glastonbury

I haven't posted anything about Glastonbury this weekend because for the most part it's passed me by rather this year. Will need to catch up, which fortunately is easier to do nowadays. But here is P.J.Harvey delivering a moving and apposite reading from John Donne during her set there.

June 26th 1955 Mick Jones

The Heart of Rock & Soul # 931 The Miracles

Song(s) of the Day # 889 The Myrrors

Two songs from the blinding new album from The Myrrors, Entranced Earth. Largely instrumental, though not entirely so. They're from Arizona and it sounds just like something emerging from the heat of the desert there.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

100 Mavericks # 52 Pete Shelley

  The first of two Buzzocks on this countdown. Shelley was something of a trailblazer, sexually, lyrically and melodically championing a romanticism, (appropriately, given his name), that laid the groundwork for Orange Juice, The Smiths and a whole, lovelorn indie aesthetic. In many ways, retrospectively they seem a similarly important band to The Sex Pistols and The Clash.

'The Buzzcocks possessed a gift for marrying sweet backing vocals to leads that were at turns raw and sincere a la Richman ( a key influence) and camp as a row of tents as they say.'

Run, Run, Run

Things Found on my Local's Jukebox # 136 Frank Sinatra

This seemed appropriate last night on an evening in Rosie's when the heavens opened outside. I was after Fred Astaire but the jukebox let me down. Frank more than sufficed.

June 25th 1935 Eddie Floyd

The Heart of Rock & Soul # 932 Loudon Wainwright III

Song(s) of the Day # 888 Brodka

The day after a momentous day in British and European history, and for me personally a frightening one, (though I'll try not to get too political on here), here's something European I chanced upon yesterday. Brodka is a Polish artist who first came to prominence by winning that countries Pop Idol ten years ago.

This is her first album in English, Clashes, released a couple of months back. It's a very fine record, poppy,  but informed by arty influences. A silky, dark, glowing object.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Things Found on my Local's Jukebox # 135 The Smiths

'We cannot cling to the old dreams anymore. No we cannot cling to those dreams...'

100 Mavericks # 54 Jeffrey Lee Pierce

     And appropriately after last night's activities, onward with this series to Jeffrey Lee. A troubled soul to say the least and perhaps not one to invite home to meet your mother but certainly a considerable talent. Gun Club were true trailblazers and never got the attention and success they deserved but that was largely because of Jeffrey's uncompromising and self-destructive personality. Nevertheless, it's hard to imagine The Pixies for one existing without them. He also clearly lived the life his pained dark, poetic and often quite inspired songs speak of.

Kid Congo & the Pink Monkey Birds

Kid Congo and his Pink Monkeys were wonderful, as I'd suspected they would be at The Cluny in Newcastle last night. I shook the great man's hand as he was tuning up and muttered something incomprehensible about Blondie's first album which I'd been listening to non-stop the previous couple of days. Sensibly, he completely ignored me. He was wearing a fur-lined cape, an ill fitting but splendid suit and a dramatically coloured shirt and tie. The stuff of legends though he's spent so much of his life playing support to great frontmen, namely Jeffry Lee Pierce, Lux Interior and Nick Cave. Frankly, given the calibre of these people it's understandable but he deserves his time in the spotlight even if he gets less media attention now than he did during his time in those bands.

I retreated to the bar and the friend and pint I'd left there but pretty soon the music led me to desert him to return to the front of the stage to bury myself in loud amplified noise. It's good to be in the company of people playing who understand the key to this kind of thing. Rootsy, raw, sexy and funny guitar driven Rock and Roll that makes you glad to be alive. That's what I got!

I'm looking up and God is saying 'What are you gonna do?' I'm looking up and I'm crying, 'I thought it was up to you.'
                                                                I also got this.

Covers # 75 The Divine Comedy

So while we're here, here's his cover of one of the most remarkable songs of all. The original was by The Associates, one of the most remarkable bands. Hannon actually makes a pretty good job of it, sensibly not attempting to make an attempt at Billy Mackenzie's peerless vocal acrobats and bringing in what sounds like a tuba to ground the song in an oom-pah band backdrop. I hope this brings a smile to your face.

Songs About People # 202 Catherine the Great

The Divine Comedy remains a very good thing. This is their, (well Neil Hannon really) new sing from forthcoming album Foreverland. He manages to shoehorn some quite incredible lines in there rhymes branier with Lithuania. Follows it up with, 'She had great hair. And a powerful gait.' name-drops Voltaire. Then actually comes out with the line, 'She looked so bloody good on a horse. That they couldn't wait for her to invade.' Sure, it's completely pointless but many of life's small pleasures are and on a day when Britain could be voting to change its entire political and economic destiny, frankly it's a welcome diversion.

The Heart of Rock & Soul # 934 The Wallace Brothers

June 23rd 1940 Stuart Sutcliffe

Song of the Day # 886 The Gotobeds

Pittsburgh band on Sup Pop Records with their new album just out. Too much of it sounds too close to generic Pavement / Parquet Courts to me but this will do just fine.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Heart of Rock & Soul # 935 Lorraine Ellison

Covers # 74 Portishead

One of the highlights of the recent British movie High Rise which had a great soundtrack, both in terms of the OST by Clint Mansell and also the featured songs from Can, The Fall and others.

Album Reviews # 67 Blondie - Blondie

         Blondie sound forty years down the line entirely the most spontaneous, best fun and least pre-meditated of all the first wave of CBGB's bands. Their first album is still a thrill! Released just as '76 turned to '77, it's melodic and amped, with a poetic, caustic edge but not a note of pretension. Influenced by Warhol of course but not noticeably by The Velvet Underground, more informed by Surf, Spector, British Mod, Girl groups, and Pop with a capital 'P' and fronted by the most attractive woman ever to lead a band of any kind, and also one strangely devoid, even to this day, of egotistical posturing, despite her natural, arresting beauty.

'I saw you standing on the corner. You looked so big and fine. I really wanted to go out with you. So when you asked to go out with me. I laid my heart on the line.'

Twisted yet pure urban romanticism has never been nailed to the mast quite so definitively as by the opening lines of this record. With the initial  Be My Baby drumroll and then Debbie Harry's voice cutting in a brief but devastating way. 'You watched my heart burst then. You'd step in...' We've all had these moments and won't forget them. X Offender is unsettling, given its subject matter, but that's what early Blondie were about, and in the promo for the song, (posted above), you can witness the unmistakable tension within the band itself that was smoothed out shortly after the album's release by the exit of Gary Valentine, who co-wrote the song. He and Stein vie for attention on the camera lens throughout the clip and it seems that one of them had to go and of course it was always bound to be Valentine, leaving the stage to Harry and the rest of the band's gradual relegation to becoming her backing group with all the inevitable tensions that would ensue from that point on.

'She loves you right now. So don't close your eyes. She'll be talking and laughing with six other guys.'

Little Girl Lies is more conventional and less tart. A classic if safe choice for second song on the record. Chorused by cheesy sixties handclaps and Jimmy Destri's Farfisa organ coming to the fore at its most Wooly Bully and 96 Tears. It's conspicuously throwaway and asexual. Nobody's favourite Blondie song but disliked by few either I imagine and paving the way for the gradual assertion of Harry's persona over the course of the rest of the record. This, naturally was always Blondie's trump card.

'We're walking one day. On the Lower East Side...'

This assertion begins to set in with third track In the Flesh, Blondie's first real hit of any kind, if only in Australia, but it set the bandwagon rolling. This is definitely Spector, though more explicitly seventies, and it laid down the blueprint which the band would go to work on and improve and subsequently storm the global pop charts over the next few years. But it's really all here. With the sign off line, 'Warm and soft. Close and hot...' Harry signaled her intent to be direct but alluring, distanced herself from the band's obvious sixties roots and set themselves forward as a different and more immediate and highly sexual proposition. It would take a while for the message to truly hit home.

'You look good in blue. It matches your skin. Your eyes dripping with pain...'

Look Good in Blue is back to more comforting territory. Not a 'get together' or 'break up' song. Just maintaining the relationship with the listener with a string of compliments. The band laying back and immersing themselves in the joys of their record collections. Learning their craft in a way that again would serve them well further down the line.

'New York is covered by grey. Concrete piles. Blues play my way...'

In the Sun is back on the attack. Blondie understood the joys of the beach and surf sound in a way that none of the bands apart from them, save The Ramones, did. Perhaps that was the bond between the two of those groups. This stuff was deliberately throwaway. An understanding of a certain core of American Pop Culture that Patti Smith, Television and Richard Hell never really touched on, so keen were they to tap into the European poetic literary culture and a point of removed cool. Blondie didn't aspire to this at any point of their careers. Never straying for a moment from the street, the bar, the sun or the dancefloor. From the directly accessible and immediate.

'We're meeting in a neutral zone: the last car on the train.'

A Shark in Jet's Clothing lays down their schtick explicitly with its obvious West Side Story borrowings, finger clicks and whistling. So much of early Blondie is unashamed pastiche. Lifts from New York culture but with an emphatically light and poppy touch. Three minute melodramas which make you understand why they were never taken entirely seriously by their CBGB contemporaries with more serious pretensions but also giving you an insight as to why they outlasted them all commercially, so broad and well-versed were the sources of their initial inspiration and what they chose to do with them.

'Yeah, I've been sailing the sea of love. Experiencing romance. With what I know, he never stood a chance...'

So to Side 2. They're not hanging around here. Harry is backed on first track Man Overboard as on In the Flesh by Ellie Greenwich, Micki and Hilda Harris veterans of the classic sixties girl group sound the whole record is so deeply versed in. Here she takes the femme fatale role she was frankly born to play. She'd been in girl group territory before of course with previous bands Wind in the Willows and The Stilletoes, Blondie with time would refine the inspiration and make it their own. There's the briefest hint of reggae in the guitars here which would also feed into the original version of Heart of Glass. Also the vaguest hint of Prog stylings with Destri's synth breaks. But it's all highly efficient, chopped and minimal. They're virtually inventing New Wave, at least two years before its proper arrival.

'She looks like the Sunday comics. She thinks she's Brenda Starr. Her nose job is real atomic. All she needs is an old knife scar.'

To Rip Her to Shreds, probably as close to Punk in the conventional sense as the band ever came. But it's no thrash, Blondie were always too tasteful, not to say able for that. It's an acid, catty putdown of a female rival and it's great to see Harry flexing her claws. Backed by the mass slurred boy backing vocals that would become another of their trademarks, the lyrics are wonderful in documenting the CBGBs scene that Blondie grew from. The nicer but not altogether nice little sister of I Wanna Be Your Dog.

'If I lose my head, we'll be certainly dead. With visions of acid. How I wish they bled.'

Rifle Range is one of the record's finest tunes played out to probably it's sloppiest, least coherent lyrics. Never mind, you can't really hear them anyway and it works fine as a piece of music. Blondie jumped in terms of content from tales of romance, to espionage, to life on the mean streets. All pulp paperbacks, B-Movie features and trash TV, they were a less surly and better groomed Ramones. And ultimately, much to that group and particularly Johnny's chagrin they had an altogether better understanding of the Pop world they sought entry into and how to force that entrance. Blondie is very much an apprenticeship for what came next. Although it took them a while to distance themselves from the slight disdain some of their contemporaries at CBGB's viewed them with, (Patti Smith and Television particularly, both bands pilfered early Blondie band members), everything they achieved with third album Parallel Lines is rooted here, just waiting for the guiding input and touch that Mike Chapman provided there.

'Down in Chinatown, (the year of the cock). He sold the silver belt, put it in hock.'

Kung Fu Girls is almost a scene from Tarantino. He didn't get here first by any means. Blondie, in their appreciation of Trash Culture, knowing exactly just how throwaway and disposable it all is and just as importantly what rich source material it offers for truly great pop music, were way ahead of the pack though they've never really got the credit they deserve for it in the eyes of the 'serious' rock critic. Both Charles Shaar Murray and Nick Kent, the dons at The NME at the time, remained slightly sniffy about them. But they were wrong. No-one had ever done this in quite the way they were doing it. Lester Bangs to his credit did fully appreciate them and lionised them for it. It's Pop Art in the truest sense, Blondie, more than any of those great seventies New York bands understood where Warhol was coming from and packaged themselves and their songs accordingly to appeal to a broader audience than the literati and the rock snobs. The cleverness of this trick is to pull it off and retain a central, keen intelligence. They would never lose it.

'Giant ants from space. Snuff the human race. Then they eat your face. Never leave a trace.'

Blondie would refine and revisit these same themes and melodic tricks over the coming years as they ascended to the fame their leaders looks and sheer charisma always offered as a prospect but which they would never have achieved without the required team ability, looks of their own and no little drive. They would never be as purely Pulp as here though ever again. This is one for their fanclub. Blondie is thirty three minutes long, plays at thirty three and is a better guitar and synth driven pop album than any young band is likely to put out in 2016. That's rather sad but also probably rather true!

100 Mavericks # 55 Coati Mundi

To the best of my knowledge the only vibraphone player in this countdown. Kid Creole associate and star of Miami Vice.

June 22nd 1956 Brian Forbes

Song of the Day # 885 Beagles

Dreamy, meandering indie pop from Portland, Oregon, musing on the smaller things in life. Their whole, self-titled debut album, (just out), is well worth a listen.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Inside & Outside The Go-Betweens - Grant & I

This blog takes its name from a line in a song by Brisbane, Australia band The Go-Betweens, one of the very greatest groups of all. I've written plenty about them on here. It's great to see them being properly appreciated and documented all this time after their eighties peak as they didn't get the sales to go with the deserved and fulsome critical acclaim they did receive at that point in time.

Robert Forster, one half of the songwriting partnership that forged the band is acting as curator of their legacy, (following the premature passing of Grant McLennan, the other half), appropriately for a man whose first important song was one of unrequited love to a female librarian. The book above is to be released this September when I'm sure to write some more about it and them on here as soon as I have my sweaty paws on it!

100 Mavericks # 56 John Lennon

As we get further and further up this chart, I find myself slotting in more and more of the established canon. Lennon was a maverick though. certainly between the writing of Help and about 1973 after he'd decided he could and needed to be himself. So, pretty much all of his Beatles songs from Help onwards have a bit of that maverick edge as do some but less of his solo ones.

June 21st 1944 Ray Davies

The Heart of Rock & Soul # 936 Stevie Wonder

Song of the Day # 884 Lion

To carry on the Allah-Las theme, here's a selection from them from the latest of the excellent mixtapes they put up on their website. This is Lion, a Dutch duo from the mid-seventies.

Album Review # 34 Allah-Las - Worship the Sun

And to follow that up, another re-post for my review of Worship the Sun from a couple of years back.

'And I know where I belong. Cause I worship the sun.'

'I've never been to California where The Allah-Las hail from. I didn't come of age in the sixties and neither did they. They just make records now that sound like they did. But I do have evocative memories and associations with the time and its music, just as they do. Primarily this. In my first year at university, almost thirty years back,  most Thursday nights, myself and like-minded friends in my block corridor would troop from our halls into Norwich, a trek of a couple of miles if I remember rightly. The object of our pilgrimage was a rundown nightclub in Magdalen Street called Santana's. Thursday night was Sixties Night. It wasn't much to write home about but had some of the inexplicable dark and bleak mystique that holds some kind of spell over your sensibilities when you're turning twenty.

 Invariably when we arrived there were a couple of familiar figures, on the blackened dancefloor. Both were fellow students. One was someone who I came to make into a firm and lifelong friend named Andy who was known, (though he wouldn't and probably won't thank me for broadcasting the fact), as Andy the Hippie due mainly to his shoulder length hair, not a common phenomenon amongst student circles at the time. We later got arrested together in the middle of our first year which only served to cement the bond of friendship, (which has now lasted the best part of thirty years), along with a shared regard for The Velvet Underground and The Doors.

The other was a fat and rather unpleasant fellow named Gavin. Generally unwashed and invariably bedecked in large, loud paisley shirts. The one I remember was fluorescent pink, flaked in black. He would lean vaguely menacingly across the dancefloor at me as I came to greet him, shake his horrid bleached locks, still black at the roots and slur blearily, 'I've just had ten pints and I'm completely pissed.' Later in the year he almost burned his university room down when he left candles burning. Then he dropped out. Oh Gavin. What became of you?

Even this inevitable moment failed to dim Santana's appeal for me. We were there most Thursday evenings for my first two terms. I'd appreciate the chance of one more but the club is long gone. The Sixties was undergoing an unlikely renaissance at this point in the mid-Eighties. Pretty much banished to the margins, apart from Ska, Soul, The Velvets, Stooges and Doors, by the Punk and Post-Punk years, The Smiths and R.E.M. had made it respectable to delve again through these years and admit to its influence.

In R.E.M's wake a group of vaguely similar bands came to the British shores, all of them awash with Sixties reference points: The Dream Syndicate, the Rain Parade, Green On Red, the Long Ryders and True West amongst others who all  tended to be grouped under the Paisley Underground moniker, reasonably enough because they all first came to public attention playing together. None of them really hit critical mass or quite deserved to as R.E.M. did, but they found favour, with Andy and myself amongst others, and for a couple of years they made The Byrds, The Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Buffalo Springfield and Creedence, vaguely respectable names to drop. When, inevitably, the Paisley Underground bands fell from grace, Creation Records, Primal Scream, The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays and others picked up the baton and ran.

 This Tuesday morning I was reminded of all this while searching around for something to listen to while I planned my lesson. I thought of the Stone Roses first record which I haven't listened to for a long time, it being one of a number of prized albums that have gone missing over the years during my travels. It's a great record undeniably but I found after a few songs on Tuesday, its appeal dimmed and I'd had enough. If you've lived in the UK over the past couple of decades, that record more than almost any other has been played to death. On the radio, on pub jukeboxes, on the TV, exploited not least by the band themselves who recently reformed, still largely on the back of it I suspect to top up their pension funds. They've clearly not quite recovered from making it themselves. So I chose to listen to this instead. The second album by The Allah-Las. Just recently released though you wouldn't think it from listening to it.  I got sufficient pleasure from the listening experience that at the end of day I went and bought it.

When I came to buy the album that afternoon I knew already that it wasn't the best option on the stacks in front of me. There was a Mose Allison record there, amongst others, which I was sure outclassed it in objective terms in almost every respect. This didn't lessen my resolve however. This was the one I wanted. I'm long past the point of buying things to impress my peers. I was after something which I knew would set off pleasant, relaxed well being within me when I listened to it and was already sure that this ticked off the required boxes. Mose Allison can wait.

The Allah-Las might as well be a Paisley Underground group. Their outlook is pretty much the same, filtered through thirty more years of music, almost exclusively in their case on white indie bands drawing from the same well of influences. From the beautifully designed sleeve which screams California at you, this is where the band are from, to the opening bars of the album's first track where it seems certain that the band are going to break into Love's Alone Again Or at any moment.

They don't. But they've already set down their marker. Some of the Paisley Underground bands owed something to Punk as do similarly minded contemporary American bands like The Black Lips and The Grumblers. The Allah-Las owe nothing to Punk. Their debt is to Sixties guitar driven pop, twangy instrumental music and light rock,(the album never gets too heavy, it's far too laid back for that). And in addition bands like Felt, early Primal Scream and yes The Stone Roses two records. Bands that had similar influences, goals and outlooks to The Allah-Las themselves.

Felt are a particular valid reference point. I've been listening to them quite a bit recently. They're a band who never got their due in their day but whose fingerprints can be heard all over all kinds of records made by introspective, independent guitar bands in the decades since. Felt's love of pop music and melody was clear for all to see as were the inbuilt limitations of their horizons and their potential commercial appeal. Both bands' music seems to emerge from an introspective bubble of their own making. Felt were destined never to trouble the charts and the same holds true for The Allah-Las though they seem happier to dwell within the margins of cult obscurity. Lawrence of Felt seemed sure that he was going to be a big star. The influence of Felt here is clear and heartfelt. The album itself surely take its name from the band's early classic I Worship The Sun. This was dreamed up in English Midland's gloom but it's particularly apt to hear it transposed to California's eternal sunshine.

All four band members write and sing lead across the record. It's a noble, democratic principle but it all leads to a variability in quality across the album. Occasionally it's a slightly frustrating listen as you cry out at sloppy laid back playing or wilfully out of tune vocals that you feel could easily have been tweaked and fine tuned to take the band onto a higher plain. To allow them to compete. This however, is slightly denying the record's ambition and the band's driving ethos. It seems they care most about not seeming to care. And I can't really find fault in that.

So Worship The Sun is an undemanding, relaxed and it has to be said, a pleasant listen. I'm glad I bought it, though there's a nagging itch under my skin telling me that the Mose Allison record still nestled on the rack at HMV is superior in every respect objectively speaking. It's a slightly confused incoherent listen at times. It speaks more clearly of Spotify, ipod culture than the vinyl culture of the Sixties. It's quite telling that all four band members used previously to work in record shops and they seem just the types who would interrupt a track midway through and reach for something else saying, 'Hey listen to this.'

Halfway through the record's second side comes the album's title song and it's a very odd experience listening to it. It seems that the Bobby Gillespie of 1986 has been transported forward in time  and stepped up to the mic in his Chelsea boots, leather troosers, polka dot shirt and Byrds fringe to intone once more for the indie faithful. I have to say I enjoyed  the moment thoroughly. It's a faultless recreation of indie underachievement. I think it's the albums most evocative song.

Never having been to California, only having experienced it through the refracted lens of books and records I realise I'm at something of a loss to do Worship The Sun complete justice so I'm grateful for this perspective from someone who probably has and is more aware of the cultural and geographical reference points it's grounded in.

'Allah-Las’ second album, Worship The Sun, expands on the sound established by their maiden effort, honing their fusion of West Coast garage rock and roll, Latin percussion and electric folk. As richly textured and timeless as a Southern California beach break, the songs are evocative of Los Angeles’ storied past. Beatniks, artists, surfers, nomads. Remnants of a bygone Sunset Strip.  Golden tans and cosmic sunsets. One can feel the warmth of the sun, but the band deftly avoids the kitsch so often indulged by lovers of these things. Hints of Byrds, Love, Felt, and those who follow are threaded into the tapestry.

LA’s seminal Ferus Gallery – the home of Wallace Berman, Ed Kienholz, Ed Ruscha, Billy Al Bengston – is paid homage in an eponymous instrumental, broadening the scope beyond mere sea, surf, and sand. The lyrics reveal a new maturity; reflections of a band that has grown together through experiences on the road and in the studio. Worship The Sun is at once the perfect soundtrack for the greatest surf film never made and for a golden hour drive through Topanga Canyon. Yet, while grounded in the Southern California experience, the appeal of the album is not limited by locale. It is a teenage symphony to the sun, for all those who know its grace.'

So Worship The Sun evokes a condition where the waves are always lapping at the shores of golden Californian beaches. Where open topped sports cars are always winding round its hills. Where pop songs are always accompanied by twanging, echoey guitars and 'ba ba' backing vocals. Where the point of the exercise is in not being seen to try too hard. A place peopled by girls called Julie Anne and Susie Lou, the best girls on the block, who you're going to make yours. Sounds and words that take you to other places in your record collection, other memories.  And for me where it's always Sixties Night at Santana's. The band's third album will be out in a couple of years and I doubt very much whether it will stray far from this formula. It clearly works for them. I'm not sure I'll buy it. I have the Allah-Las album I need to achieve the particular kind of relaxed, reflective state they cater for. It's the sixties refracted, skilfully and knowingly through the eighties and I have little doubt that bands will emerge in twenty years time who list the Allah-Las as formative influences alongside Felt and Love. This stuff will never go away, any more than those waves lapping against Californian shores will.'

Allah-Las - Calico Review

It's interesting to see bands moving into what appears to be their 'imperial' phase. Such a thing seems to be happening to Allah-Las at the moment. Their new album Calico Review is due out on September 9th and they're already beginning to preview it very boldly on their band website. Marketing is a considerable Allah-Las strength, (the members once worked in record shops and the experience they picked up there shows), and they make the record seem incredibly appealing almost three months before we actually get to hear the whole thing.

Trailed by an excellent track Famous Phone Figure, it's abundantly clear what we're going to get. Souped-up, romantic sixties guitarmelodies, an imagined marriage between San Francisco's Beau Brummels and LA's Love, the West Coast living in eternal harmony. Song titles resonate, the vinyl version of the release is marble. When I reviewed their previous release Worship the Sun I said that you really only needed one Allah-Las album to stand for the whole. They may well prove me wrong here.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Covers # 73 Chiemi Eri

My reading matter at the moment is Julian Cope's splendid and inspired Japrocksampler, which has led me to YouTube browsing as these things do nowadays. Here's an early Japanese Rock and Roll cover from an artist he references, in this case of Hank William's classic. Splendidly other-worldly!

Songs About People # 201 Brian Wilson

It's strange to think that the man's still with us given all that he went through. Here's the opening track from John Cale's splendid 1975 album Slow Dazzle. A heartfelt tribute, as Cale was a big fan.

100 Mavericks # 57 Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson was always going to be somewhere in this series. As it's his birthday, it might as well be here. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a short, dismissive review of the Beach Boy's Pet Sounds on here. Of course I realised almost immediately that I was selling it woefully short. That just because it didn't float my boat all the way out to sea like for example Love's Forever Changes always does, it doesn't make it and all of the rest of Wilson's best Beach Boys work any less remarkable or world-changing. So I'm listening to Smiley Smile now to make amends. For verification of Wilson's right to be included in this list, I refer you to the picture above.