Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Songs Heard on the Radio # 167 Repetitor

Loud Slavic Post-Punk. Late at night!

Things Found on my Local's Jukebox # 170 Neu

This sounded great in the pub while the football was on tonight. No-one complained. Possibly, because it's great.

Albums of the Year # 26 Allah-Las

With Calico Review, Allah-Las didn't really do anything they hadn't done before. It's perfectly clear what they're like and what they like. Their 2016 record, their third album, is more of a refinement than any radical change of direction. They're a band that love, almost venerate the past, apparently this album was mixed on the same kind of mixing desk that The Beach Boys utilised for Pet Sounds. The band do mix in some different influences here, Could Be You is a pretty authentic renewal of late stage Velvet's What Goes On, something I personally haven't heard in the mix before. Elsewhere it's the Byrds / Beau Brummels / Love, California sunshine sound we've become used to, artfully mixed, and lovingly delivered, perhaps more a collection of high moments and some new peaks than a fully coherent album going in a clear, specific direction. But it'll more than do. They do what they do pretty much better than anyone else. And there are a lot of people doing this nowadays.

November 30th 1957 Richard Barbieri

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 774 Gene Pitney

Twee # 104 Violent Femmes

Song(s) of the Day # 1,046 Juaneco y Su Combo

Peruvian pioneers of the early seventies chicha movement, (no me neither), their records are a wonderful mix of farfisa organ, folk rhythms and harmonies and all round great, upbeat musical vibes.

Several of the band were killed in a mid-decade airplane crash, apt that I should post them in the worst possible way given the dreadful tragedy that occurred in South America just yesterday.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Songs About People # 248 Eva Braun

American seventies singer with no small dash of David Bowie, Ian Hunter, Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed and David Johansen about him. True. He's that much of an amalgam. Incredibly a man without a single Top 40 hit despite his obvious and vast talent. Here's his tart tribute to Eva from his second record, 1975's Lost Generation.

Albums of the Year # 27 TOY

'When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide...'

British psychedelia, plundering sounds from down the decades in TOY's Clear Shot. The earliest precedent for this are probably Magical Mystery Tour Beatles and Syd's Floyd, but there's plenty else in the mix too. Not least eighties British indie. Not a groundbreaking album by any means, but a melodic, inventive and charged one in that way that weak-wristed English guitar bands strangely can be. 

This will remind anyone who has lived in Brighton over the past couple of decades and has the vaguest interest in this kind of thing, of the types of musically obsessed pale youths that haunt its lanes, clubs and record shops on grey November afternoons. I spent a year there almost twenty years ago and it seems much hasn't changed. TOY are Brighton residents and represent their constituency well. People with Felt, Stereolab, Shoegazing, OSTs and Krautrock albums in their record collections and bookshelves stacked with thumbed paperbacks, always willing to sit down and watch Withnail & I one more time. A particularly English kind of dreaming.

November 29th 1941 Denny Doherty

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 775 The Drifters

Twee # 103 Childish Gambino

Here's a link.

Song of the Day # 1,045 Quintessence

'The Quintessence pop group is strongly influenced in their lives and their music by Eastern mysticism. They represent two of the three forces which probably unite the elements of the alternative. Pop music, an interest in Eastern non-intellectual argument. And drugs...'

The old hippy dippy. Quintessence, on the Island Record Label in the late sixties and early seventies, an almost definitively 'out there' outfit. Their debut album 1969's In Blissful Company predictably is a mixed bag. The record sleeve gives their game away. It's India immersed religious mysticism and there's plenty of garbled pretension on show.

Musically though, they're pretty tight. At least at this early stage of their development. With an early Julian Cope sound alike on lead vocals, (actually South African Shiva Shankar Jones, most of them took on Indian pseudonyms in addition to the names they were born with), they took elements of the American West Coast Psychedelic sound, (I kept hearing traces of It's a Beautiful Day), stirred it up with ingredients from London's late sixties brown rice community and occasionally made it fly. Notting Hill was probably the nearest thing they come to a signature tune. It's something of a counterculture anthem. During the track that follows, nine minute album closer Midnight Mode, they truly flip their collective lids into raga territory, and you might feel you're on the banks of the Ganges.

Certainly not to everyone's taste, I imagine then just as much as now. However, there's a committed fervour to much of the record I warmed to. Ridicule, as someone once said, is nothing to be scared of and I rather enjoyed listening to it yesterday afternoon. I'll tread rather more warily I imagine with their later records.

'Things look great in Notting Hill Gate...'

Monday, November 28, 2016

Albums of the Year # 28 Wilco

                                           A Song of the Day post from a few weeks back

'There comes a point when well established bands reach a comfortable lull where they'll  seemingly always remain. Wilco seem to have arrived there now. Once considered genuinely as one of the most important bands in the world, critically if not commercially, I doubt if anyone would seriously suggest the same now. They've achieved respected veteran status. Their 2002 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, generally considered their best, still ranks on the Best Ever Albums website as the 47th greatest LP ever released. That's almost fifteen years back now.

Since then they've gradually ceased to be front page news. It's hardly due to the quality of their output, which has generally remained consistently excellent, so much as the implicit short attention spanned nature of the industry they chose to work in. It happens to almost everyone and they're hardly to be pitied.  I imagine the members of the band barely care themselves. They still command respect, can fill decent sized arenas comfortably every time they choose to tour and probably have family and general midlife distractions that preoccupy them more than where they stand in the pecking order of contemporary Rock and Roll.

Their new album, with the typically unassuming, title Schmilco, meets the standards of other releases of theirs. It's an unpretentious product all round, breathy and partially acoustic, addressing forty something concerns, articulately and with understated grace. The opening couple of tracks Normal American Kids and If I Was Ever a Child are particularly noteworthy, addressing leader Jeff Tweedy's childhood and adolescence in definitive and remarkable fashion. He might as well be speaking for tens of thousands of us and how we perceived ourselves during our bruised, teenage years as misunderstood poetic waifs outside the orbit of the anointed princes and princesses of our school and college days, the jocks and cheerleaders, (I'm British, but we had equivalent figures too). Convinced we were blessed by a higher and purer vision, but vulnerable and unfulfilled all the while. A lack of fulfillment we might fail to fully address until well into adulthood.

If the rest of the record was as good as these two tracks then Wilco would have another landmark album on their hands. It's not, but it's still pretty damned good. Tweedy's wisdom seems as hard-won but valuable as ever and his group is as sensitive and fluid group of musicians as any American outfit of the last thirty years. They're a cracking band and Schmilco is yet another cracking record. At their best they say more in single three minute songs than many others do in entire albums. Careers even.'

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 776 The Elgins

Twee # 102 Daniel Johnson

November 28th 1943 Randy Newman

Covers # 67 Del-Byzanteens

Here's the B-Side. Their cover of The Jaynettes Warhol favourite.

Song of the Day # 1,044 Del -Byzanteens

As I'm planning to go and see Jim Jarmusch's Stooges documentary Gimme Danger later today, this seems appropriate. The A Side of a single from Jarmusch's early eighties New York band. Very good it is too!  

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Songs Heard on the Radio # 166 Karen Marks

From a very interesting album, re-released this year, called Sky Girl, A compilation of all kinds of things from 1961-91 selected by  Julien Dechery and DJ Sundae which will be my own personal next point of exploration. This is an Australian synth rarity from 1981.

Albums of the Year # 29 Omni

There are three bands from Atlanta Georgia on this list. This constitutes something of a scene.

It's very difficult to discuss Omni and their new album Deluxe without mentioning the term Post Punk as a basic description. Because it's all here; Gang of Four; Pylon, Wire; New Order; Mission of Burma; and Magazine, all leap and collide at various points from the mix. That's a concoction which meets with my own taste and though the band, led by former Deerhunter and Balkans guitarist and singer Philip Frobos, don't tick any of originality's boxes they do keep things bubbling to a sufficient melodic and frictional degree to keep you entertained and diverted during the record's half hour course. Just what you want for a lively support for the time being, while the headliners prepare themselves backstage, and one to go to plump for you wish it was 1980, which is still one of the better go to places in living musical history.

November 27th 1942 Jimi Hendrix

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 777 The Supremes

Twee # 101 Seu Jorge

Song(s) of the Day # 1,043 Taraf de Haidouks

Romanian gypsy folk band do their thing. Just wonderfully!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fidel Castro

Songs About People # 126 Fidel Castro (a repeat!)

No political comment on Fidel's passing. But whichever way you look at it he was a Rock and Roll figure. Ask The Clash. Ask The Manic Street Preachers. Ask The Skallites.

Albums of the Year # 30 Chris Cohen

Another late addition to this list. Just discovered yesterday and it helped ease me through a stressful Friday afternoon at work. Chris Cohen is something of an indie veteran, having played with Deerhoof and Cass McCoombs among many others before branching off towards his own solo career.

As so often with these things it's here that things really fall into place. Cohen's 2016 album As If Apart, like his previous record, 2012's Overgrown Path is a smooth unified vision. Reminiscent of Stereolab and High Llamas records as well as sixties albums like Odessey & Oracle, Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper, its a kind of retro futurist soundtrack, pop underpinned by a jazz sensibility

Cohen's voice occasionally reminds me of Damon Albarn singing on Blur's more thoughtful numbers. If you're looking for something to calm you down in a moment of need you could do far worse than listen to As If Apart. A happy pill that works.

November 26th 1944 Jean Terrell

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 778 Mary Wells

Twee # 100 Shonen Knife

And to complement and supplement that, Twee turns a hundred. With a Kurt Cobain favourite. It's guess The Ramones backing track here.

Song(s) of the Day # 1,042 Go Sailor

An object album of twee indie guitar pop. From 1996. Virtually every song sounds as if the band are going to kick into The Housemartins Happy Hour any moment but they veer off that path somewhere else every time.

Songs between one and two minutes, a sign of a certain kind of thing when it comes to guitar pop music. Simple chord changes, neat harmonies, love sentiments. Sweet!

Friday, November 25, 2016

November 25th 1944 Bob Lind

Albums of the Year # 31 Exploded View

Where the dark things are. A lot of them mass and gather within Exploded View's eponymous debut album from earlier this year. If you want something new and dark and frankly a lot of us do sometimes, this is as good as any record I've heard of its type this year.

Fronted by British journalist turned musician Anika with a group composed of a Swede and two Mexicans. Recorded in Mexico City, it's a jagged, bleak and rhythmic set of songs and moods. Not unprecedented of course by any means, Anika's voice is unmistakably reminiscent of both Nico and Ian Curtis and the band built a driving, paranoid mass of sound that will recall everyone from Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Cabaret Voltaire, Suicide, Bauhaus, Einsturzende Neubaten and other gloom drenched Germanic industrial leaning artists.

It's hypnotic, compelling stuff. Unlikely to fill you with joy, but I was impressed by how cleverly such familiar basic ingredients are stirred into something fresh. You may feel you've been transported to a crypt and find yourself surrounded by haunted Gothy types you don't feel comfortable with who are up to some odd threatening ritual of their own. Exploded View. An Addams Family for the new millennium. 

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 779 The Everly Brothers

Twee # 99 The Fire Engines

Song of the Day # 1,041 Writing on the Wall

Scottish late sixties and early seventies psychedelic band. From their 1969 record The Power of the Picts. This song is called Mrs. Cooper's Pie, almost reason enough alone to post it here.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

(Albums of the Year # 34) Lawrence Arabia

Yikes! It seems that I forgot to post # 34 on this particular series a couple of days ago. So here's my review of Lawrence Arabia's splendid record from 2016, Absolute Truth initially written a month or so ago.

'The record sleeve of Lawrence Arabia's recently released album Absolute Truth is a small Twee masterpiece. An animated approximation of the artist's face with mountain contours (Mount Schnozz), lakes and a beard forest it's a wonderfully realised piece of whimsical art that would look great at the front of any pile of records, clearly its intention. As a collector, I'm beginning to covet it myself.

'You made a splash. It was concentric. As you'd expected.'

Fortunately, the record itself more than does it all justice. Arabia's is a gentle, understated muse that would perhaps pass you by if you merely heard a solitary track on evening radio. It makes much more sense if you take the time out to listen to the whole album at which point his talent becomes a beguiling, greatly diverting one. It's another favourite album in a year which has reaped a rich harvest of them for me.

'In urban parks, the burnt pink limbs of lovers entangled. Acting like mayflies these sunkissed loves. So doomed and so fragile'

What makes it even more attractive is that Arabia, (James Milne) is a New Zealander putting out records on the Flying Nun label, one of the truly legendary independent labels in pop history. Milne does the label's legacy proud, even though it sounds nothing like The Clean, The Chills or any other of those early landmark bands.Watch the promo videos posted here for a more complete idea of his sensibility.

I recommend the album highly, it's a thoughtful alluring meditation on the sweeter, domesticated aspects of life. It's surely a grower!'

November 24th 1950 Clem Burke

Albums of the Year # 32 Goat

Goat are one of several bands on this list plundering music from elsewhere for all they're good for. They hail from a small town in Sweden and have conjured a mystique around themselves that has served them well critically and commercially. 

They're obviously anything but authentic. But 'authenticity' is a slippy and difficult concept in 2016. Their third album Requiem is a variable record. They overdose on pan-flutes for the first few tracks before things begin to kick in. Then they do the Afrobeat/ Soweto jig to excellent effect and weave it in with psychedelic sounds from the age quite deftly. Whether this is exploitative cultural appropriation is not an argument I'll get into. There's plenty to enjoy here. Oh, and it was also the most played album in independent record shops that I went into this year. For a while this autumn it was following me round wherever I went.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 780 Joe South

Twee # 98 R.E.M.

The writer of Twee, Marc Spitz, posits the theory that R.E.M. won the battle with the Smiths commercially and in terms of length of duty in the eighties and nineties but have ultimately lost the war critically and in terms of what they mean to people. That's clearly so but it doesn't lessen the mystery and poetry of those first few remarkable IRS records. Pilgrimage, the second track from their first album Murmur is a good choice to represent their early Twee majesty. The way the vocal melodies of Stipe, Mills and Berry weaved something fresh and wonderful from all those familiar sixties records and crafted them into something quite strange and new still holds the spell on me.

Song of the Day # 1,040 Frightened Rabbit

Now here's a surprise to me. I've never listened to Frightened Rabbit before last night when a friend posted the video to this song on social media. The name I suppose put me off. Frankly, whichever way you look at it, a very poor one. I was very taken although it's reminiscent of things that I'm not generally prone to - anthemic, guitar driven rock music. But this is just great. Immersive, surging sound. Not everything on their album from this year, the wonderfully entitled Painting of a Panic Attack, appealed quite so much, but it has its moments too.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Albums of the Year # 33 De La Soul

De La Soul's 2016 return, and the Anonymous Nobody, is a quite wonderful record with a constantly shifting set of moods and guest artists. They needed to crowd fund it in order to get it released which is a shocking state of affairs in itself, but the resulting album is worth every cent. This shares a spot with the last Tribe Called Quest record, also released this year, (it was a good year for music, there's not enough room for everything), as a statement from two bands who always did and still do what they do best of all. 

November 23rd 1949 Marcia Griffiths

Twee # 97 Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 781 Special AKA

Song of the Day # 1,039 Witch

Zambian seventies Zamrock band do the garage / funky thing. A fine band all round, their back catalogue is well worth exploring.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Things Found on my Local's Jukebox # 169 Beck

Latest song from a night at Rosie's. Thanks for Sean for the company. A very good barman.

Things Found on my Local's Jukebox # 168 Belle & Sebastian

Another in a decidedly Twee set of songs that went on at Rosie's last night. And the woman in the picture here looks rather like Tina Weymouth. The stars are aligned!

November 22nd 1950 Tina Weymouth

                                                         Surely a Twee icon!

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 782 Lenny O'Henry

Seems to fit in on a day of Twee.

'The male 'Party Lights' except soul man Lenny might be in even worse shape. Claudine Clark's mother just won't let her go over to the shindig. Lenny's not invited. And the action's right outside his window where he can see his friends 'dancin and romancin'' with his girl Lily. 

We bever do learn what infraction caused Lenny's banishment into this particularly cruel form of Outer Darkness. He simply explains that he's going to go over there and get her, 'make her feel silly' and 'love her so she'll never return.'

'Across The Street' rode low on Billboard's pop chart but it was popular both in Detroit and on the Carolina beach music scene. Figure out what these two locales have in common with Four seasons producer Bob Crewe and manager Charles Calello and you've defined the sound.'

Twee # 96 Joanna Newsom

More Joanna, and this is her contribution to the Twee list. as with the two songs posted below, this is from her first record The Milk-Eyed Mender.

Song(s) of the Day # 1,038 Joanna Newsom

During the same session at Rosie's I was highly tempted to put the song above on upon discovering that there was a whole raft of Joanna on the jukebox. It seems the eccentric possibilities of that thing are opening up endlessly. I decided against it, feeling that it was too much for Rosie's even on a slow night for the bar. I shan't be so remiss next time I'm there and its quiet. I have needs too.

 It seems that last week was Sufjan Steven's week for me while this week is going to be Joanna's. Both of them suggested to me by my sister years back which I've been slow on catching up on. Joanna is an even more acquired  taste than Sufjan, (I saw her live at an alternative festival a few years back and she left me utterly cold),but I like these so much that I'll give it a go.

Things Found on my Local's Jukebox # 167 The Beatles

Another 'Twee' offering. On a day of Twee. Put on the jukebox at Rosie's as a driving gale blew outside last night. A few days after I posted Rain by them in the Twee series. There clearly is some kind of coherent thread in all this.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Songs Heard on the Radio # 165 Diagrams

The song on the radio that hit the spot tonight. From Diagrams forthcoming album Dorothy, out in the new year.

Albums of the Year # 35 Fumaca Preta

On first hearing of Impuros Fanaticos you wouldn't suspect that this was a British based band. Such is the state of things nowadays. Fumaca Preta, 'black smoke' in Portuguese, are fronted by Portuguese Venezuelan Alex Figuera and give you a bit of everything: psychedelia; macumba; tropicalia; funk; voodoo, garage. It all sounds as if they're tapping into something dark, but really you kind of know they're just having fun.

November 21st 1940 Dr. John

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 783 The Gants

Twee # 95 Bright Eyes

Song(s) of the Day # 1,037 Purling Hiss

Two songs from old school American guitar band Purling Hiss's record from this year High Bias on the Drag City record label.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Songs Heard on the Radio # 164 Black Mountain

I can't get fully behind what Black Mountain do. They released an album this year, that occasionally toppled over the Retro precipice towards absolute ridiculousness. Still it had some great moments which I'll get back to at some point. In the meantime, here's something from a few years back where they pilfer unashamedly and blatantly but ultimately successfully from Led Zep's, Kashmir.   

Songs About People # 247 Danny Fields

    One of the pivotal figures of New York Punk. Early publicity agent for The Doors, the man who persuaded Elektra Records to sign the MC5 and The Stooges and manager of The Ramones. They wrote Danny Says about him. There's a crowd-funded documentary out now with the same title.You get a demo of that plus a few more from the End of the Century sessions.

Albums of the Year # 36 Public Access TV

Public Access TV's album from this year Never Enough is an odd object indeed. Just looking at its album sleeve gives you a very good idea of what its contents are and listening to it confirms those immediate impressions. Guitar driven New Wave Rock & Roll with every track building towards a punch the air chorus. Every single song! There is nothing, absolutely nothing, on here that you haven't heard a thousand times before. Frankly it would have sounded rather hackneyed if it had been released in 1979 rather than 2016.

So why have I included it on my list? Because there are so many hooks in each and every song that it deserves it. Although they're from New York, the band really take their lead from The Clash more than anyone else. And there was a band that understand the contradictions that a core part of their job was just to enable people to have a damn good time. Public Access TV do it twelve times on here and it's remarkable to listen to their ability to reinvent the wheel according to a slim but still wonderful construction manual again and again. 

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 784 John Lennon & Yoko Ono

Well Christmas is almost here so this is not so inappropriate.

'John Lennon was always rock's most Dickensian character, and here, he emulates A Christmas Carol to a tee, stopping just short of pronouncing 'God bless us, every one!' Well, Christmas is the season of sentimentality and if there were greater sentimentalists in rock history than Lennon (at least in one of his guises) and Phil Spector, I've never heard of them. Let's remember then, that Dickens is remembered in part because of not despite, his warm and open emotionalism and that A Christmas Carol is the best-loved of all his stories not only because it fits the season's hopes, but because, like the best records of the Beatles and Phil Spector, the love it inspires is equal to the love it creates.'

November 20th 1946 Duane Allman

Twee # 94 Primal Scream

Song(s) of the Day # 1,036 Hinds

Spanish band Hinds released their first proper album, Leave Me Alone on the same day as Bowie put out Blackstar. Bowie's record came to have monumental significance within three days later while Leave Me Alone not unnaturally made a smaller splash confined to its own indie circles but it still garnered them some notice and their next move should be worth watching.

Ten months later I've decided the record isn't going to make my albums of the year list. Frankly the songs just aren't strong enough, (I'd point you in the direction of the Coathangers album I post yesterday ahead of this), and hey, I'm a fifty year old bloke, the gooey young female vocals grate somewhat.

Still, I like their basic shtick. Guitar variations of that Link Wray, Mickey & Sylvia twang and proper Rock and Roll abandon. I look forward to hearing what they do next.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Things Found on my Local's Jukebox # 166 Dead Boys

Things change strangely on the jukebox at Rosie's. Songs get assimilated for reasons beyond mankind's cognition and added to the mix, available to be played suddenly should anyone wish to do so. If you happen to search for an artist you know weren't there previously, suddenly they are. Such was the case this afternoon with Dead Boys this afternoon. So I put it on.

Perhaps 'artists' is the wrong term in this respect. The track doesn't sound particularly strong coming out of a jukebox. Almost certainly the band's best song, and the most important gem that guitarist Cheetah Chrome salvaged from the wreckage of Rocket From the Tombs when that band split and the uneasy seventies Cleveland art/ punk coalition went their separate ways, leaving Pere Ubu and Dead Boys to carry their different visions forward from that fork in the road.

Dead Boys didn't ultimately have much of a vision, except to get as wasted as they could and ape things that Iggy & the Stooges and The Ramones did much better. Sonic Reducer is also very oddly produced and splutters out of the jukebox rather than surging forth as a statement as it should do. Stiv Bators' weak vocals are at the heart of things rather than David Thomas, the song's lyricist who injected the song with poetic, outsider energy where Bators just substitutes a rodent, gutter snarl. Still, I'm glad it's there. I'll play it again, and fervently hope for Richard Hell & the Voidoids and the Heartbreakers to somehow configure their way through the ether to Rosie's jukebox at some point soon.