Thursday, February 28, 2019
Twentieth Century Women, a film which came out last year focuses on California at the end of the Seventies. With a teenage boy surrounded by strong females and immersing himself in the Punk and New Wave experience, it's an interesting film with an interesting soundtrack.
In one memorable scene the Annette Benning mother character comes into the boy's room and finds him and a female friend listening to the first Raincoats album. She can't understand why anyone would want to and the conversation goes as follows:
'Dorothea (Benning): What is that?
Abigail: It's The Raincoats.
Dorothea: Can't things just be pretty?
Jamie: Pretty music is used to hide how unfair and corrupt society is.
Dorothea: Ah, OK, (sits on bed). So they're not very good and they know that. Right?
Abigail: Yeah. It's like they have all this feeling. And they don't have any skill. And they don't want skill. Because it's really interesting what happens when your passion is bigger than the tools you have to deal with it. It creates this energy that's raw. Isn't it great?
Dorothea doesn't respond.'
This conversation may never have actually taken place but it is a revealing one and illustrates well some of the films quite original concerns.
Melody Maker - Unknown Pleasures - 20 Great Lost Albums Rediscovered - # 13 The Raincoats -The Raincoats
'The Raincoats offered a completely different way of doing things, as did X Ray Spex and all the books about punks have failed to realise that these women were involved for no other reason than that they were good and original.'
'they are so bad that every time a waiter drops a tray we'd all get up and dance.'
Danny Baker on witnessing the band play live.
One thing immediately evident from even a cursory listening to The Raincoats, the debut album by the band of the same name released in November 1979. is that the band cannot play, at least in any conventional sense. Also that they are not trying to play in the way you might be expecting them to. Instead they are trying to say something. To be something. Being in a band their first objective is not to sell records, at least not truckloads of them, but to find the people who want to listen to them and stand up to those who don't.
The Raincoats is a rare and many splendored thing, changing track, pace and shape consistently during its course. They do remind me of The Slits at times of course, but the record is so good anyhow it deserves consideration on its own merits.If I was pushed to categorise it I would say it's Post Punk as it shares so much of the gung ho spirit and sheer daring of the best records from that era. It's so right for this series. A masterpiece of the anti-canon.
Talking of Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, here's their new one though it's not officially out 'til April and I have no idea whether there's an album scheduled thereafter. A new release from these boys is quite a piece of news these days given the wonderful record their debut album of last year Hope Downs was. Never mind the EPs that precedede it.
As for their latest In the Capital, I can't really pass comment after a couple of plays. Their stuff often takes a few listens to really absorb and frankly I've liked everything of theirs in time and I doubt this will be any different. Now, when are they coming to my home town ?
Time for the chimes of freedom to flash for the second day running on Song(s) of the Day on here. That Striped Sunlit Sound, the idea and feel that The Go Betweens used to describe the essence and feeling that they were seeking from the off to capture and bottle. They hailed from Brisbane, Australia, so it's quite appropriate that almost thirty years on from 16 Lovers Lane another band from that, ( according to reports), not always fair city, have decided to pick up the torch that many notable others in that part of the world carried for much of the late Seventies and throughout much of the Eighties. The self-same torch that The Byrds, The Turtles, The Beau Brummels, Buffalo Springfield and The Monkees had earlier carried. The one The Beatles first lit.
The songs I've posted here, from Dumb Things debut album, ( just released), would have been quite impossible without records recorded way back then by The Go Betweens, Split Enz and The Chills to make a fairly random selection in addition to those Sixties pioneers. That matters not one jot, it's always great to have another group that have mastered a certain sound to add to the imaginary playlist spinning in your head.
I couldn't always listen to songs that sound like this although I'll always return to them. I was first drawn to the feeling and mystery this kind of thing represents by Murmur in 1983 and have never quite relinquished its grip and the paths it subsequently led me down. Perhaps Dumb Things are currently a few places back in the queue Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever now stand at the front of. They don't as yet have the sheer ingenuity that band readily display in terms of adding improving touches to old masters. In the meantime this will more than do for now. Actually, not really for now, the record was originally released late in 2017 but I trust the band are still around. See Did Not Chart, where I originally chanced upon this record for more thoughts on it.
Wednesday, February 27, 2019
I posted this last year in a review of The Saxaphones fine album Songs of the Saxaphones but may have neglected the excellence of this particular song. Sounds wonderful coming out of your radio late at night not unnaturally.
From one American Rock and Roll hero to another. Here with his classic Byrds hairdo as it's very much Buffalo Postcard's day on here, did they take the first part of their name from that of Crosby's compadres Buffalo Springfield? We'll probably never know.The song posted here sounds more like something from his later, C,S,N&Y 'walrus' era but that's fine too.
We reach three figures here returning to Buffalo Postcard and their take on one of Indie's sweetest and earliest anthems, The Velvet Underground's classic Stephanie Says, first recorded in the late Sixties as they moved from their John Cale phase to their Doug Yule one.
The original can't be improved on of course but it can be embellished and that's what Buffalo Postcard do here. They follow the original's slope add their own vocal and melodic touches and remind you of why you love this stuff so very, very much !
Melody Maker - Unknown Pleasures - 20 Great Lost Albums Rediscovered - # 12 See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang Yeah, City All Over! Go Ape Crazy!
This album sticks out in this particular series. It's the only one that sounds anything at all like this and the only one written by a woman, in this case Sharon O'Connell, a fairly damning indictment of the way things were in music journalism at that point in time. It came at the wrong time for me personally because I'm feeling pretty ropy personally health-wise and the last thing I want to do at the moment is listen through to a Bow Wow Wow album as it's pretty full tilt from start to finish. But I'll try to give it a fair crack of the whip. While I'm clear that regardless of whether I'm feeling a bit under the weather or as right as rain, ( forgive the use of cliche, I said I'm not at my best), I'm sure it will never sound like the best record ever made because it's not, I agree with O'Connell's assessment that Bow Wow Wow have never been given their full due and certainly not ceded the remotest bit of actual respect at the time or since. She argues that they deserve some.
So why has this never happened ? First and foremost because they're a Pop band. Take case one for the prosecution. Early in the Eighties, I remember watching two early evening BBC 2 programmes focused on live concerts from Sefton Park in Liverpool the first of local heroes Echo & the Bunnymen, the second of Bow Wow Wow. While I remember enjoying both it would have been clear that had I been asked which band I would have preferred to be in the Bunnymen would have won hands down. Because the Bunnymen were cool and Bow Wow Wow, whatever else they were, were certainly not that.
And just as they were not the Bunnymen, O'Connell accurately points out that they were also not The Sex Pistols, the band who had occupied their original manager Malcolm McLaren's time before he directed his intention onto them. She goes on to suggest, accurately again, that a reason for this failure to gain mass critical approval might have been, as Jon Savage claimed: 'the Pistols said 'No so forcefully that the world had been forced to listen,' then Bow Wow Wow were certainly saying 'Yes!' with hands greedily outstretched, demonstrating a kind of docility and an almost indecent positivism that were unthinkable just four years before.'
Bow Wow Wow didn't last long. Another album, and a very poor one at that and they were gone. They had a couple of respectably successful hit singles and made some dent in the American market, due largely to non-stop touring which wore them done and eventually broke them up. They've never really been accorded a critical reappraisal. But O'Connell applauds their exuberance. And so do I.
My new favourite band Part blah, blah, blah. I can tell you little about Buffalo Postcard except that I heard their debut single Morning Chimes on the radio on Monday evening and loved it unconditionally and immediately. It made me think of 'early' things. Early Stone Roses, Early Ride. Early Primal Scream. Sometimes bands move away from their initial prototype but in Buffalo Postcard's case I imagine they'll continue to mine this particular seam of golden indie youth before they choose to move on if they ever do. No complaints from me if they choose not to. It's clear that in 2019 there's plenty of scope for a band to work on capturing an essence of a sound gone by that will appeal to those who experienced it first time in a previous era, (it's not as if the bands I've mentioned by comparison weren't themselves evidently in thrall to what had gone before), or those who are coming to it for the first time.
Morning Chimes sprints out of the blocks just as Ride's Chelsea Girl did all those years back in 1990. The guitars rattle and chime in best Byrds tradition, there's brief and sweet feedback and the vocals ride, (sorry!), the wave the music crafts for them. The soul of brevity. 'It's a different time and things are moving much too fast.' This has been around in various shapes and forms since 1965 when The Beatles first started to scuff up their fringes. It's a heavily repackaged sound but no less welcome to the likes of me who have never tired of it and never will. Certainly not when it's done as well as this..
What's most pleasing and even more promising is that the other two songs on the EP are equally good. Such a Drag slows down the pace but not the gorgeous yearning. It would have slotted in nicely and possibly improved the first Primal Scream album Sonic Flower Groove as that record didn't fully encapsulate their fragile, early magic, ( trust me, they had it). The third track is a cover and I'll post something about it later on today. Don't touch that dial, pop pickers.
In the meantime, can I tell you anything else about the band and this record ? Their name appears to be a musical amalgam. I'll leave you to work out what that might be for yourself. This debut is the February release on Sonic Cathedral Singles Club, which is offering a highly enticing but limited offer over the course of the year here.
As for Buffalo Postcard. They're a three-piece and they feature Henrique Laurindo a Brazilian musician now based in London and formerly in The Tamborines. The Tamborines? Nuff said! I love their first record and can't wait for their next.
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
The Residents are the band for the 'cooler than thou' contingent. I suppose I count myself among that number. Though I'm not going to start playing The Residents on a regular basis having listened through to Eskimo in its entirety while writing this. It's often thought of as their best album and it was released in 1979 after a long congestion period. It's certainly not a record that can have them being accused of selling out on their weird founding principles.
It's a concept of sorts, reputed to be a historical document on arctic life and highlight ignorance to indigenous people living there. I wanted to take it off after 25 minutes of listening to it on headphones, return to the relative normality of the Feelies album on my record deck and fall asleep on my sofa. I resisted that urge and ploughed through the whole of it. I suspect that will be the first and last time I'll ever listen to it.
Everett True wrote the article about it here. He was a man with history and eccentric form. As The Legend! he had been the artist responsible for the first single release on Creation Records. He championed Nirvana from their early days and wheeled Kurt Cobain onstage in their notorious Reading Festival performance. He then proceeded to a highly individual journalistic career, slagging The Smashing Pumpkins off at every opportunity, writing for the national press and his own blogs, remaining very much his own man.
He had much history with The Residents as they had been a major formative influence inspiring him to form his first band at school. He makes no great claims for either The Residents or the album apart from vouching for the weirdness of both. He's not wrong in either respect. But I'd have to say that personally I was very pleased when I got through the record and could return my attention to The Feelies.
Monday, February 25, 2019
Only one David Sylvian record on the jukebox at Rosie's. This one. Sounded great yesterday evening. If only they'd get Red Guitar on there too!
Essentially a new jukebox is just a new jukebox. It still has good songs on it. Possibly ones that weren't on the old one . Like this...
Clearly'Magazine Day' on here. Here's the last post on that subject. From a series I wrote a couple of years ago about mavericks where I make the same point about Devoto in relation to Kafka and Dostoevsky that I did in the post below. Obviously not an original thinker.
Got out of Punk and onto something new as fast as he could. Buzzcocks and Magazine is no mean CV. His music was meat and drink to pretentious music critics at the time and ever since. The closest anybody ever got to Dostoevsky and Kafka on vinyl.
It's clearly 'Magazine Day' on here. Here's the last post on that subject. From a series I wrote a couple of years ago where I make the same point about Devoto in relation to Kafka and Dostoevsky that I did in the post below. Clearly not an original thinker.
From the NME in March 1979.
"Whatever your feelings about Howard Devoto are, they're no doubt strong" – the opening salvo of the last feature penned on the subject in these pages was no doubt earnestly conceived but… well, I just had to laugh because at that point I had absolutely no feelings for or against Devoto, his music, his lyrics, his stance in interviews, his high forehead, you name it.
'Spiral Scratch' was no startling revelation to me and 'Shot By Both Sides' left me impressed with the conclusion of its conceit without moving me to any fervent degree. Similarly, Real Life, the first Magazine album, had a half-baked quality to it – yes, there was potential and yes, there was master of ceremonies Devoto intoning intriguing obscurities – but there was also an overwhelming sense of the premature about the project. Magazine as a band were obviously still coming to terms with the task of mustering their full resources; the record was also badly produced, more often than not burying Devoto's voice when clarity was all important.
Second-Hand Daylight rectifies the latter vocal problem with a degree of success that is almost disarming. More essentially, the combination of a nine month lapse between Real Life and the new album, also the fact that production duties have switched from John Leckie to one Colin Thurston, all this has given Devoto and Magazine a context in which they can provide the listener with a Grade A representation of their talents.
Where previously there was half-realised potential, there is now an austere sense of authority to the music. This becomes clear from the first bars of 'Feed The Enemy'. These are very Low-period Bowiesque, right down to the stray saxophone bleats and lulling synthesiser chords, both of which are sublimated into the dank neo-Gothic sound to which Magazine seem so partial (the same ingredients precede the first moments of the second side as well).
And then Devoto begins the song itself. Lyrically an account of a plane crash (I think) with imagery that runs the gauntlet from the vivid to the obscure, the arrangement is precise, focused and ingenious. A fitting prelude, this, because it presents the all-important balance between band and front-man the whole album goes on to establish. Magazine have well and truly become a group.
'Rhythm Of Cruelty' is a slightly different take from the single: a wiry, jittery piece with Devoto at once presenting sone of his better lyrics but vocally nodding a little too archly in the direction of Sparks' cuteness and even hitting at a Lydon sneer.
'Cut-Out-Shapes' continues the Sparks' vocalese, but this is Devoto's prime precinct. He wrote the music, an ominous motorik which the band enhance to a degree that gives the composition – at a guess, a paean to 'numbness' – just the right cutting edge. Both 'Talk To The Body' and 'I Wanted Your Body' provide diversity to good effect. The first is subversively 'poppy', the second has a really gripping melody courtesy of keyboardman David Formula and bassist Barry Adamson.
Meanwhile 'I Wanted Your Heart' joins side two's 'Back To Nature' and 'Permafrost' as one of the album's three comparative masterpieces. 'Back To Nature' is the finest song and performance Devoto and Magazine have ever executed; Devoto finally finds his voice – a terse, uncompromising instrument – and lets fly with floods of imagery that owe nothing to anyone, while Magazine match him punch for punch.
'Believe That I Understand' is Magazine-rock with a sterling chord change and Devoto again using his 'real' voice. It's a forceful performance but, sandwiched between 'Nature' and the final 'Permafrost', it tends to lose its momentum.
"As the day stops dead / At the place where we've stopped / I will drug you and fuck you / On the permafrost":'Permofrost' owes passing nods to both Iggy Pop (lyrically and vocally) and John Barry (an old and burgeoning influence), but transcends its debts by establishing once and for all the animal known as Magazine. It's an appropriately chilling and seductive end to a strong album.
So. Farewell then, Second-Hand Daylight. You've convinced me that Howard Devoto and Magazine are a force to be reckoned with. No mean feat, seeing as I dislike lyricists who tend to play coy and wallow in obscurity and as I also detect a plethora of influences peaking out of every note at times. But you've arrived and have harnessed your considerable potential to the dictates of 'professionalism' whilst still taking chances.
After all, as Devoto himself says – and I'll back him up to the hilt – "I've got to admire your ingenuity".
Melody Maker - Unknown Pleasures - 20 Great Lost Albums Rediscovered - # 10 Magazine - Secondhand Daylight
Magazine are still probably one of the more underrated bands of the late Seventies and early Eighties. Taking their name from an everyday object as was the vogue at the time, (see Television or Wire), their best known songs, Shot by Both Sides, The Light Pours Out of Me and Song From Under the Floorboards can generally be expected to elicit a positive response, though there were dissenters. Julie Burchill and Gary Bushell wrote fairly venomous reviews about them at the time, the venom generally directed at their leader Howard Devoto who was seen by some as a horrible pseud. Understandably. He was after all the man who brought Kafka and Dostoevsky to the rock table
But generally the critical response was positive. Paul Morley, Nick Kent and Jon Savage were notable supporters. As is Dave Simpson who wrote an article about them here. Secondhand Daylight is not necessarily the record that you'd expect him to focus on. Real Life and The Correct Use of Soap have generally been considered the albums to go to. But considering the nature of the book he was writing for, his selection of it was highly apt.
Dave Simpson is a journalist whose writing doesn't excite me. His style is rather prosaic and he's prone to cliche. Nevertheless the article is well worth reading, notably for excerpts from an interview he had with Colin Thurston who produced the record and the account it offers to the making of the album, its recording process and the insights it gives to the main players behind the album.
It also might have led many to listen to the record itself. It's a remarkable one. More synth driven than other Magazine albums with keyboardist Dave Formula the main player rather than guitarist John McGeoch who generally was but here is relegated to rhythm. It has a couple of upbeat miserabilist moments Because You're Frightened, which was released as a 45 though it didn't chart, (no surprise, there, Shot by Both Sides only got to # 41). A track where 'Look what fear's done to my body' is the hookline is not cut out for mainstream acceptance. The album was not a commercial success and record label Virgin applied some pressure. The band returned with The Correct Use of Soap which was more approachable, but only in the sense that Magazine were ever approachable. Which let's face it, they never really were. That was all part of their essential charm. They were the itch you couldn't scratch.
Sunday, February 24, 2019
Melody Maker - Unknown Pleasures - 20 Great Lost Albums Rediscovered - # 9 The Go-Betweens - Liberty Belle & the Black Diamond Express
Might as well re-post my own review of this exceptional record. In the Melody Maker book that's the focus of this series, Andrew Mueller writes about it. An Australian, like the band itself, he too has gone on to an interesting career in music and travel journalism. He gives an interesting account of probably his favourite record but after all, this is my blog, so !
'It's taken me a while to get to a Go-Betweens album on here, almost three years, given that this blog is named after one of the lines in a song of theirs and that they stand very high among my personal and musical inspirations. They've been a regular and constant source of posts on here I've gone for this, their third album proper though I could have easily plumped for any number of others. The first thing that needs to be said is that the cover is rotten. In terms of presentation, this is possibly among the very best records ever to be housed in a truly dreadful album sleeve which would not help for one moment to sell it. It's worth stating that despite their many attractions and strengths, visual presentation of their skills and talents wasn't always upper-most in the band's mind which is perhaps at least a partial explanation of why they didn't achieve the recognition that they deserved during their first, great golden spell in the nineteen eighties. This as well as switching record labels for whatever reason, while similar and more successful bands kept going a much more consistent career path.
For myself, and other fellow travelers The Go-Betweens are an almost mystical band in terms of quality, up there with The Smiths and R.E.M. their most obvious contemporaries in terms of their recorded ouput and general achievement. A sensitive, reflective band, going against the grain of a pretty vulgar, recidivist decade. But while the other two bands undoubtedly made their mark, The Go-Betweens, the equals of both in terms of quality, were left, apart from those who fully appreciated them at the time, to wait for their due appreciation, which has really begun to kick in now, a couple of decades or more along the line.
As I've already indicated, I think this was partially at least their own fault. All three of these bands were defined by shyness, and turning their heads away from the defining culture and the prevailing mood. But The Go-Betweens were distinctive from both R.E.M and The Smiths in a couple of respects in that they had a couple of songwriters and singers with quite different emotional and lyrical perspectives in addition to a female drummer who happened to be going out with one of the front-men and subsequently being resented by the other one. It was a soap opera mix that added to the drama but possibly didn't contribute to a smooth ride and an obvious curve of commercial acclaim.
I don't want to labour the point because I pretty much love all three of these bands equally, but it is worth stating that both Michael Stipe and Morrissey were both obvious pop stars in the making despite their reticence while neither Robert Forster or Grant McLennan ever were. The Go-Betweens were pretty much always a band that aimed beyond the charts until their final album 16 Lovers Lane, when they finally came upon a recipe that might have achieved commercial dividend and by that stage sadly it was all a bit too late.
I can't find immediate links to all of the songs here which is also telling thirty years on. You'll have to hunt down the missing gaps and fill in the spaces for yourself. But it's worth the effort. The Go-Betweens, (appropriately considering they named themselves after a novel), are pretty much the ultimate book-readers band, housed on shelves, gathering in dust and waiting for the appreciative browser to select them, withdraw to a sofa and read at leisure.
In this respect they're incomparable. Sometimes their songs are cast in full sunlight, sometimes in gathering darkness but always somewhere slightly apart. Evasive from immediate physical recognition. Their music is always suggestive, but somehow away from absolute definition.They're utterly consistent, fully living up to their name and the novel they originally chose to call themselves after.
Most of all their songs sound like considered work. Carefully crafted work, chiselling thoughtfully at the seams and inwards into human experience. An ongoing discussion between the band that results in the most gentle, loving products imaginable.
This might not be their best work. All true Go-Betweens fans have their own favourites. I'd go for this, the album before it, Spring Hill Fair and their last album from their first phase, 16 Lovers Lane as the ones to go for first. Others would choose Before Hollywood, which I personally think, apart from Cattle & Cane, their obvious early masterpiece, to be still a bit too rough at the edges to make it through at one sitting. I think they were transitioning from being a singles and songs project to becoming an albums band. In this respect Liberty Belle hits the spot in every respect as well as showing off a truly joint effort between Forster and McLennan. Neither one's songs are noticeably stronger than the other's on here and they dovetail and complement one another throughout.
In the year that this came out I went to see the band at Kingston Poly, across the Thames but walking distance from my parent's house in Teddington, with a couple of university friends (in the second term of my first year), my sister and a friend of hers. We walked into the hall to see the band doing their sound-check with the room fully lit. It was a strange, but unforgettable moment. A truly great but unappreciated band, at the height of their powers displaying their magic before a handful of people. At the end of the song, Lindy Morrison, their tall, slightly ungainly, but wholly gorgeous drummer, climbed off her stool and stretched her limbs in the unnatural glaring light of the venue. I can't remember particular instances of the gig that followed once they returned in their natural, dimmed setting but will never forget that.
The Go-Betweens albums, more than anything are a transcript of lost moments. This perhaps more than anything explains why they never sold as many records as they should have done. Thirty years down the line they sound if anything more intangible and impenetrable than they did at the time. 'Like a lip lifted from a lip'. Like trying to recall the pleasures of a kiss. A lost discussion between lovers long since parted. I could itemise the individual joys of this album but as with all great records you're best advised to experience it for yourself. This record is every bit as good as any in your collection although it's still so introspective and considered that it may never be truly recognised as such. This is probably the world's loss. It's certainly not theirs!'
Julia Jacklin seems to have two types of songs judging by her second album, Crushing, just out. Fast ones and slow ones. I care for the fast ones a great deal and for the slow ones (with a couple of exceptions), not one jot.
This degree of predictability rather limits the amount of appreciation you can lavish on a record sadly. It all becomes rather one dimensional after a while. Jacklin is operating in an incredibly crowded field of overwrought indie-ish female singers: Angel Olsen, Big Thief's Adrianne Lenker, Lucy Dacus, Aldous Harding,Mothers. Stella Donelly, Phoebe Bridgers, Nadia Reid. See what I mean by crowded. Jacklin fails to force her way to the front of the peloton here. But I do like the fast ones so I've posted three here.
Saturday, February 23, 2019
'The Visitors is the ABBA album that Alan Partridge doesn't really play that often.' Taylor Parkes.
It's also not perhaps the ABBA album that you would expect a music critic to choose to convince his reader of their greatness. I've listened to plenty of their stuff during my lifetime, mostly as a result of them being the mainstay of my parent's record collection as I was growing up. They still remain the one musical artist that my mum and dad bond over. This New Year for example, when we got together as a family, children and grandchildren, ( photographic evidence below), it was Mamma Mia 2 that went on the television and we all sang along, apart from the 'too cool for school contingent'. Even they I'm sure, were wanting to tap their feet. OK, maybe not my brother-in-law. He, apparently was a Velvet Underground fan at the age of eleven. But as for me, I've always had a lot of time for them. They can easily bring me to tears. More probably than any other band. I could write a book about why that is. Though you probably wouldn't care to read it.
But The Visitors? You probably won't know many songs off it. The record came out in November 1981 and was the band's final album, though of course they've recently reformed, leading their most ardent, though I'd suggest, also most deluded, fans to hope there'll be another. When this came out it was one of the first albums to be pressed on CD, a sure sign that the times were a changing, ABBA's split would prove to be another. Just as The Beatles barely made it to the Seventies, ABBA simply weren't meant for the Eighties.
While The Beatles break up felt like a divorce, ABBA going their separate ways was almost certainly made inevitable by the two that actually occurred within the band, between Benny and Anna-Frid and Bjorn and Agnetha. Boy can you hear it on the record. It's ABBA on antidepressants.
Taylor Parkes, who writes the article about The Visitors in the book, makes a very good case for it, along these lines. I listened to the album from beginning to end for the first time while reading it and would direct you towards both. This is not really an easy record to listen to, unless you're attracted by other people's pain. ABBA's pop gifts are still nakedly evident but the whole record is shrouded in a genuine melancholy. The Swedes are very good at this stuff. Have you ever seen a Ingmar Bergman film?
I won't be rushing out to try and find a second hand copy of The Visitors in a charity shop. Parkes makes the good point that it can easily be done. Not that it isn't a good record, ABBA at their most mature as you'd expect but probably not at their best. There was a reason it sold less than much of their other stuff. When I want depression I have The Cure and Joy Division. The Visitors is ultimately a suburban, grown up expression of similar emotions. You can hear where Bjorn and Benny are going from here, towards West End musicals. There are a few late, great moments on the record, Head over Heels, One of Us, Like an Angel Passing Through My Room, but really they were just too sad to stay together as a band now that they were no longer together as two couples. That I know is a very trite way to write about genuine personal heartbreak. Anyhow, their time was gone, at least for the time being. They had made up their minds it must come to an end. Do you see what I did there? Anyhow, all four band members survived the split and their resulting trauma. That's good to hear. Now they're back again. That's good to hear too!
I rather enjoyed the time I spent with Desperate Journalist's third album In Search of the Miraculous yesterday, even though it felt like a musical landscape I'd visited many, many times over the years going back to the early Eighties and continuing on to the mid-Nineties. Originality may not be the band's strongest card but they do have a nice way with melodic teenage angst, if that's what you're after.
I'm 53 years old now and was never much into angst, even when I was a teenager myself. But I can appreciate virtually anything when it's well done and this is very well done.Desperate Journalist's sound dips its toes in Goth with a singer, Jo Bevan, who comes across as a streetwise Harriet Wheeler, with an impressive musical take on Morrissey / Marr melodic flow on occasion. Howl into the void of late adolescence with Desperate Journalist. Now, if only they could do something about that dreadful name.
Friday, February 22, 2019
I've had an enforced break from Rosie's for a while, for reasons it's unnecessary to go into here. In the meantime, a new jukebox has been installed, always a nervous moment in time for someone like myself who has derived so much so much joy from it over the years as this series indicates. First and foremost, how to work it, and then work out what's been lost and what new riches can be found.
My jury is still out but I can at least put things on without too much time spent staring blankly at the screen. I'm also discovering plenty of things which weren't available previously, like this from Ride's second album Going Blank Again. Remarkably when released as a single this didn't make the Top Forty when it should surely have reached the Top Ten. The band's commercial decline began here sadly.
Melody Maker - Unknown Pleasures - 20 Great Lost Albums Rediscovered - # 7 ABC - The Lexicon of Love
1982 was a fabulous year in the UK for Pop music. Probably the best we had here after those golden runs between '65 and '67 and '70 and '72. '80 and '81 had been pretty great but 1982 was the icing on the cake. Every Thursday night on Top of the Pops there was a fabulous array of outsider bands making a stake for the highest places in the charts.
I was sixteen at the time and everybody at my secondary school, watched Top of the Pops every week. Pretty much everybody I'd say. Then we'd go to school the next day and discuss what we'd seen and heard. There were so many wonderful singles, so many wonderful bands.
ABC were right in the thick of things. They had any number of huge hits that year in addition to The Lexicon of Love, which for many was the album of the year, and certainly stood out in that respect, even among a field of incredibly strong contenders.
So what did we think of them at the time? Not very much I'd say. In their lame jackets, with their greased quiffs and dance routines as I remember they came across as faintly ridiculous. My main recollection concerning them at the time was David O'Connor, the Scouse kid at our school curling locks in his hair on the desk behind me and my friend Philip before English classes and aping Martin Fry's spoken interlude in The Look of Love and not in remotely flattering terms. How little we knew.
We didn't read the NME where Paul Morley and Ian Penman dissected the band, their records and every move they made. We didn't know enough about Pop history to understand the reference points to great records and moments of the past. We didn't understand that Trevor Horn was defining Eighties production. We didn't really know how good their records were.
But we also didn't know how many of these bands would crash and burn within months. That Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran and Wham! would take over and that Kajagoogoo, Howard Jones and Nik Kershaw were waiting in the wings. All far more representative of the Thatcherite monetarist world we were heading towards than this odd set of bands who'd seized the moment in 1982 before almost immediately blowing the opportunity they'd opened up for themselves. We should have appreciated ABC ore certainly. By comparison to what was coming they were Motown itself.
David Stubbs says pretty much the same here in his second entry for this book. His essay seems slightly more rushed than the one about Captain Beefheart but it's still worth the read. As for my take on it. Some of it plods, the singles just soar, Poison Arrow and All of my Heart particularly, plus a couple of others. But I understand only too well why it made such a splash and people loved and still love it like they do. In many respects The Lexicon of Love is a one off.
Thursday, February 21, 2019
Melody Maker - Unknown Pleasures - 20 Great Lost Albums Rediscovered - # 6 Todd Rundgren - A Wizard, A True Star
I don't really have much time for this. The record or the article about it, the second written by Paul Lester in the book. They're both garish, narcissistic and misshapen, acts of indulgence. I challenge you to get through either at one sitting. From 1973, A Wizard, A True Star is supposedly a paean to psychedelic drugs, though I'd suggest it's probably actually one of the greatest warnings against going anywhere near them ever recorded and released.
This post is only two paragraphs long but I found it incredibly difficult to write, probably because I did so while listening to the record that it's about and it's incredibly difficult to write coherently under these conditions. Rundgren has written a few songs that appeal to me over the course of his long career but they're generally the ones where he applies some kind of discipline to the process. This by comparison is an unholy mess! As is Lester's tribute to it.
Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Was Gene Clark a finer artist than Gram Parsons? It's an interesting question, at least for the likes of me, though it may not be a quandary that the general public at large bother themselves with much. I've been a huge fan of Parsons for twenty years or more but I've never really pondered much on the merits of Clark's life and work as a point of comparison until yesterday when I listened through to No Other, which is generally considered to be his masterpiece and read David Bennun's essay about it in this book.
Bennun is also someone I've not paid much attention to before. He was certainly not a leading light on the Maker when he wrote for them during the Nineties. Since then though he's carved out an interesting career for himself like so many who wrote for them then. Brought up in Kenya, he's recently written a couple of critically lauded memoirs and is currently highly active and politically engaged on his Twitter account with one of the key issues of our age, Anti-Semitism, something we still seem to be plagued with, understandably given that he is Jewish himself.
There's no mention of this in his article about No Other. It's a superb piece, as good as any in the book. In it he gives a highly evocative account on his first discovery of it, listening to it several times on a Walkman through headphones on a milk train journey, during the early hours of the morning, from London to Brighton during the Nineties.
Clark is best known of course as a founding member of the original, Byrds for whom he wrote several of their best early songs. This apparently became the source of some petty jealousy from the other members of the band, particularly when so much money was flowing into his bank account that he bought himself a flash sports car while they were barely scraping by. The Byrds were famously rather like that as people. Clark left them fairly early, apparently partly due to his fear of flying and thereafter never achieved commercial success remotely comparable to what he'd experienced during his time with them. He nevertheless was responsible for some excellent records, most notably this one, which came out in 1974. It's probably the finest Byrds solo album, alongside David Crosby's If I Could Only Remember my Name which came out three years earlier.
David Geffen, bankrolled the making of the record through Asylum Records and studio costs ballooned, working out at over $100,000, an astronomical cost for its day and age. Geffen was also dismayed that the completed album contained only eight tracks, none of them affording much commercial potential. On completion, the record was effectively shelved by Asylum, given paltry marketing support from the label. It limped to # 144 in the American Billboard Chart and by 1976 had been deleted.
Clark never really recovered from its failure and died in 1991 aged just forty six after years of drink and drunk abuse. The years since his death have seen a definite critical rehabilitation thanks to writers like Bennun, Jon Savage and Syd Griffin. Both Bennun and Savage have gone on record as regarding him as a far superior artist to Parsons. I won't even enter that debate. It doesn't matter really. But I've certainly been sold on the greatness of No Other over the past couple of days in addition to being introduced properly to Bennun, a sensitive and eloquent writer. Read his article about the record here.