Monday, September 30, 2019

Songs About People # 955 Christian Dior

Christian Dior wasted his life according to Mozza. Well he can talk. Nice tune anyway...

It Starts With a Birthstone - Albums For September

It Starts With a Birthstone - Songs For September

English Weather - # 2 The Roger Webb Sound

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 72 John Prine - John Prine

Song(s) of the Day # 2,079 Operator Music Band

I love the idea of treating the act of making music as a laboratory scientific exercise. This approach  clearly has a longand co lourful history going back at least to fifties Exotica, taking in Joe Meek, Jack Nitzsche and perhaps even Phil Spector. Then on through the Space Age with drug Psychedelicists such as West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Silver Apples and United States of America, onto the Seventies and daddies of the genre Kraftwerk, Talking Heads and Devo, and from there to Nineties Post Modernists Stereolab and Broadcast.

Plenty of disciples of the sub-genre have carried the flame onward since then. Now New York's Operator Music Band issue forth their own contribution to this particular cause with their glistening new album, Duo Duo. Their clinical, non-more prosaic name and the picture on the record sleeve tell the story of what they're about very well. 

This is an album made by humans but explicitly designed to sound as if it wasn't. It's a pop record in many respects, the machines programmed with melody and rhythm in mind rather than abrasion and distortion. As a result the end effect is alluring rather than alienating.

The band switch vocals from track to track between Dara Hirsch to Jared Hiller. Mostly I prefer Hirsch's entries  to Hiller's as he's rather too obviously smitten by David Byrne, ( the tracks fronted by Hirsch are generally the ones I've posted). This unevenness in terms of the appeal of everything here mean Duo Duo probably won't make my end of year album list but there's much here that's quite thrilling in terms of its blend of the old and the new and its sheer replicant pop savvy.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Modern Lovers

English Weather - # 1 Caravan

Onto another short series and as with the just completed The Daisy Age, also sparked by a Bob Stanley compilation, this time put together with his St. Etienne colleague Pete Wiggs. In the CD notes, Stanley reveals that English Weather, which collects together mostly forgotten British tracks from the early Seventies, was at least partially inspired by an afternoon Newcastle, (where I live), browsing in a record shop sheltering from the rain. I suspect the shop was RPM Records, (where I bought my fine cabinet record player six months back), as I know Craig, the guy behind the counter who he mentions getting into conversation with.

Anyhow English Weather sets off with the wonderful Caravan.

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 71 The Move - Message From The Country

Song(s) of the Day # 2,078 Darren Hayman

A week or so ago I completed a run down of Darren Hayman's 12 Astronauts on here. It's worthy of greater attention as it's a finely honed record indeed. Focusing in chronological order on the 12 American men who walked on the men and the strangeness and utterly life changing experience that this surely was. Hayman does a marvellous job throughout.

The songs,  written from the perspective of each of these men in turn, are disembodied in the way that the very best 'space' songs are. At once deeply individual and universal, as if the individuals concerned were embarked on an adventure for the rest of us while going through something that changed them irreparably, for good and ill. Hayman's train (or perhaps spacespotter) , scrutiny to biographical detail, differentiating the twelve men in terms of how their time on the surface of the moon impacted on them and charted the paths their lives came to take once they'd departed it, shows true artistry.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Songs About People # 954 Harrison Ford

Instrumental from Mac DeMarco from six years back.

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 420 Orson Welles

Orson Welles and some proper kitschy romance makes its way onto the jukebox at The Newcastle Arms. Perhaps doesn't sound quite so good now as it did after a couple of beers last night.

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 70 Yes - Fragile

Song of the Day # 2,077 Morgana King

Another from the Jarvis Cocker Sunday Service compilation. Quite beautiful. Morgana King who also played Carla Corleone in Godfather I and II.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Songs About People # 953 John Carpenter

Song for scary film director. Or perhaps director of scary films. From yesterday's Song of the Day artistes.

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 69 Sly & the Family Stone - There's a Riot Goin' On

Song of the Day # 2,076 Art Garfunkel

Not too much in terms of new releases that greatly excited me this morning. So instead, here's something from Jarvis Cocker's splendid Sunday Service compilation also out today.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Saturday, September 21, 2019

David Kilgour & the Heavy Eights - Bobbie's a Girl

Middle Aged Rock. This is by no means a sleight. Some of the best records made this year are being churned out by the middle aged. Men mostly. Purple Mountains, Pixies, Wilco and this. It doesn't have to sound like Mark Knopfler or Chris Rea. No offence to either of those gentlemen. It can sound like this. Transcendent. Bobbie's a Girl, the new album from David Kilgour & the Heavy Eights.

Kilgour was most famously the founding member and lead singer of The Clean, Eighties New Zealand marvels whose influence far outweighs the number of records they actually sold. They sounded like a New Wave Velvet Underground. Kilgour has broadened his canvas over the years though there are still moments when traces of Lou and Sterling peek through. Now as the years pass, Neil Young also appears to be a guiding light.

Listening to this record is like savouring a fine wine. Always slightly indefinable but all the better for it. David Kilgour is a mellow fellow and we should treasure him.

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 418 Serge Gainsbourg

Always nice to be back in Newcastle. Especially to find a song I'd ordered on the jukebox.

The Daisy Age (Saint Etienne Presents) # 15 Leaders of the New School

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 63 Van Morrison - Tupelo Honey

Song(s) of the Day # 2,070 Broke Royals

This is polished and ambitious. more perhaps in the worldly way than in the artistic sense. It's tasteful, but the melody and structure are strong. American band who their Spotify biography claims have a 'complex modern rock sound'. Not sure about that, it reminds me of Eighties Scottish bands Deacon Blue and Big Dish. They really sounded quite similar believe me. Still, I like this.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Songs About People # 952 Isaac Hayes

One for the Hot Buttered Soul Man.

Chastity Belt - Chastity Belt

I'm never quite sure why bands release eponymously titled albums midway through their career. Is it just lack of imagination or creative dearth? In the case of Chastity Belt it's clearly neither as their fourth album is as good as or better than anything they've done.

They've certainly had a strange backstory. Starting as something of a Frat Band, with some pretty vulgar and frankly puerile concerns in their early days, with time they've matured quickly into one of the finest groups America has to offer, their records issuing forth increasingly powerful if troubled poise and beauty.

They've refined a template now from which they work. Underpinned by a bass reminiscent of early Peter Hook and Simon Gallup, their songs consistently have a way of resisting gravity and conveying languid but effecting sadness.

Chastity Belt doesn't waver much from the template they've established but enriches it. It's an assured and impressive record. What the band lack in variety they more than compensate for with quiet intensity, determination  and grace.

The Daisy Age (Saint Etienne Presents) # 14 Brand Nubian

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 62 The Band - Cahoots

Song(s) of the Day # 2,069 Lizzo

Lizzo is utterly ridiculous. But also great fun. There is also a point to all or at least a lot of what she does. I am not her natural constituent but can listen to her current record Cuz I Love You and understand exactly why it should cause such excitement and why there's such a rush for concert tickets for her tour following her triumphant performance at Glastonbury. 

There really isn't anything on the record that won't remind you of the obvious signifiers; Prince, Missy E. ,George Clinton, Outkast, Kelis, Janet, Janelle et al. What does it matter? It pushes all the right buttons and has a fabulous time and allows you to have a fabulous time too while doing so. Best in short doses, as it's relentlessly full on, some of it is spectacular, (listen to Jerome, that goes on my Song of the Year list), and the whole thing is just made for the charts.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Songs About People # 951 Myrna Loy

One for an early superstar of the Silent Screen.

Newport Jazz Festival

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

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 61 Dolly Parton - Coat of Many Colors

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Songs About People # 950 Gene Cernan

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

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

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 60 Grateful Dead Live Double

Song of the Day # 2,067 Gruff Rhys

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

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

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Songs About People # 949 Harrison Schmitt

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

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

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 59 Gilbert O'Sullivan - Himself

Song of the Day # 2,066 Gerry Cinammon

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

Monday, September 16, 2019

New York Dolls

Ric Ocasek 1949 -2019

Songs About People # 948 Charles Duke

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

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

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 58 Humble Pie - Performance: Rockin' The Fillmore

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Songs About People # 946 James Irwin

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

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

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 56 Black Sabbath - Master of Reality

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

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

Friday, September 13, 2019

Pixies meet NME

The NME interview mentioned below.

Pixies - Beneath The Eyrie

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

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

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

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

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

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

Songs About People # 945 David Scott

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

The Daisy Age (Saint Etienne Presents) # 7 KMD

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 54 Isaac Hayes - Shaft

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Songs About People # 942 Alan Bean

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

Joan Shelley - Like The River Loves The Sea

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

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

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

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

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 51 Moody Blues - Every Good Boy Deserves Favor

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

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

Monday, September 9, 2019

Cafe Racer, Flatworms & Parsnip

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

Songs About People # 941 Pete Conrad

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

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

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 49 Gene Clark - White Light

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 8, 2019

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

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