Saturday, February 29, 2020

It Starts With a Birthstone - Albums For February

So many great new records were released this month that I haven't absorbed them all yet, or written about them on here. Whild I try to catch up, here are fifteen albums that captured my attention. There were also several released yesterday which I'll save for my March rundown.

It Starts With a Birthstone - Songs For February

1980 Singles # 43 Orange Juice

1980 in many ways was the height of Postcard Records though I wasn't aware of it at the time. They lacked the distributing network to push this three minute wonder to the higher reaches of the Singles Charts where it surely belonged. The fact it existed was enough and would be recognised more fully later.

Bowie's Books # 60 John Braine - Room At The Top

Song(s) of the Day # 2,229 Kevin Krauter

On a day of quite outstanding new album releases this, Full Hand, the second album from Kevin Krauter, stood out from the pack for me. It's a devastating, remarkable statement, identifiably slotting into a recognisable generic category while demanding attention for itself at one and the same time.

Krauter was, and possibly still is  a member of Bloomington, Indiana's Hoops one of the more interesting Indie bands to emerge in recent years. But good as Hoops are, this is something else still. Full Hand marks him out as one of America's lonely boys, in a noble tradition going back five or more decades; Gram Parsons, Chris Bell, Alex Chilton, Kurt Cobain, Elliott Smith, Beck, Jeff Mangum, Mark Linkous, Christopher Owens, Mike Hadreas. The lonely boy in the High School corridor. The one that others shy away from or bully who is all the while is plotting his quiet revenge and escape into music .

Perhaps there's a reason Krauter  became that kid as he was homeschooled until his high school years . Raised as one of six siblings in a heavily Christian household, where he was not allowed to listen to secular music. This surely feeds into the otherworldly sensibility that haunts Full Hand, the essential loneliness but inextricable sense of mission that strikes the listener again and again on listening through to the record.

When asked to name favourite artists and inspirations in interview Krauter generally mentions a number of unorthodox sources that perhaps hint at what's going on here. African, Japanese and Brazilian music that feed into the offbeat tonalities and rhythms on show a different way of going about things and subsequently a different sound resulting though I would maintain that it still fits recognisably into the American tradition I outlined above.

Not all of Full Hand works for me, some of the tracks on the first side of the record congeal rather into Emo self-pity . But it hits its stride in a glorious, almost sublime run of songs stretching across Side Two when the awestruck wonder of proceeddings is astonishingly impressive, marking this out as the best record of its sort I've heard since Perfumed Genius's No Shape or before that Girls' Father, Son, Holy, Ghost.

You can only hope that Full Circle finds the ears it deserves, and many of them at that, because this is a really special record. It describes a certain sense of isolated loss but also the transcendent beauty that can come be constructed through it when it's experienced in the difficult teenage years. Krauter is a special talent. I wish him well in his search for his audience. This is an album which exists in the margins but demands to be heard, and now rather than at some point further on down the line. It captures and restates the loneliness of Elliott Smith in particular without being obviously derivative and that's almost as high a compliment as I can give.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Songs About People # 1,080 Men Without Hats

Canadians Burning Hell celebrate their one hit wonder compatriots and that moment in the Eighties when anything seemed possible in a ridiculously New Wave way.

Covers # 116 Ella Fitzgerald

Ella does George. A 1969 single. It will cost you an arm and a leg. If not get the Ella album from the same year where she also covers Hunter Gets Captured by the Game, get Ready, Knock on Wood and Got to Get You Into my Life.

1980 Singles # 44 Joan Armatrading

'I wanna be by myself. I came in this world alone..'

Joan Armatrading was and is such a specific, individual and special talent. This was her mission statement.

Bowie's Books # 59 Muriel Spark - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Song of the Day # 2,228 Cascade Lakes

Hamburg band.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Songs About People # 1,079 Andy Partridge

So while we're here. here's a slightly corny song for Partridge.


1980 Singles # 45 Stiff Little Fingers

A particular ritual of my secondary school, (all secondary schools at the time of course), was the meticulous carving of band names on pencil cases and school bags. It seemed to mark out a particular hierarchy of playground cool. Stiff Little Fingers were definite leaders of the pack in this respect. Their name of course was really great, especially for schoolkids, but also they never really threatened to break really huge, which would have meant their named would have required scratching off, as I remember happening to the likes of Adam & the Ants and even Duran Duran as they broke from cult obscurity to national property. This was SLF's biggest chart hit. It rose to Number Fifteen in early 1980. Clash posturing on Top of the Pops, small consolation for the fact that the band themselves always refused to play the show.

Bowie's Books # 58 Arthur Koestler - Darkness At Noon

Song of the Day # 2,227 Eyeless in Gaza

Eyeless in Gaza don't sound quite like anybody else. They have a vast back catalogue which is well worth exploring. Here's one of their best known numbers.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Songs About People # 1,078 Blixa Bargeld

You couldn't actually make this up. From Piney Gir's 2009 debut The Yearling.

David Roback - Great Lost Band Members

Something else I wrote about Roback. From 2016.

Great Lost Band Members # 9 David Roback

One of the great cult icons. An original member of Los Angeles band of the early eighties The Rain Parade. Left after their wonderful, if slightly over-reverent debut album Emergency Third Rail Power Trip, according to Jim de Rogatis, 'Not only the best album from any of the Paisley Underground bands, it ranks with the best psychedelic rock efforts from any era.'

Roback went on to form first Opal and then Mazzy Star, two of the most interesting and inventive American bands of the eighties and nineties. The Rain Parade were never quite the same without him. A hugely creative and ingenious guitarist and songwriter.

Leonard Cohen - Suzanne

Mazzy Star - She Hangs Brightly

In memory of David Roback, guitarist and songwriter with Rain Parade, Opal and Mazzy Star. I still own and treasure the debut albums by all three. A special musician.

There are few things quite as sad to me as friends lost who shouldn't have been lost. People you met at certain points of your life who occupy a specific space who you had important  conversations with that you've lost contact with. It feels like something of a death to remember them years later. Especially when you play a piece of music that reminds you of them

I woke up this Sunday morning intending to write a review while having my breakfast and ended up thinking of Paul Burnand, a university friend of mine from the late eighties. He was from Leeds and was resolutely Northern in every respect so stood out a bit in a rather Southern university and faculty in Norwich. I think he looked at the rest of us with a certain amount of cynicism and detachment but for some reason seemed to except me from that judgement and we became good friends. We shared common interests. In literature and culture most obviously, as that's what we were studying, but also in politics, in music, in sport. Generally there was a bond there and I wish we were still in touch. I imagine he's back in Leeds.  Paul was not the kind to go on Facebook and all other internet searches I've tried have been in vain. I'll keep trying to track him down but in the meantime here's a review that thinking about him has partially inspired.

In my final year before I graduated I was still lacking the direction and drive to go trotting down the career path that life tries to condition you for. At that time Paul was working in a Record Shop in the middle of Norwich and it seemed as desirable a place to be as any other. I would pop in and chat to him during the day and he'd put on choices like Pere Ubu's Non Alignment Pact to keep the customers lively while we did so. Generally he would talk about Neil Young who he had developed a consuming passion for and was in the rapid process of buying each and every album by, a brave pursuit given some of the records that Young had put out.

But I also  remember us discussing and studying the wonderful cover sleeve for this, the first album by Mazzy Star, an LA band featuring David Roback and Hope Sandoval. It seemed like something quite exciting given our shared musical tastes, particularly in the music of the American West Coast.  Roback wasn't a totally unknown quantity. He'd been in The Rain Parade in the early Eighties, along with his brother amongst others. They'd been part of the Paisley Underground scene, a group of bands who'd taken my fancy after I'd discovered R.E.M. and was looking around for something else to follow in a similar vein. From the Rain Parade Roback had gone on to form Opal with Kendra Smith from the Dream Syndicate, another group from the same movement. In retrospect, they were very much a prototype for Mazzy Star. Spectral, spacy vocals. Psychedelic, West Coast guitar with a touch of Velvet Underground steel and menace.

But She Hangs Brightly really did seem to be offering something different even from all that Roback had done before. An updated sixties classicism for a new decade. A spooky, haunted Californian response to the Jesus & Mary Chain's doomed imaginings of what it must feel like to be in America. It seemed fitting when Sandoval and the Mary Chain's guitarist William Reid got together a few years later. Of course, the romance was doomed.


The album is still a highly effective construction of sound, voice and pure atmosphere almost thirty years on .It's an act of evident fandom,, the love of its influences drips from every moment of it, influences most obviously from music but also from art and literature quite evident in the songs, their titles and lyrics,  and the packaging of the record and the band. The cover photo, of a stairwell at the Hotel Tassel in Brussels is key in conveying the mood the record inspires. A deserted stairwell going up, a deserted stairwell going down and a lift-shaft. The architecture gothic and ornate exits and departures. They're evidently aspiring to create a classic. Within the parameters they set up for themselves, I'd say they succeed.

Sandoval, is clearly, a key ingredient in the success of the record. She adds something new to the mix. A Hispanic dash of romance and exoticism and pure sexuality that no-one on the Paisley Underground scene of white sixties obsessed musos could offer. Kendra Smith came pretty close on some of the Opal records, I recommend them highly if you can track them down, but Sandoval's voice was incredibly affecting and fresh when you heard it first in 1990. Time and countless subsequent releases, where she effectively does the same thing, has lessened the impact. Play her next to Caitlin Rose for example who I've posted just below this on the blog and Sandoval is blown away like a wisp in the desert wind. She has a specific range which she's almost pathologically reluctant to go beyond. It works here though for me subsequent Mazzy Star releases came to be a bit repetitive.  But for the purposes of this album she and Roback are a perfect fit.

The first two songs on the record Halah and Blue Flower are the ones that have stayed with me most over the years. It's a blistering one two that the rest of the record sustains without ever really topping.. Halah  emphasises the sense established by the album cover that this is a song about doorways. It's a track I'll happily listen to for the rest of my allotted days.
'Surely don't stay long I'm missing you now.
It's like I told you I'm over you somehow
Before I close the door I
Need to hear you say goodbye.
Baby won't you change your mind?'

The lyrics don't really convince as true expressions of heartfelt misery, more resigned, detached ennui but having a woman like  Sandoval sing them to you is always gratifying. A moment later she mutters, 'Baby I wish I was dead', and you know immediately she doesn't mean it for a moment. She's a femme fatale, but a strangely reticent and non-forthcoming one and its a concise expression of the cool reserve that comes to define the album.

Blue Flower I'd maintain is the best song on the record. Ironic, as I recently discovered it's not actually a band composition but a cover of a Slapp Happy song from the early Seventies. Perhaps this an indication of the rest of the records lack of lyrical depth because it's the one moment where they break out of their cool reserve and really strike home. The Waiting For The Man steal of the opening riff and the mention of the unsheafed knife are the closest the album comes to actually drawing blood.

'Waitin' for a sign from you
Waitin' for a signal to change
Have you forgotten what your love can do?
Is this the end?

Walkin' through the city
Your boots are high-heeled and are shinin' bright
The sunlight sparklin' on the shaft of your knife
Flower in the morning rain
Dying in my hand
Was it all in vain?

Superstar in your own private movie
I wanted just a minor part
But I'm no fool
I know you're cool
I never really wanted your heart

You're keeper of the key
Nothing seems to bring you down
It's not that cool when I'm around
Flower in the morning rain
Dying in my hand
Was it all in vain?

Superstar in your own private movie
I wanted just a minor part
But I'm no fool
I know you're cool
I never really wanted your heart.'

From here, as I've suggested, they maintain the pace and mood without achieving any particular peaks. It's almost as if their in-built detachment forbids them from doing so. There's not a weak track on the whole album as such and some of them have revealed new depths to me during the writing of this  but they're working within a formula although Roback is too versatile a musician and arranger to really let it show. Although they talk of highways and the open road this is really deeply interior music and generally quite disengaged, evoking and anticipating the decade it came out at the beginning of. This makes it both comforting but also vaguely disquieting. You can't help feeling that David Lynch would have fully approved.

Roback stretches his repertoire beyond The Doors and the Velvets to folk, blues and country and with embellishes the songs with all kinds of assured sixties touches over the course of the record. Generally it's his inventiveness that makes this a ground-breaking album. It's possible to focus solely on his constantly inventive playing and arranging and the layers of the record begin to unfurl and resonate and Sandoval drops to the back of the mix, becoming another instrument rather than the lead. He's one of the best and least feted guitarists of his generation and it's his expression and versatility that make this work so well for me.

By the time the warm, gorgeous, gospel organ of  Free kicks in second song from the end of Side 2 it's clear the record has cast its spell. It's chugging away in an assured narcotic groove all of its own. Closing song Before I Sleep kicks in with the opening flourishes of Nico's  I'll Keep it With Mine and the two clip clop off towards the sunset, their job done.

She Hangs Brightly was one of Kurt Cobain's favourite records and though it's lower down on most people's lists than on his it's well worth owning and revisiting from time to time. It evokes a particular vision of the West of America as an interior space, is perhaps the best representation of David Roback's particular virtuosity and despite my occasional slightly disparaging remarks in this review, Sandoval plays a full role too in the making of a very fine record. Listening to it on a Sunday morning has been a rewarding, immersive four hours.

Now, whatever happened to Paul Burnand? I need to talk to him about this.

David Roback 1951 - 2020

'I felt like a punk. But when I picked up the guitar and started playing it, the music didn't come out sounding punk. It was something else.'

1980 Singles # 46 Magazine

Magazine were an altogether remarkable band who paved the way from Punk to Post Punk, towards something more sophisticated and complex, along with the likes of Pil, Wire, Gang of Four and Joy Division. They weren't built for chart success though. Dostoevsky on vinyl was never likely to appeal to a mass audience. This doesn't make this, the stand out single from 1980's The Correct Use of Soap any less splendid. 

Bowie's Books # 57 Michael Chabon - The Wonder Boys

Song of the Day # 2,226 Crispy Ambulance

Factory second-string. Probably best known now for the scene in 24 Hour Party People where their singer is asked to deputise for the chronically ill Ian Curtis at a Joy Division gig in Derby in 1980. Calling themselves Crispy Ambulance was probably not the best idea but like most of the Factory lesser lights they had their moments. Like this for example.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

1980 Singles # 47 John Lennon

It would be churlish of me to do this countdown of singles of 1980 without mention of this man Because this single came out right towards the end of the year just before his cruel and utterly seismic death. Not that I was really even aware of him at the time. I had had a sheltered upbringing musically of ABBA, The Carpenters, The Seekers and Louis Armstrong while Lennon had just emerged again after years on the periphery of music and cultural importance from his years as a house husband with Yoko, helping to bring up Sean.

It's strange, but when his death was announced I didn't really even know who he was. I knew about The Beatles of course but really associated them with McCartney who had never been away and had been central to my years growing up with his cosy and enormous hits and general high profile all the way through the mid to late Seventies.

I remember the younger brother of a friend at school being utterly shell shocked by Lennon's shooting at the time and not really understanding what the fuss was about. The music business certainly woke me up to that after 8th December. Memorials, re-releases, eulogies, tributes, cash ins. It went on for months, well into 1981. I caught up with Lennon properly further on down the line, didn't have my big Beatles phases until many years later. Now I have stacks of their albums piled together in my flat and return intermittently. He's probably the main man in that band for me now.

As for Starting Over, it and Double Fantasy are not my favourites of his. They're laced with sentiment, but you couldn't say that he and Yoko were not entitled to such emotions. The way the song kicks in is pure Fifties Rock and Roll and Lennon's voice an almost comic parody of his first loves Elvis, Fats Domino, and the Big Bopper. The song is as shamelessly nostalgic as anything from the Grease soundtrack. Listening to it now tugs at me much more than it ever did at the time. What a senseless and brutal act those gunshots were. Taking so much away from so many people and giving absolutely nothing in return.

Bowie's Books # 56 Charles White - The Life and Times of Little Richard

Timely really, with Lennon coming up. Little Richard was Bowie's first great musical hero as well as one of Lennon's. Remarkably, he's outlived them both.

Song(s) of the Day # 2,225 Wilsen

Mystery and enigma are wonderful cards for a band to play and Brooklyn trio Wilsen have both in spades if you'll forgive the weak pun. For a while, back in 2017, I was really taken by their debut album I Go Missing In My Sleep which seemed to defy easy categorisation and have a lot more to give than it immediately imparted. Now they're back with their second long player Ruiner and it's a case of promise fulfilled if the couple of plays I've given it  thus far are anything to go by.

If any comparisons were to be made, they might be with fellow Brooklyners Big Thief with whom they share a definite interiority and ethereal yearning. Ruiner is produced by Andrew Sarlo who has also helmed every Big Thief record so far and it shows. Many of the tracks here sound similar in tone to that masterful band without ever aping them. Wilsen forge out a definite identity of their own on the eleven tracks here and the record as a whole is both immersive and deeply impressive.

What the subject matter of their material might be is more difficult to gauge as vocalist Tamsin Wilson's lyrics are generally buried deep in the mix and what the listener can gather is for the most part fragmented and avoids obvious narrative trajectory. This isn't frustrating for a moment and doesn't lessen the impact of the record one bit as the objective of the songs is clearly designed to be impressionistic rather than conventionally coherent.

I'm curious as to how much Ruiner will reward further plays. I strongly suspect it will because my initial listening experience has been intriguing to say the least. Wilsen spin an intriguing web indeed and by not playing their cards all at once should leave listeners wanting for more.

I found myself drawn in deeper track by track here and by the time the record had run its course I was utterly under its spell. If Big Thief do actually have a year away from putting out records which might be a possibility given their remarkably prolific recent streak, Ruiner may well prove the go to record for those suffering withdrawal symptoms. A veritable gem!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Songs About People # 1,077 Glenn Close

Glenn Closer is the actual name of the song but that's close enough in my book.

1980 Singles # 48 Grace Jones

Grace Jones was one year away from her big statement, the Nightclubbing album. But frankly she made loads. Not least this. From her Warm Leatherette album. A cover of an early Chrissie Hynde song. Fabulous promo to boot.

Bowie's Books # 55 Anatole Broyard - Kafka Was The Rage

Song(s) of the Day # 2,224 Califone

I'm always very grateful to the A Pessimist is Never Disappointed blog, listed on the right hand side of my page for introducing me to all kinds of great music that I wouldn't come across otherwise. This, Echo Mine, the new album from Tim Rutili, formerly of Chicago's Red Red Meat, formerly under the moniker Califone is merely the latest example.

It's a layered, textured and resonant record. Experimental, in the traditions of Post and Math Rock, but accessible enough and reminiscent of seeing a great band that you weren't previously aware of in the midnight slot at one of the sadly now defunct All Tomorrow's Parties, alternative music festivals.

Songs don't really follow conventional patterns, but consistently evoke, smoky late night public scenarios. Rutili utilises space and silence to unsettling but impressive effect. I'm not quite sure how often I'll return to this as it's not necessarily an album that made me feel good,  but I was certainly completely absorbed by my first encounter with it.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Album Reviews # 75 The Teardrop Explodes - Wilder

Indulging myself in a nostalgia wave at the minute, as indicated by my 1980 series. Also writing about this, as I saw Julian Cope play a week or so ago on Valentine's Day and he was just terrific. So, back to 1981 and 1982 to take a look at Wilder, their second and final album.

Really, 1980 had been the year that The Teardrops, (short-hand always seemed appropriate), had had their moment and genuinely threatened to break big. With Reward and Treason, both big hits and terrific expressions of what the 45 single could do, and Kilimanjaro an exuberant multicoloured wonder of a debut album.The world seemed to be laid out before them.

By the time they got to Wilder their race was almost run. Not that it's not as good as record as Kilimanjaro. I'd say it's just as good, probably better. But things had moved on, they did incredibly quickly back then. The Teardrops had lost their place in the spotlight. Changed too many band members, taken too many drugs, (it's all documented in the fabulous first part of Cope's memoirs, Head On), and band relationships were utterly  fraying at the edges.

Wilder is an incredible balancing act between the highest highs and the lowest lows, utter hedonism and the deepest melancholy. An almost perfect documentation of a psychedelic drug trip. If Head On is to be believed, and there's no real reason why it should not be, one long psychedelic drug trip was a pretty good description of exactly what being in Teardrop Explodes between 1981 and 1982 was like.

So from the cover shot of an out of focus picture of a bunch of flowers to the eleven tracks therein, (they are all great, not a weak link), Wilder is a case study of young men draining every drop out of early adulthood, because they can. The tunes are fresh and buoyant, Cope's lyrics and singing are at an absolute peak. Perhaps the slightly dated production values, (a Teardrop's flaw, Bunnymen records sound better in this respect forty years later), are the only thing I can hold against it. It was one of the first albums I ever bought, (in 1982 I think), and my copy still sounds good and plays with nary a crackle, despite goodness knows how many plays, a testament to the remarkable durability of vinyl.

If there is a precursor to Wilder's trip it's probably Love's Forever Changes, a masterpiece I didn't discover until a few years later. Cope was never shy about emphasising their inspiration to his writing processes and his mood here definitely echoes Arthur Lee's on that record although he's probably less murderous. He was more grounded I suppose, he makes no bones about what a happy loving family he was brought up in. In fact he never stops going on about it in interviews and his writing, more so than a musician I can think of. It's probably what saved him ultimately from the fallout he was going through here. Mercifully he's still going strong.

Because Cope's genius, and I do think he's a genius, is rooted in childhood. There are two or three moments on here that encapsulate that blessed state; Culture Bunker, Tiny Children and The Great Dominions. One of his great gifts is to appreciate what a sacred realm it is and to be able to map out its sunlit contours with impeccable accuracy. Just listen to the songs I've just mentioned. It's all there.

Wilder had one real hit single on it. Passionate Friend, the first song on Side Two. It shows how the Teardrops were every bit as much a Sixties band as a late Seventies and early Eighties one. It's a three minute warm bath in glorious melody and ba ba harmonies. Also a melodic quote from As Tears Go By in the fade out that is quite deliberate and utterly respectful. It's a blast! Cope was never ashamed to be happy and express his emotions and he lets rip here, in contrast to the raincoat wearing gloomy types he came up with in Liverpool and Manchester. He was always much more about the sun than the rain.

I find it difficult to choose favourite tracks on Wilder. Every song adds a piece to the puzzle, The record is probably just short of forty minutes long and not a second of it is wasted. The merits of the album were not truly recognised at the time.It was released at the end of 1981, too close to the Christmas rush and though it did sell, making the Top 30 in the British charts and eventually being certified Silver it didn't really chime with its times the way Kilimanjaro certainly had.

Because really it's an account of breakdown which was surely what Cope in particular was going through here. His is clearly the main voice here. The Teardrops were never a band in the way that the Bunnymen were, it was largely a full on fight between the two main egos in the band, Cope and keyboard player David Balfe, with Gary Dwyer, Troy Tate and Alan Gill strong supporting players and a cast of lesser ones.

Perhaps Wilder is more appreciated now than it was at the time. I hope so. It has plenty of light and plenty of shade all kinds of profound insight into the strange nature of existence. Great tunes too. What more could you want from a record. It's the Teardrops Heaven Up Here, their Closer, (surely no coincidence that these were the second albums by all three bands). Cope would re-emerge and produce a staggering set of solo albums over the years.  The sessions for their third album were farcical and abortive and though they did produce some decent material, (listen to the Everybody Wants to Shag the Teardrop Explodes album, released after they split), it wasn't really worthy of release and would surely have flopped.This is the Teardrop Explodes epitaph. And what a fine and worthy one it is.

As Cope himself said, what happened to them was surely inevitable. 'The band was never built to last... It was like building a house on scaffolding, on top of a tank moving at three miles an hour. The higher you built it the further removed you are from the reality that it's actually moving and it's going to fall.'

1980 Singles # 49 The Selecter

1980 was very much the year of Two Tone. It had begun its wave in 1979 before but it really crashed to shore the following year. The Selecter put out an absolutely terrific debut album. They were always slightly lesser lights than Specials, Madness or Dexys, (not a Two Tone band but certainly implicated), but that didn't stop them being any less great. I could have posted either this or Missing Words. Missives of empowerment. 

Bowie's Books # 54 Douglas Harding - On Having No Head

Song(s) of the Day # 2,223 Peggy Sue

I Wanna be Your Girl, the opening track of Vices, the new album from Brighton's Peggy Sue is one of the most assured openings to a record I've heard this year. Grounded on guitar riffing that's pure late Velvet Underground and embellished with the kind of wry vocal delivery that Courtney Barnett has been specialising in during recent years, it sets the bar incredibly high for the rest of the album that follows.

Vices doesn't do too badly all things considered. Peggy Sue are relative indie veterans by now, having been putting out records and treading the boards since 2007. Hardly prolific, this is only their fourth album, but certainly consistent, this record delivers on all fronts without ever really breaking through to the spectacular.

The most relevant reference point here seems to be The Breeders. Peggy Sue give us Breeders lite, without the durm und strang but with plenty of melody, charm and layered dual female harmony. Perhaps a little formulaic at times but immensely enjoyable at the same time.

So if you know where they're coming from and where they're likely to go, Peggy Sue remain highly enjoyable company, like a catch up with a good though not great friend who you haven't seen for quite a while. These are people who know who they are and seem more than happy with their lot. Some of the tunes here ride a quite lovely melodic wave for their three or four minute course. Go on, indulge yourself!

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 464 Francoise Hardy

Always my favourite Francoise moment.

Spinning Coin - Hyacinth

Glasgow's Spinning Coin first emerged about five years back with a splendid run of singles and a debut album Permo that sparkled and jangled as if there was no tomorrow. That LP came out in 2017 and they're just making their return with their second  Hyacinth, an indication that they might have been rethinking their approach somewhat during their time away. A cursory listen to the new record suggests strongly that this has indeed been the case.

While Permo was a refreshing and easy listen, it was always pretty clear where they were coming from and what their primary influences were. Postcard Records, to put it briefly, and more succinctly early Orange Juice, Hyacinth is a more sophisticated beast. Although they maintain their initial winsome appeal there is much more going on here. In short, they've matured, in an admirable, impressive and somewhat surprising way.

The songs still jangle and have the same brittle texture that made the band stand out in the first place. But during their sabbatical they have taken care to grow their own skin. While these songs are still evocative of the early eighties independent spirit of Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, Josef K, The Go Betweens  and The Pale Fountains, and later carriers of the torch, June Brides, Pastels and Vaselines there's also a growing confidence and dare I say it, backbone here, and a coherence and intelligence to how the record unwraps its charms song by song that seems to promise that this will prove one of the Independent guitar records of the year.

There's a good deal of transient beauty on display here. The trembling fragility of the delivery of vocalists Jack Mellie, Sean Armstrong and Rachel Taylor hints at hearts that always suspect they're about to be broken by the world. Calling the album after one of the most delicate flowers of all seems like an apt move. Everything here seems aware of the ephemeral nature of being. Spinning Coin. Catch them while their still spinning although Hyacinth is good enough to suggest that they may have some staying power despite all their protestations to the contrary.

1980 Singles # 50 - The Boomtown Rats

Continuing on with a new series following on from yesterday's 1980 posts with a Top 50 countdown of singles from that year. Not all necessarily favourites of mine though the majority are, just trying to give a flavour of what that year was like. Only one song per artist because there was so much going on and the chart placement intended to indicate the value of the song and perhaps a comment on my assessment of the band or artist's significance in the scheme of things.

We start at # 50 with The Boomtown Rats. They had been major chart players with five top five hits in a row over the previous couple of years and a couple of huge Number Ones. Perhaps 1980 showed the beginning of their decline success wise. Never the hippest of bands, they were opportunists at times but they delivered strong tunes and interesting themes and Geldof  was never less than a diverting frontman. Banana Republic came at the end of the year, appropriated loose reggae rhythms and made Number 3. The lyrics are a denunciation of the band's homeland The Republic of Ireland.

Bowie's Books # 53 Don Delillo - White Noise

Song(s) of the Day # 2,222 Sammy Davis Jr.

Writing something on this every day, I tend to make different To Do lists than normal people. Like      ' must listen to more Sammy Davis Jr. to find out more about his work.' So in the last few days I've tried to get beyond the great but overplayed Mr.Bojangles and Candyman. 

So here are three other options I dug up. Willoughby Grove, which I think was originally a Brook Benton song. Next Sweet Gingerbread Man which came from the soundtrack of The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart. Then Baretta's Theme, a quite ludicrous venture into Shaft type Blaxploitation. He also covered the Shaft theme. Davis was pure Vegas showbiz of course. With no lack of ham and cheese. But his back catalogue is highly enjoyable.