Friday, June 30, 2023

What Happened to the C86 Kids? # 16 The Servants


It Starts With a Birthstone - Albums For June


It Starts With a Birthstone - Songs For June


Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 343 Willie Nelson - Stardust


Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 244 Air - Moon Safari


Joanna Sternberg - I've Got Me


A truly wonderful artist working in a specific New York tradition who I've been monitoring and lauding on here for a while. Joanna Sternberg, a Folk musician in the best and simplest sense, working primarily with piano and acoustic guitar.

I've Got Me is her second album, following Then I Try Some More, the magnificent debut which I went on and on and on about in 2019. It's housed in another beautifully drawn sleeve, Joanna's own work as are the animated illustrations for individual songs which I've posted here. Truly a personalised statement of resonance, resilience and depth. All invitations to a whole inner world of pain, and determination to maintain a central kernel of innocence and wonder in the face of relentless attack from the wicked and mendacious agents of the evil empire. The Man!

Sternberg's songs are reminiscent of the infantilism of Jeffrey Lewis and Tanya Dawson in terms of their basic minimalism, but there's a greater depth, musicianship and sophistication at work here I'd say. Her true antecedents I think is the Greenwich Village Folk scene of the sixties, which produced Fred Neil, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Karen Dalton, the seeds of The Lovin Spoonful, Byrds, Mamas & Papas. And erm... Bob Dylan .This bunch produced a few decent tunes.

Sternberg also owes a considerable debt to Carol King and that's not a bad talent to be in hock to. The songs here come across as nursery rhymes, gospel tunes, advertising jingles, whatever you choose. They're the great American Songbook. Oz. Whatever you want. This record is really as good as that.

Sternberg is not shamed by being placed among such exalted company. She's so gifted that she belongs here. I've Got Me is a record you've heard before but will want to hear again. The fact that it has just received an 8.6 review on Pitchfork is an indication that her star is well and truly on the rise. Long may it continue to do so. 

Song(s) of the Day # 3,435 Grian Chatten


The rise and rise of Dublin Punksters Fontaines D.C. has been one of the more interesting stories of recent years. Chippy, chip on shoulder characters by instinct they've put out consistently interesting and invigorating records and perhaps are one of the few bands I can think of where the tag Post Punk actually seems apt given that they genuinely seem fueled by an essential restlessness an inability to scratch an existential itch within. They owe as much of a debt to Samuel Becket and Brendan Behan as they do to The Fall or The Pop Group.

The fact that vocalist Grian Chatten has chosen to pit out a solo album Chaos For The Fly at this point gives the listener the sense that ne and they might be at some kind of an impasse.right now. The record does not sound like a Fontaines record except for fact that he's one of the distinctive vocalists around right now and he's absolutely at the heart of this. And his heart is by no means a happy one. These are not reasons to be cheerful.

Chatten's voice is a marmite one, meaning it will not be for everyone and remains so here. It's the most consistent factor with what we've come to expect of him on here. I'm still not quite sure what I think of it. He's always slightly out of tune. He cannot hit a note in the conventional sense in the tradition of John Lydon, Ian Curtis and David Thomas. This is all quite deliberate and gives him a consistently rebellious and anti-authoritarian air. He doesn't wish to come to the party. He's quite happy on the margins. Standing on the corner, where he is. Musically he's working on a much less clattered palate than we're used to from his Fontaine's work. These songs aren't agitprop they're declarations of the state of play in his soul right now.

If that sounds a bit much then that's what you get with Chatten and Fountaines D.C. They're incessantly ambitious and refuse to be boxed or constrained in any way. The fact that Chatten has chosen to pause at this point to release this more meditative collection is testament, if testament is still needed at this poin,t to that. It's another powerful statement and I suspect one that will prove to be a grower.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Japanese House


Turning Japanese, I think I'm turning Japanese I really think so. The Vapors, Turning Japanese. One of those fabulous 7 inch singles of my teenage years that the people responsible for Radio playlisting  latched onto with fanatical glee and the records wormed their way permanently into the national psyche as a result

What Happened to the C86 Kids? # 15 Half Man, Half Biscuit


Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 342 Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians


Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 245 Spiritualised - Ladies & Gentlemen We Are All Floating in Space


Song(s) of the Day # 3,434 Cable Ties


Back from Sydney to Melbourne. A howl into the void. We've heard this before. Kristen Hersh, Kat Bjelland, Corin Tucker, Kathleen Hanna. 

Jenny McKenchie, lead yeller for indie trio Cable Ties served her apprenticeship at this particular school of thought. She may also have a few AC/DC records in her collection. She is Australian after all.

It's an interesting mix. The band's latest album All Her Plans touches on all the reference points I've just mentioned, lights a fire, warms a large pot on it, stirs its ingredients in and heats to a boil.  

I think I heard the AC/DC too immediately on first listen and switched off. There probably isn't a band I dislike quite as much as AC/DC. But I'm glad I came back to this. I still have plenty of time for Kristen, Kat, Corin and Kathleen and this is where the heart of All Her Plans lies. It's a spirited, full throated and intensely driven record. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

What Happened to the C86 Kids? # 14 Miaow


Super Bad - 24 Original Hits - 24 Original Stars # 22 Curtis Mayfield


Bonnie Doon - Let There Be Music


I like having been around as It Starts for some time now. It gives me a reference point, a place to back to, by accessing the Search this Blog facility on this page when a record comes out and the name of the artist rings a bell, leading me to go back to see what I've said about them before.

I've followed Detroit's albums down the years. From their early days as Pavement, Silver Jews, Dean Wareham slacker types in albums one and two in 2017 and '18. Since then there's been an indecent gap to album three Let There Be Music, (aren't these things generally something to do with COVID), and it's a great pleasure to find it to be the one that finds them fully comfortable within their own skin rather than immediately reminding you of someone else.

It's a very much at ease with itself record. Indie strum. If it has a classic antecedent album that album is probably Loaded but it doesn't sound like The Velvet Underground. It sounds like Bonnie Doon. And that sounds fine. It's not an album that uproots trees. But if every record did we wouldn't have any trees.

Song(s) of the Day # 3,433 Blood Ceremony


When I was seventeen I was invited round to an all night Dungeons & Dragons session around the corner from where I lived in Teddington, hosted by Tom a lanky, geeky schoolfriend of mine. It was by turns one of the most preposterous and bewildering experiences of my life. Still. Almost forty years on.

Multi sided die. Much discussion and dispute about what superpowers elves had. A hen clucking outside the kitchen window. Tom's mother kept hens. The whole experience was ludicrous and certainly ensured that I would not be a games player for the rest of my life. My own mother told me later that the idea of her dear son heading off into the night to play Dungeons & Dragons inspired no little dread in her heart. She need not have worried. From its opening moments it was not for me. I was many things. But I did not believe in elves.

Meanwhile my fledgling record collection was beginning to flourish and grow, fueled by a mind-numbingly boring Saturday job in the  High Street's Home & Ware department. Most of the money I earned there went on records. By the likes of The Doors, Neil Young and Aztec Camera.

Certainly not on records like this. The Old Ways Remain, the latest album from Toronto's Psych Monsters Blood Ceremony. Blood Ceremony, it appears immediately, were reared on or possibly by elves and 1972 remains their holy grain. The point of origin of their own record collections and obsessions. I imagine bongs feature somewhere.

So you get labyrinthine guitar and organ solos . Thundering drums. Lots and lots and lots of flute, possibly played by a pixie standing on one foot. A female siren, schooled on Grace Slick, Mariska Veres and Annisette Koppel, (look them up). Nonsense really. I quite enjoyed the record but that doesn't mean I'm off to buy a Jethro Tull album or investigate the possibility of joining an online Dungeons & Dragons group any time soon. Your mind is pretty much set at 17.

Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 341 Kraftwerk - The Man-Machine


Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 246 Swans - To Be Kind


Monday, June 26, 2023

What Happened to the C86 Kids? # 12 Shop Assistants


Super Bad - 24 Original Hits - 24 Original Stars # 20 Harold Melvyn & the Bluenotes


Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 339 Pere Ubu - The Modern Dance


Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 248 New Order - Power, Order & Lies


Joanna Samuels - Bystander


Joanna Samuels has made some impression on me with her previous records. Pretty much a signed up member of the New Laurel Canyon set; Bonny Light Horseman, Cassandra Jenkins, Waxahatchee. Those people. Her second solo venture Bystander, testifies to the value of taking your time over things. Both as a producer of art and as an appreciator of it.

Like the best records, (and striptease artists), it takes a while for it to unfurl its veils. It wasn't until the third or fourth play for me that I realised that it wasn't an uneven record as I'd first thought,  but a very finely wrought one, though you definitely need to spend time with it to gain its acquaintance and make a worthwhile judgement. Like a person you've known for a while and suddenly surprise yourself by acknowledging to yourself that you've been in love with for quite some time without realising it.

On first play it's immediately evident that this is record containing a number of fine, arresting lines. But it takes a while to fully appreciate the nuances of songs that sound on first play commonplace and ordinary but are actually anything but. As a result I've given this the best of a week of plays to allow it to sink into me fully before finally putting pen to paper so to speak.

Bystander is worth the effort. There's nothing outstanding about Samuel's voice, or the arrangements here, but there's something quite exceptional about her brain and talent though this may take some work on the listener's part. But I like these kind of records. The ones that demand engagement.

Initially second track Golden Gate is the stand out tune and it certainly has a centrifugal emotional tug each time you play it. Other tracks need more love and attention but soon the whole thing falls into place and reveals itself a keeper. This is some kind of fantastic and Samuels is some talent, though as I've said throughout this review, it may take a degree of application for this to sink home fully. Some things need to take time. 

Song(s) of the Day # 3,431 Squitch


Boston's Squitch's fourth album Tumbledown Mountain seems most immediately in line with Kim Deal's way of doing things. Melodic, vaguely pained but winding atmospherics. I'm not complaining. 

 Tumbledown Mountain is a series of paths up to the summit and back to bass camp. In addition to Pixies and Breeders they brought sister band's Throwing Musies' dense undergrowth to mind. 

While it's not easy to escape these instant connections, Squitch do what they do exceptionally. Their guitar explorations are never less than diverting and this is a record that anyone who's ever found themselves in an All Tomorrow's audience

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Songs About People # 1,368 Phil Spector


                        One from Joanna Samuel's outstanding new record, which I'll review tomorrow.

What Happened to the C86 Kids? # 11 Age of Chance


Super Bad - 24 Original Hits - 24 Original Stars # 19 Brenda & The Tabulations


Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 338 Buzzcocks - Another Music in a Different Kitchen


Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 249 Gorillaz - Plastic Beach


Jenny Lewis - Joy'All


Psycho, the opening track of Jenny Lewis' latest record sounds as if it has but one mission in mind. To resuscitate and relive Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks glory days on Fleetwood Mac, Rumours and Tusk. I've nothing against this in principle. I like this version of Fleetwood Mac as much as the next man. But I hardly think of it as my Father, Son and Holy Ghost as some clearly do.

Fortunately the rest of Joy'All proves a lot more versatile, and interesting dish than that. Lewis is an MOR ironist, canny enough to get on the radio, but also sufficiently talented to make you listen to the lyrics too.

Like Donny and Marie back in the day she's a little bit Country and a little bit Rock & Roll. She looks like she'd be comfortable in a stetson and hitching her blouse and tying a knot in it revealing her navel, like Daisy use to on a sunny day in Dukes of Hazard.

In short Jenny seems like a sassy lady, and she's wonderful company for half an hour. Not a record that reinvents the wheel.frankly. But records like that can be rather tiresome. Why do people always want to reinvent the wheel all the time anyway. It's a rather remarkable invention which sometimes works very well just as it is..

Song of the Day # 3,430 CS Cleaners


Out of Brooklyn. One of those urgent, itch they can't scratch Post Punk bands. A five track EP called Droloman which is not happy with the state of the world and means for you to know it.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

What Happened to the C86 Kids? # 10 The Pastels


Super Bad - 24 Original Hits - 24 Original Stars # 18 The Intruders


Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 250 David Bowie - Heroes


Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 337 Nick Lowe - City of Cool


Queens of the Stone Age - Times New Roman.


Queens of the Stone Age start from a place and speak a language that I'm not particularly conversant in. That of Heavy Rock and Metal. This is abundantly clear from Obscenery, the opening track of their latest album In Times New Roman.

The fact that I'm not fluent in this tongue, the place where guitars go eek, mean I had an in-built resistance to much of this record. Soundgarden's Superunknown is the only record of this stripe that I've ever truly embraced over the course of my lifetime. In Times New by no means in the same class as Superunknown. Very few records are,

This is a perfectly respectable beast. A constant churning factory of riffs that seem to me to amount to the perfect soundtrack to a spot of in-depth housecleaning. The fact that it rarely if ever departs from this script made it a slightly grueling listen for me as after a while given the nature if my tastes. Others will feast on it.

Song(s) of the Day # 3,429 m.ward


It was very nice to catch up with my old mate Tim on Monday when we met up in a couple of pubs in Soho for a few jars and a good chat about the state of things everywhere. Tim and I first met in Riga, Latvia, almost 20 years ago,  when we taught a teacher training course together and got on immediately. It's always great to meet up and talk for a few hours about Politics, Football and Music. Always lots of Music.

In some respects we have similar tastes. Jazz, all the fabulous invention and creativity that Punk gave birth to, African Music, the Velvet Underground, Bowie and Eno, Talking Heads, Sixties stuff. But there's one key difference and Tim hit the nail on the head on the head during our discussion on Monday in one simple sentence: 'I don't really like Folk stuff. Singer songwriters.' 

That explains it. So he's not really interested in R.E.M. which was my great Road to Damascus experience at 18, even though we both love The Bunnymen. I do love Folk stuff. Singer Songwriters. It accounts for a good quarter of my music collection and there are real cornerstones of my taste there; Dylan, Van, Nick Drake, Fairport, Kate, R.E.M. They all draw largely on the well of Folk.

So does Portland, Oregon's M.Ward. He's back there with his bucket and rope on latest album Supernatural Thing.' M, has been doing this for a while. A quarter of a century or more, so it's fair enough to call him a master. A craftsman, working on the wheel. You may know his work though the moniker he's chosen for himself almost invites anonymity.

Anyhow, the record is an act of measured love,. Like a couple who've been married for a couple of decades renewing their vows in the sheets. It's an eclectic album that draws on the talents of a number of friends and collaborators; First Aid Kit, Neko Case, Shovels & Rope, Jim James. Songs go to different places but never stray far from the well.

It's laid back and middle aged but I'm middle aged myself and aspire to being laid back whenever I can. I liked the record a lot and will be back. Quite often I suspect.

Friday, June 23, 2023

What Happened to the C86 Kids? # 9 A Witness


Super Bad - 24 Original Hits - 24 Original Stars # 17 Aretha Franklin


Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 336 The Adverts - Crossing the Red City With The Adverts


Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 251 Kendrick Lamar - Damn


Sigur Ros - ATTA


In 1999, according to The Best Albums Ever Made site, which is a useful reference point for such things, Sigur Ros put out the best record of the year as we stretched out into the void. I didn't think it a very good year for music. My own favourite album that year was Travis's The Man Who, which probably speaks volumes. I don't care. I stand by that album.

The Icelandic bands new record ATTA, is not unlike Agaetis Byrhun the album that made such waves for them all those years ago. They do what they do and you either find it spectral and awe inspiring, immerse yourself in wonder like you're having a long hot fragrant bath, with lit candles placed judiciously around the tub and steam rising. Or else you're left slightly cold and find yourself wondering what the fuss is all about,.

I'm firmly in the latter camp. sadly. I wish I liked it more. But it all felt distinctly New Age to me and frankly rather dated.  Ladies and gentleman we are truly floating in space. Again. At a certain point I wondered whether I would enjoy it more if I were on drugs. I'm far too old for all that nonsense now, Seven.

Song(s) of the Day # 3,428 Geese


From the off young New York band Geese's second album 3D Country is a rather odd listening experience. For one reason mainly.

On the surface it's rather conventional. I'd describe it as a stew, because every track is so cluttered with ingredients from Rock's past.  On the surface they're not unlike Stillwater, the fictional band from Almost Famous transported 50 years down the line.

Geese want it all. They have the chops. The Rock & Roll, the Soul, The Gospel, the leather trousers. There's very little space or reflection on show here. It's an incredibly cluttered record. It's The Strokes twenty years on but with their sights set on Led Zep, The Stones and Bad Company rather than Television, The Velvet Underground and CBGB's..

Geese's unusual element is the voice of lead singer Cameron Winter. He's like a contestant on Stars in their Eyes, that weird impressionist programme they used to broadcast on Saturday nights on British TV.

But Cameron doesn't really fit the bill as much as he tries. In the same as Eddie Vedder didn't always. He's too much in awe of his heroes and as a result his turbo powered throat emissions verge on comic ventriloquism for much of the record. They're frequently rather unintentionally funny frankly. This is a self-consciously ironic record, but because of their youth they're not always completely on top of the jokes they make.

Still, this will do very well. The Geese truly take flight. Watch them go. This is a very 2023 record. I commend the band and the record's ambition even though I find it all slightly bewildering.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Jenny O - Spectra


Jenny O. is an artistically inclined singer songwriter based in Los Angeles. Her latest record, Spectra, her fourth in total, sounds immediately as if LA is where it was made.

It reminded me of the kind of artist that might have featured in Robert Altman's wonderful Short Cuts, a mash up of Raymond Carver short stories. Possibly a highly strung one, but also highly gifted and impossibly attractive, who, in terms of the art she produces, might operate in the same general ball park as Jackson Pollock. Perhaps I'm being flighty, but it's all there for me.

The opening track Pleasure in Function sounds uncannily like Lily Allen's The Fear in terms of its emotional and melodic arc. Not that I mind that a bit, because as far as ginormous Pop smashes go, that's a pretty good one.

From there it veers off in different directions for the course of the album. Jenny is clearlynot willing to be pigeonholed, although it's fair to say that most of her songs are primarily Pop tunes although they co-opt Psychedelic and New Wave tropes as required.

It's an alluring record although whether its hooks and melodies are distinctive enough to make it a true big hitter remains to be seen. For the time being I'm sufficiently impressed to give it 8.

What Happened to the C86 Kids? # 8 Bog Shed


                                                      Bog Shed. That most ludicrous of bands.

Super Bad - 24 Original Hits - 24 Original Stars # 16 Timmy Thomas


The Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 335 Gerry Rafferty - City To City


Song(s) of the Day # 3,427 Creep Show


What John Grant does on his holidays. He camps it up. And why not? He does this better than anybody else I know. 

He's working together with the dark electro band Wrangler for the second album as Creep Show here. They're synthy in the extreme. Cabaret Voltaire if they'd set their sights on the charts rather than on Pop cool.

Anybody who's ever enjoyed a Grant record will revel in this. He brings something that's totally his own to the table every time . Another fine record.

Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 252 The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out


Wednesday, June 21, 2023

What Happened to the C86 Kids? # 7 Stump


The rather remarkable Stump.

Song (s) of the Day # 3,426 Deer Tick


Good ole' boys out of Rhode Island though you'd imagine, Memphis, Tennessee. They let you know exactly what's on their minds from the opening moments of latest record Emotional Tracts.

It's all good time Countrified Rock & Roll. If bands like this were a relay team they'd be bringing the baton home once The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Long Ryders and Jason & the Scorchers had done the necessary spadework in the opening legs.

Deer Tick are not shamed by being bracketed in such exalted company. Far from it. They're very good at what they do. This is seamless stuff. 

Super Bad - 24 Original Hits - 24 Original Stars # 15 Cymande - The Message


The Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 334 Townes Van Zandt - Live at the Old Quarter


Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 253 The Band - The Band


Monday, June 19, 2023

What Happened to the C86 Kids? # 5 The Bodines


Super Bad - 24 Original Hits - 24 Original Stars # 14 Marvin Gaye


The Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 332 Roberta Flack - Blue Lights in the Basement


Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 252 Beck - Odelay


Song of the Day # 3,424 La Securite


Montreal's La Securite have New Wave pioneers Marth & The Muffins in their veins and DNA. Their jobs are very boring, they are office clerks. 

On debut album Stay Safe, they set the controls to the heart of... 1980. This is an utterly retro album, What you get here is that jerky electro impulse of the Muffins first and foremost but also Hazel O'Connot, Visage, Landscape, DEVO, Bowie's Scary Monster, Numan, The Passions and so and so forth.

La Securite do this all impeccably. The record is urgent, robotic and in its quiet, (well actually, very loud), way) it's fab, triff and enormous fun. I loved it. Iy reminds me of first time round whicgh I never mind.. 

Sunday, June 18, 2023