Thursday, 20 December 2012

Best of 2012

okay okay okay, i know. I've neglected you all. What can i say, i've been busy...

Anyway, here are my tracks of 2012, a funny year, definitely not a GREAT year for music, but still, this makes a pretty good playlist.

Friday, 13 July 2012

New Jamz On Friday

Wholly unoriginal, yet rather fun, the second album from Madchester's Milk Maid is out this week. If you're a fan of that pre-grunge / post-punk, thrumming guitar attack mixed up with Chilton-esque chord structures, as perpetuated in the late 80's by the likes of Dinosaur Jr, Teenage Fanclub, Gumball, etc - then, this is for yooooooo.

 Milk Maid – Mostly No

Tame Impala, are ace, this is not conjecture, but hard cold fact. With every release, they manage to outdo themselves, which considering that their last release was the inestimable Innerspeaker, tells you how good the new stuff is sounding already.

Despite the US hipster press trying to force feed us (me?) the idea that Ariel Pink is some kind of post-modern, underground genius, his new track sounds unerringly like something The Lightening Seeds would have released in 1989. Despite that, it's rather lovely 60's guitar pop, fractured through a late- 80's hazy gauze and i'm going to post it here:

Monday, 25 June 2012

Journey into Tyme

Hey you lot, I'd like to welcome myself back to this page after a sustained period of abstinence. There's been two reasons for my relative silence. 1) I've been busy and 2) I've been uniformly uninspired by most of the new music released this year.

However, i like this... a lot

Ty Segall's been dancing around my consciousness for a few years now, but this record has made me sit up and take notice properly. For a cheap comparison (my stock in trade) Segall could be a bit like the new Jack White (at the stage when John Peel proclaimed The White Stripes were "The most exciting thing since Jimi Hendrix.”) A serious underground hype is building up, due to everything he releases is at least interesting if not mostly excellent, coupled with the fact he seems to be releasing a record every month at the moment. Here's one that's out this week:

The first video was a track from the 'Hair' album he recorded with White Fence. White Fence actually being just one man, Tim Presley, who might be better known as being a part of The Strange Boys, who's Be Brave single from a few years ago was a corker. White Fence are right up my street, indulgent, noisy, (impossibly) lo-fi, nuggets-obsessed stoners (i imagine) who swap studio polish for inspiration and end up sounding at times like tracks leaked from Syd Barrett's stay at the institution.


Just to make things even more confusing, bass player for Ty Segall's band, Mikel Cronin brought a rather fine album out himself last year

But it's Segall who the smart money's on busting through to the mainstream in the near future, apparently you lucky people on the other side of the pond currently have the opportunity to see him playing with the (incredible) Thee Oh Sees on tour at the moment, you'd possibly have to be insane not to get there now.

Monday, 26 March 2012

From Here To Eternity

Is there anything more depressing as a music fan than stumbling across the obligatory, every 5 years or so, 'BEST 100 ALBUMS EVER MADE' lists that the UK press (NME, Q etc) foists upon the general public? In this world we have The Fabs (obvs), Stones, Dylan, Zep, Radiohead, Pet Sounds and whoever is deemed to be good generally that week (so 10 years ago The Strokes, 5 years ago The Arctic Monkeys, these days probably Adele) and THAT'S IT.  Barely any woman, very few innovators, hardly anyone not from the UK or the States and almost hardly anybody not white, skinny and holding a guitar. Yes, i know, these lists are merely here to promote debate and ultimately drive people to the website advertising (by 'press' i obviously meant 'web') but as a father, i'm aware that there are young minds out there, who really DO think that (What's The Story)Morning Glory? is a better, more satisfying record than, say, Joni Mitchell's Herjira or Miles Davis' On The Corner.

This revisionism will possibly also mean that my teenage daughter is more likely to stumble across The (horrible, pointless) Libertines, than The (wonderful) Only Ones.

(Ok, so this is basically a long winded and ranting way of writing that i think The Only Ones are much better than the one hit wonder they are credited for and people should check out some of their other songs as they are pretty bloody special and seemed to have disappeared down the back of rock history's sofa. I have also put this last bit in brackets, so i'm not tempted to bore you all with a short bio of who The Only Ones were and go on for a while about heroin addiction and how they were dismissed by the punk press cos their guitarist had been in a prog band and could "actually play" and all the boring stuff that usually gets mentioned when, actually, this is the internet and i don't need to do that kind of thing, and could be posting lots of clips from youtube instead, which is what i will now do.)

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

New Jamz On Wednesday

Some good tunes floating around early 2012. For example, i'm totes having this

 Heard this next one on (the ever reliable) Marc Riley's show on Monday night. Lovin those synths.

 I know almost nothing about Evy Jane, apart from this has the same sense of dislocation and beauty that was evident on Portishead's debut


 Finally, if Panda Bear had come back with something as focused, yet alluring as this with his 2nd record, i would've been much happier.

Feels like the kind of song (like Django Django's latest) that works better coming randomly on the radio than by volition, but it's enjoyable all the same...

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Cantonese Boy

Up until the age of 11, I’d happily inherited pop music from my older sister. Together we’d learn the words (via Disco 45) to all the top 40. Word perfect on Ay Ay Ay Moosey (Modern Romance)? Of course. Every vocal inflection on Eight Day (by proto Gaga Hazel O’Connor)? Oh yes. Perfect imitation of the sax solo on Baker Street - you betcha. This pop training had stood me in good stead in the playground, every Sunday night taping the charts onto my Binatone tape recorder (we didn't have direct recording then, so quite likely, half way through my recording of Night Boat To Cairo you'd hear my mum shouting up to me that my 'tea was ready') meant I was never too far away from recognising a peer's cultural reference. If I was asked who my favourite band was, I might say The Police, I might say The Specials, or even Dexy's, but they changed constantly, well, pretty much every Sunday at 5pm. Then everything changed.

I was round at a friend’s house and we'd sneaked into the front room where his 16 year old brother, was sat with his 'cool' friends, playing a record that sounded like it came from another world. I've heard people talking about their POP 'road to Damascus' moment' - seeing David Bowie leaning on Mick Ronson, or The Rolling Stones on Ready Steady Go, The Pistols swearing at Grundy, well this was mine. To some, the vocalist would sound like he was moaning that the music wasn't really music at all, more a disconcerting collection of chimes, noises and rhythm but to me, it was like a portal opened in the room. I was dumbstruck and yet very, very excited, and I wasn't sure why. The song was 'Ghosts' by Japan and my adolescence had just begun.

  It was almost a year before I bought a record by Japan (my how different things were then, these days I would've digested the whole back catalogue within a week), partly because I was 12 years old and had no ready cash, but also partly because I was sort of scared of them. Ha! Yes. These strange men, in their strange clothes, so unlike the other pop stars on my sister’s walls. Anyway, Christmas 1984 came and one of my presents was Exorcising Ghosts - a (beautifully packaged) compilation album and that evening I took it upstairs and began by playing 'Ghosts', before starting at side 1. During the first play it was a bit like my head was slowly re-arranging itself. This music wasn't going to yield to me; I'd have to come to it. By the third play, I was levitating. Seriously. Mick Karn's sinewy bass, Steve Jansen's non showy tribal percussion, Barbieri's Prophet 5 soundscapes and THAT voice were awakening something inside. Suddenly, 'playtime' at school was slightly more awkward. I'd dyed my hair, I wore a paisley scarf. I wanted to talk about Picasso, Jean Cocteau & Erik Satie (even though I knew sod all about them). I was a loner.

The next 6 years the obsession became silly. Trawling record fairs for vinyl bootlegs(I own over 10 unofficial live Japan bootlegs that cost me over £30 each and I’ve no idea where they are now), writing letters to the Bamboo fanzine on a weekly basis ("NO Mick Karn's best ever bass line was on the b-side to his first solo single Sensitive!!", Rest of the World "Yawn") and carrying the Quiet Life album under my arm as I walked around Blackpool town centre, hoping, praying I might bump into a kindred spirit. However like all teenage obsessions, slowly but surely Sylvian and his merry men began to lose importance to me, to the point where nowadays, if I hear that Sylv is playing live, I shudder at the thought of having to sit through two hours of plinky-plonky noises. But sometimes, when the kids are in bed and the wife's out, I slip Gentleman Take Polaroids on and if I concentrate hard enough I can remember the boy in front of his bedroom mirror trying to lower his voice an octave and sing along to Nightporter.

Monday, 6 February 2012

The Smartest Monkeys

As a newcomer to XTC - where do you start? Well for me it was a handy best of entitled 'Waxworks: Singles 77-82', which I picked up for $4 in San Francisco back in '95. Well, i say a newcomer, not entirely, as a kid, i'd enjoyed their brief run of hits back in the late 70's / early 80's. 'Making Plans For Nigel', 'Senses Working Overtime' & 'Love On A Farmboys Wages' all struck a chord, but there never seemed a reason to delve further until that CD winked its eye at me.

The first thing to strike me was Andy Partridge's hiccuping, overtly mannered vocals. Marmite to the listener for sure, but as somebody who grew up loving David Sylvian and then Bryan Ferry, not a problem. 

After i left San Fran our next stop was New Orleans where i managed to pick up the rather wonderful, Todd Rundgren produced 'Skylarking' album ($3!), and an obsession started to form.

Skylarking was the peak of XTC's relevance in rock, especially in the states where 'Dear God', initially a flipside to 'Grass' was a big 'smash'. Almost unbearably fussy at times, the album is regarded by critics as XTC's peak, but it wasn't - 'English Settlement' was. Example 1

English Settlement was, like The Kinks 'Something Else' two decades earlier, a succinct yet rather baffling retreatment from the arena of USA baiting POWER POP, back into a parochial, lyrically observant and ornate take on English psychedelia (despite the restless nods to world music). And like The Kinks, what was America's loss, was music's gain. They could still cut it live too Example 2

Back in 1999 XTC enjoyed a brief renaissance, critically at least due to 2 albums (Apple Venus volumes 1 & 2), by this stage, they'd been at it for 20 years, but were still streets ahead of most of their contemporaries. Volume 1 was released the same year as Jim O'Rourke's seminal Eureka, both albums had staggering opening tracks:

I could write for ages about loads of other songs and albums they made, or could've easily written a post about their fantastic mid-80's alter-ego The Dukes Of Statosphear (where along with producer john Leckie they attempted to mimic every ace song on the Nuggets LP), could've bored you all for ages demonstrating all the bands who owe XTC a living (stand up Blur, Vampire Weekend & Field Music for starters) but maybe best you go and listen to them at your leisure instead.