Saturday, June 24, 2017

Song of the day (2)

"Another Day In The Sun", by The Moffs.

While digging through the Compactus looking for songs fitting the theme of "days" (tomorrow on The O-Zone), I stumbled upon a forgotten nugget from a forgotten (but not entirely -- see below) Australian band from the latter half of the 1980s -- a place and time where giants walked upon the land. Feedtime. The Cannanes. The Lime Spiders. The Widdershins. Beasts of Bourbon. The Cosmic Psychos. Died Pretty. The Apartments. The Eastern Dark. And this is probably only just scratching the surface.

While a lot of the above drew on the sounds of underground pop music, garage punk, so-called "psychobilly" and the like, The Moffs, at least on this song, seem from this distance to have been drawing more from the well of dreampop/shoegaze and the paisley underground. If these terms mean nothing to you, you might, nevertheless, find this song a joy to listen to.

And if it whets your whistle, there is much more goodness to be found on these two excellent collections. Pin your ears back.

Bonus beats:

If you are of the younger generation, this cover version by contemporary pop pickers Jagwar Ma (with Dreems; who teaches these kids to spell?) might be more to your fancy.

Song of the day (1)

"Conversation Piece", by The Chills.

And speaking (we were, weren't we?) of the beloved Dunedin sound, hands up if you knew that at the start of this year The Chills released, seemingly only as a promo single, a cover of a very old David Bowie B-side?

One would infer that the intention was to mark the anniversary of Bowie's passing. (One would also have to say that all of those memes about Bowie having been all that was holding the fabric of western society together would appear to have been proven correct.) In any event, even if it was intended as in the spirit of Bowie's occasional early "novelty" singles, it turns out to be a moving, and powerful, tribute to the man. The fragility in Martin's voice, e.g. when he sings "scattered on the floor", is hard to listen to. From one national treasure to another.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Song of the day

"As Does The Sun", by Look Blue Go Purple.

Speaking of the beloved Dunedin Sound, there has never been a better time to note the chronically underrated contribution to same of Look Blue Go Purple, given that Flying Nun has just released an extensive compilation CD, entitled, cleverly, "Still Bewitched" ("Bewitched" being the name of their first record), comprising the entirety of their three EPs (which, when they drag me off to the nursing home, will be among the last things that I discard, and even then I will make damn sure they go to a good and appreciative home) plus a delicious live cover of "Codine" and a selection of live but unrecorded originals (note, especially, a song called "Eyes Are The Door") which are, as might be expected, pretty raw in terms of sound, but as songs complete in and of themselves, such that what we really need is a LBGP cover band (or maybe the girls themselves?) to record them properly and, if karma is an actual thing, perhaps give them the hit single they almost but never quite had.

(That may be the longest sentence I have ever attempted. Kids, don't try this at home.)

I have blogged a couple of their songs before, but I don't think I have yet given you this one. As good and all as "Cactus Cat" and "Circumspect Penelope" are, at a certain time of year and a certain time of day, in certain weather conditions, I am inclined to think this is the pick of them all. (To wit: just before the winter solstice, as it darkens, on one of those days when the sun never really comes out. An open fire is desirable but not essential. I have never been to Dunedin but those are the kind of conditions I imagine these songs being conceived in.)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Song of the day

"Party", by Aldous Harding.

As of today, this is the most breathtaking song I have heard. I shouldn't say "ever". Possibly ever. The clip below shows her performing it live in the studio for NZ television. It misses the multitracked vocals of the album version, which are what really push the song (and the listener) over the edge. But it still captures something that, by rights, should be impossible to capture.

And I know that too much water has flowed under too many bridges for me to still be looking for traces of the beloved Dunedin sound in records coming from New Zealand, but maybe, just maybe, if you close your eyes and listen really, really hard to the album version (which I would urge you to do), there is something here, even if it is only in the piano towards the end of the song, that might remind you of Peter Jefferies.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Song of the day

"Bill Is Dead", by The Fall.

The bad thing about being me is that I have been compelled, against my better judgment, to spend way too much time observing, to the point of obsession, the unfolding spectacle/tragedy of the president of the United States of America.

The good thing about being me is that over the past week I have been able to veer between (again, most likely against my better judgment) yet another trip down the Grateful Dead rabbit hole (a series of May 1977 shows that have just been officially released for the first time) and a trip down a very different rabbit hole, and one which I haven't descended for some time, that of Mancunian institution The Fall.

It was only two weeks after these particular Grateful Dead shows that The Fall played their first gig. And yet to judge by the mellow, laid-back nature of this particular iteration of the Dead ("Dark Star" would seem to have been retired; there is little if any sign of space noodling) (actually, the one noticeable gesture towards modernity is the extended "Dancing In The Street" that closes off the first set of the fabled 8 May show at Cornell, which most likely would not have existed in this particular form had it not been for the advent of [sudden intake of breath] disco; although the observation I read that it leaves for, ahem, dead everything on the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack is, surely, rather wide of the mark), the thing called Punk Rock hadn't yet (if it ever did) invaded personal Dead space. (One interesting discovery, or realisation, that my sojourns into the dark realms of Grateful Dead have led me to, however, is that there is quite a bit of Dead in Television's "Marquee Moon". I feel I am a better person for being able to notice this. I could also be wrong about both of those statements.)

As has happened each time I dive headlong back into the land of the Dead, after a few days random songs of theirs start keeping me awake at night. It was with some relief (and exhaustion), then, that I stumbled upon The Quietus's recent survey of personal-favourite Fall songs, produced to celebrate Mark E Smith's sixtieth birthday. Aside from the rather unflattering (but then is there any other kind?) photo of The Man Himself, it is an excellent piece, with a fine selection of songs (I can't, off the top of my head, think of any that are missing -- [brief pause] -- actually that's not true at all) and some perspicacious observations about them and/or personal reminiscences, the latter of which are frequently what make these kinds of thing succeed or fail.

The songs are listed alphabetically, and I recommend going through the list from "Before The Moon Falls" to "Words Of Expectation" in the order presented. Why? Because it demonstrates an unexpected unity of purpose for a band that has existed for forty years, seen innumerable lineups, and been through good times and bad. Every non-casual listener would have a sense of their favourite eras and also of the years that they would rather disown. This selection, in this sequence, will happily debunk all such ideas. Myself, I switched off between the end of the eighties and the end of the aughts, during which time other things got in the way: relationship; "career" (ho ho); children. So, when I returned to The Fall fold, I felt I had missed way too many records (and had heard way too many tales of woe) to ever catch up, leaving me with a 20-year black hole that this article has, in a stroke, chastised me for ignoring. (In fact, I intend burning myself a "wilderness years" CD comprised solely of the selections from this era that appear here.)

Everything here contains that unbottleable Fall magic, in one way or another, but the song that stands out at this moment is "Bill Is Dead", from "Extricate" (which came out not long after I jumped off the train). It is, and I can't believe this word belongs anywhere near a Fall song, gorgeous. In fact, it is such an atypical Fall song that, this being The Fall, it is actually a typical Fall song. (If you have read this far, you will know what I mean.)

But wait, there's more.

Philip Harrison's write-up of "Garden" makes reference to Hacienda footage of that song from 1984. I am now going to force you to sit down for the ten minutes it takes to watch this through. (Full screen, if you can. I don't know why it's better, it just is.) It reveals one thing that Jerry Garcia and Mark E Smith both recognised: the power of a two-drumkit lineup. It is also a rare example of an already great song that pushes itself to be even greater. (Which, to belabour the point, is also the reason people keep diving head-first into three-hour-long tapes of Grateful Dead shows.) (Now, about all those live Fall records ...)

And, because I can't help myself, the greatest Fall video ever. Maybe the greatest music video ever.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Song of the day

"Daylight", by The Pattern Forms.
The Pattern Forms is Jon Brooks, of The Advisory Circle (and one of the masterminds of the Ghost Box label), and two dudes from The Friendly Fires.

Ghost Box have made an art form out of burying personality under layers of what tends to be called "hauntology" but what breaks down as overdosing on British children's television shows of the sixties and seventies, "The Wicker Man", and old-school BBC public service announcements, and turning all of this (and more) into pieces of music. What they haven't done too much of is actual, honest to goodness songcraft. (There are fleeting glimpses of this across their two seven-inch-single series, but still largely obscured by the concept.) 

(I am making this sound like negative criticism. Actually, it isn't. They do what they do consistently brilliantly.)

The Pattern Forms come to us still dressed up in inverted commas, but here it's the sound of mid-80s British music, in all of its high-production-values majesty. (Think Tears For Fears, Talk Talk, and any number of records the product of expensive studio time with Fairlights, and go on from there.) And, in "Daylight", they have come up with an honest to goodness pop song, with heart and soul, and complete with chorus that, if you were there the first time around, will bring literal tears to your eyes. You have been warned.

First Impressions

So, like everybody else around here, I have listened to the two new LCD Soundsystem songs.

If I am good at anything, it is NOT judging records on the strength of one listen. Sometimes, even 10 (or even 100) is not enough. Often enough, down the track I can no longer remember what I first thought. Here, then, for my own future reference, are those first thoughts.

"Call The Police".

All I've got for this, really, is a pull quote. You want it, it's yours.

"I don't mind that James Murphy got the band back together. It's just a shame that the band was U2."

"American Dream".

Having blown the entire budget on "Call The Police", LCD find themselves stuck with some sick (NOT in the sense of "fully") OMD synths circa 1980, and have some fun doing what they do best: slapping down something that sounds remotely like a song with what gives the impression of minimal effort or pre-planning but, knowing James Murphy, was no doubt quite the opposite. "An unlikely hit."

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Song of the day

"Open Soul", by Tomorrow's People.

Floating Points is probably the most significant musical discovery I have made over the past 18 months. I don't know precisely what it is, but everything he turns out sounds to me like some sort of perfection. But not satisfied with making his own particular musical magic, Mr Points has seen fit to reissue what would appear to be a pretty obscure 1976 soul-disco album from some otherwise-unknown Chicago band of (literally) brothers.

I can't speak for side one of said album, but this song, which comprises the entirety of side two, is twenty minutes of the best kind of seventies insanity. Nothing stays in the one place for long except the rhythm, which is relentless. Give that bass player a medal. And the drummer. And the rhythm guitarist. Oh, and let's not forget whoever provided the vamping electric piano, which is all over everything. And everything, as Radiohead once sung, is in its right place. I don't know if Floating Points established his own label solely to be able to release this monster jam, but I couldn't blame him if that turned out to be the case.

It's a four-day weekend, so you have time to listen to this.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Song of the day

"Sunspots", by Julian Cope.

In those long lost days of 1984, following the dissolution of his band The Teardrop Explodes, but before he became something of a latter-day druid, world expert on all things Krautrock and Japrock, creator of heavily psychotropic- and/or magick(sic)-influenced multi-disc concept records, published author, archaeologist, and possibly much else besides, Julian Cope released two brilliant and still, I think, criminally overlooked albums of finely crafted, inventive yet earworm-heavy psychedelia-tinged pop songs, "World Shut Your Mouth" and "Fried". Cope, I think, had the idea that he wanted to be a star, and after these two albums failed he took a bit of time off, returned with a larger budget and with songs containing bigger (and louder) hooks, but stardom yet eluded him. In the traditional narrative of the damaged rock musician, that would be the point at which he fell off the edge of the world as most people know it, but looking at the series of photos adorning "Fried", with a seemingly naked Cope looking fairly comfortable and relaxed under a tortoise shell, one suspects that by 1984 he was, just possibly, already occupying a space slightly out of phase with that occupied by the rest of us. Looking at the vastness of his body of work, it doesn't seem to have held him back. And "Sunspots", which popped, unbidden, into my head this morning, and which I am, as a human being, ashamed to say climbed no higher than number 76 on the UK singles chart, is about as good as it gets.