Well, we haven’t had a hypothetical mixtape for a while. This one has been sitting around since late last year, but if we call it “March 2008” it doesn’t feel quite so stale.
Bobb Trimble, “Glass Menagerie Fantasies”. Music hunting is a bit like archaeology, or wandering along the beach with a metal detector: you turn up large quantities of useless junk, and very very occasionally a hidden gem. If this really is a lost 1980s masterpiece and not an elaborate hoax (you never can tell these days) you have to wonder where Bobb Trimble went wrong. Putting a record in a cover featuring a photo of a morose (presumably) English young man nursing an electric guitar and a Kalashnikov may not have helped. But if this song is anything to go by, the music inside is gorgeous and brave. I might call it folk’n’Fairlight, which may not be technically accurate but perhaps gets the message across. Kate Bush is not entirely out of the equation. It reminds me a lot of a song by Sally Oldfield which I mentioned in these pages a little while ago.
Nina Miranda and Chris Frank, “Have U Ever”. The title suggests Prince. The music suggests Brazil, but it also contains some nice electronic squiggles underneath the heat haze. A candidate for Adrienne’s 2008 birthday CD.
The Would-Be-Goods, “The Camera Loves Me”. One of my lost seven-inch singles, missing since the horrific and senseless record cull of 1998. On el records, the marque of quality.
Mari Wilson, “Just What I Always Wanted”. Ah, this takes one back to Fitzroy, 1984, the era when beehive hairdos were all the rage, and Brunswick Street comprised a couple of Italian grocery stores, an old-style hardware store, the Black Cat Cafe, Dizzy Spinners (where I bought my first John Coltrane record), Fetish Clothing, and a general sense of inner urban malaise. Gertrude Street you didn’t go along at night; in the daytime, illegal gambling dens and dubious rooming houses didn’t quite reveal themselves (nothing on Gertrude Street opened to the street, at least without a tough-looking guy looming in the doorway). Boy, how that all changed. Mari Wilson exists in a brief moment in time. I suppose it must sound horribly dated nowadays; I don’t think I would risk recommending it to any of my younger acquaintances.
The Special AKA, “Racist Friend”. Eighties in sound and content, like the above, and yet timeless in both. In fact, one of said “younger acquaintances” wandered into my office at work while this was playing, paused, and said “Specials”. I could have hugged him. (I didn’t.)
Billy Preston, “The Same Thing Again”. Billy Preston was the other fifth Beatle. This is a gloriously laconic slow blues with a fine organ solo. We love a good organ solo. Listening to the lyrics always reminds me that Caravan once put out a record called “If I Had To Do It All Over Again I’d Do It All Over You”.
The Merseys, “Sorrow”. I didn’t even know “Sorrow” was a cover. Listening to this, you wonder why David Bowie even bothered: there isn’t much on his version (good as it is) that you don’t get from this. For sure the English did things well in the Sixties.
Marissa Nadler, “Cowboy In The Sand”. As well as putting out one of the better records of the last couple of years, Marissa Nadler keeps her internet friends happy by frequently dispensing demos and one-off bits and pieces that she is happy for you to keep. This, obviously, is her take on Neil Young, and it’s a fine thing, if very different from the original: dreamier; hauntier.
The Sadies, “My Heart Of The Wood”. A particular type of song gets me every time. This is that type of song. It’s not country, it’s not rock’n’roll, but it’s not not either either. We have quiet vocals, strummed guitars, a slide guitar or similar winding its way through it, and lots and lots of echo. I know where I am and I like it here.
Anja Garbarek, “I Won’t Hurt You”. This song, which I first discovered via Dunedin supergroup the Pop Art Toasters, has been covered by so many people that it must be considered something of a standard. I don’t know if this is the definitive version but it is intriguing, a bit mysterious, and very very lovely.
Pelle Carlberg, “Clever Girls Like Clever Boys Much More Than Clever Boys Like Clever Girls”. If there were any justice in the world this would be a summer radio anthem. (Maybe it was; how would I know?) This is jangling pop at its best; the lilt of the bass line, and the trumpet, and the bridge, all point to Belle and Sebastian (there’s even a spoken-word bit in the background towards the end that reminds you of the days when Stuart David was in the band), but hey, you can’t have too much of a good thing.
This time around, the last three tracks are of some length, and are all from the 1970s. The Seventies is a decade that has a reputation for bloated excess. None of these songs contribute to that reputation. They have no fat. Sometimes it just takes 10 or 15 minutes to get your thang across. Introducing:
The Outlaws, “Green Grass and High Tides”. A down-home take on the Chambers Brothers’ “Time Has Come Today”. Or “Hey Joe” taken to its logical extreme (if it has one; even Soft Cell couldn’t break it). Or Crosby Stills Nash & Young if Neil Young had the licence to push their songs as hard as he pushed his own (circa “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”). This is a song to get lost in. Featuring one of the great Seventies guitar solos. Make that two.
Jay Mitchell, “Mustang Sally”. I am quite sure that this is the most remarkable song I heard last year. Unearthed by the estimable Numero Group label, it is from an album called “Cult Cargo: Grand Bahama Goombay”, and is far from the only jaw-droppingly good thing on the album (there is a version of the theme from “The Godfather” that has to be heard to be believed). Herein the funk is in full effect, with a rippling organ running, or meandering, right through it. Props to the drummer, too.
Min Bul, “Champagne Of Course”. If this year is the year of the bass player (or was that last year? Hey, every year is the year of the bass player), then 1970 must have been, too. They didn’t tend to do samples and loops in those days, so dude’s fingers must have been rather sore by the end of this. I feel your pain, fella.