Sunday, August 31, 2008

... and forget about everything

I reach once more into Darren’s MP3 lucky dip and pull out:

"Baker Street", by Gerry Rafferty, a song which immediately joins the list of the fifty most important songs in my life. (What are we up to now, eight? I have in fact added one or two more, and shall provide an updated list in due course.) "Baker Street" stood out for not being anything like the songs I was listening to then: it was quiet, contemplative, melancholy (an emotion that has tremendous pull for me now, but that I didn’t then know or understand). For that reason I was always a little bit uncomfortable with the way it made me feel. I was afraid that I was being sucked into liking something that really belonged in the Enemy Camp. Now, of course, I know that there is no Enemy Camp (and I must acknowledge Darren as a source of that realisation, along with Adrienne). This is simply one of the great pop songs: like so many others that have stood the test of time, its strength, I think, is that it stands to one side of what was happening at the time (or, even, at any other time: cf "Wuthering Heights", perhaps, or "O Superman").

I haven’t quite put this as well as I would have liked; I suspect that I have made it sound like a Guilty Pleasure, but it’s not that at all, it is something that runs much, much deeper than one of those.

It also happens to have the bitchin’est guitar solo.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Mash-up of the mind

When I woke up this morning my brain was trying to squash together two songs I haven't heard for some time (in one case, mercifully), Dione Warwick's "Don't Make Me Over" (actually in my head it was Dusty Springfield, but I don't think she ever recorded this song, even though you could argue it was made for her) and "Isn't It Time", by The Babys. Someone with technology could, I suppose, see if that actually works, but I don't know why you would.

What is wrong with me?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Why I like Beach House

Watch this. (Full screen is best.) I'm not sure that a better song than "Gila" has been released this year. Some days I listen to nothing else.

(When you are done watching "Gila", click through to see them performing "Apple Orchard", their other Song For The Ages. And not that many bands have two of those.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Heroes of the day


"Typo vigilantes". Two words that you would never have put together but which are in fact a perfect fit. Good luck to them.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Song of the day

"En Particulier", by Blonde Redhead. Lovely song, this. Conjures the spirit of Young Marble Giants effortlessly, if a touch busier, and rolls along on a rhythm that is seemiingly the reverse of what it should be, just to keep you on (or off) your toes. I thought the Blonde Redhead of olden times were meant to be noisy f*ckers, but you can't tell that from here. (Did I ever mention that "23" is one of the great undersung albums of the last couple of years? It's got melody oozing from every pore.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Song of the day

"Wrap Your Legs (Around Your Head)" by Allez Allez. The key words here are "produced by Martin Ware for BEF". This is a perfectly wrought slab of disjointed funk from 1982 and as such it will never go out of style.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Song of the day

"Hold Tight", by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich. "They" don't make them like this any more. Maybe "they" should.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Song of the day

"Two Silver Trees", by Calexico. I feel bad about not really liking the last Calexico album, "Garden Ruin". I can't even say why I didn't like it. I just didn't. But, on the strength of this song, from their forthcoming new LP, redemption is at hand. It may not be entirely coincidental that what it reminds me of, even more so than earlier Calexico records, is "The Shepherd's Dog", by Iron & Wine. This suggests that Sam Beam is responsible not only for coming out with one of the most surprising and unexpected records of recent years ("The Shepherd's Dog", which, yes, is not entirely uninhabited by members of Calexico) but also for Calexico, like the tuatara, getting its mojo back.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Danger In The Past

Time for number six in the possibly never-ending story of Darren’s List.

Darren has the uncanny ability to know better than I do exactly which song I need to hear. “Goodbye”, by Mary Hopkin, is one such song. In fact Mary Hopkin I was aware of only vaguely, in name only. Or so I thought, until about 15 seconds into this song when, Wham, I was transported immediately back to the start of the 1970s, when I was a small boy, playing with my limited selection of Matchbox cars and Lego on the lounge room floor, transforming the checked rug in front of the couch into some kind of elaborate cityscape. Dad was either out fixing fencing wires that had been run through by kangaroos or playing lawn bowls somewhere, mum was performing whatever unacknowledged miracles the mothers of small boys perform in the kitchen, and this song, as often as not, or so it seemed, was on the radio. And I hadn’t heard it since.

The wonder of being transported back to another time and place, though, is only shortlived. I tried to listen to it again just now and all that happened was I was listening to a song. A very nice song, yes, but not, as such, A Piece Of My Life.

I had a similar experience to this a little while ago when Adrienne brought home a bottle of A2 milk. Milk these days is produced, primarily by large black-and-white cows called Frisians, for volume. It is a pale and pathetic version of the milk I grew up with. We had Jerseys, lovely pale-brown cows with big eyes, who gave not so much milk but what they gave was rich and creamy. Not many farmers produce this milk any more (curse you, The Heart Foundation). Everybody wants to be lean and mean. So it is many years since I have tasted “real” milk. But some studies have shown that people are missing out on some of the goodness that used to be in milk, and A2 milk has been “invented” to fill that gap. Anyway, Adrienne made a batch of pikelets using this bottle of A2 milk. And on the first bite, Ker-pow!, I was back at the farm. But, like Mary Hopkin, with the second bite it was just a pikelet.

Perhaps in 20 years time we will try the A2 pikelet experiment again. But I think I will be listening to “Goodbye” many times before then.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fixing A Hole

I discovered this morning that, when you are alone in your car, driving along, minding nobody's business but your own, you can passably sing Lou Reed's "Satellite Of Love", or at least the verses, to the tune of "The Big Country", by Talking Heads. Not so surprising, I suppose, given the relative temporal and locative [you've just been reading William Gibson's latest novel, haven't you? - ed.] proximity of the two songs. It may have just been a zeitgeist thing. The more surprising thing was that "Satellite Of Love" was lurking around in the deep corners of my mind, given my deep-seated aversion to all things Lou Reed post-Velvets. Hmmm. I wonder what else is living up there.

Anyway, this got me to thinking, have David Byrne and Lou Reed ever actually worked together? They live in the same city, and are roughly the same vintage, and David Byrne strikes me as a Laurie Anderson kind of guy (Reed also being, in a different sense, Laurie Anderson's kind of guy), they must at least have crossed paths. But as I was sitting in my car, minding my business, nothing came to mind. There can only be at the most two degrees of separation between them (Reed > Cale > Eno > Byrne), and I suspect this could be further reduced. (Is Arthur Russell another possibility?)

And this, somewhat abstractedly, got me to thinking, if someone at your work is called Nicolette Carson (fact!), how can you train yourself not to think of her as Nicolette Larson and start singing "Lotta Love" to yourself (internally) when in her presence. And this got me to thinking, I should probably go and get some work done.

Song of the day

"By The Sea", by Wendy and Bonnie. On what planet is this not a lost Marine Girls record? Everything is present and correct, from the aquatic imagery to the starkness of the accompaniment, and that voice bears a remarkable similarity to that of a young Tracy Thorn. And yet it isn't the Marine Girls; it's Wendy and Bonnie, from their 1969 (and only?) album "Genesis". Elsewhere they sound not unlike "Light My Fire" as done by The Free Design. Which is also not a bad thing.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Song of the day

"New Feeling", by Talking Heads. Specifically, the version that appears at the very beginning of the double live album (now CD) "The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads". I like the way David Byrne's introductory words, "The name of this song is 'New Feeling' and that's what it's about", neatly sums up his tangled relationship with whimsy and irony. (It doesn't always work for everybody: I found "True Stories" nothing more than a steaming pile of unpleasantness.) There is also something endearing about the slightly unhinged way he sings "I feel like sitting down".

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Song of the day

"Cry For A Shadow", by Beat Happening.

There are certain bands and musicians whose records are so much of a piece that, no matter how good the other records are, you find yourself always coming back to the one you first heard. Aimee Mann is an example: everything she does is good, but her particular brand of stylish misanthropy is only really digestible in small doses, and I will always like "Bachelor No 2" the best. Ron Sexsmith: whenever I hear something new by him I just want to listen to "Other Songs". Matthew Sweet (tho in his case the first album I listened to all the way through happened to be a "best of" collection: unfair).

Beat Happening? The problem (not actually a problem) with Beat Happening is that theirs is such a narrow and perfect template that a certain sameness is inevitable. Which means that I can happily listen to any Beat Happening album, but at some point around "Black Candy" I kind of drifted off. But then they surprised everybody a few years later with the triumphant left-turn of "You Turn Me On". Wedged in between those two points was "Dreamy", a record I didn't actually realise I hadn't heard until I had a chance to hear it recently. Of course it's good. It may in fact show that "You Turn Me On" was not quite the dramatic change of tack I had previously taken it to be. And of course like many people (!) I came to "Cry For A Shadow" via the supremely gorgeous version by The Shapiros. Hearing it done by Beat Happening, though, naturally was a quiet thrill. (I think I still prefer The Shapiros' version.)

Listening to Calvin Johnson's voice through headphones is slightly painful: Beat Happening CDs should carry a health warning.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Song of the day

"Skipping", by The Associates. In which music is transported up to the heavens, never to return (with Billy MacKenzie, sadly, to follow).

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Public service announcement

I don't know who you are, but I know you're out there. I don't care if you keep everything else, but please, please, GIVE MIKE WATT BACK HIS BASS. He needs it so much more than you do.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Song of the day

"Strange Overtones", by David Byrne and Brian Eno. No matter the quality of the song, this has to be today's Song Of The Day. Twenty-seven years after "My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts", which on many days would be named by me as the Greatest Album Of All Time, the two distinguished gentlemen offer us all this song, free (gotta love that Internet).

Its not being a return to "Bush Of Ghosts" country reflects the fact that they are both marching into fogeyhood, but also that they are doing so with style and grace. This song has been on a loop for much of the afternoon, and I have to say that I would at this early stage be happy to have it on a permanent IV drip straight into my brain. It isn't likely to set any hipster's world on fire, but what do hipsters know anyway, right?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Song of the day

"Lonely Hearts", by Joakim. A perfect radio song for these post-radio days. It has a good beat, a classy hook, the right amount of repetition of said classy hook, and a hint of the anthemic. It possibly goes on a bit, but who am I to cast that stone?

Monday, August 04, 2008


There are two performances which I distinctly remember from my days of watching "Countdown" on the ABC in the late seventies and/or early eighties which infrequently but persistently come back to mind. They are: a song which may or may not have been called "Three Minute Egg", by someone who may or may not have been called Euan Thorburn, which If I Remember Correctly involved one person screaming into the camera for, let's say, three minutes. The other was a song which may or may not have been called "I Like Electric Motors", the artist's name lost in the mists of time. It was in an electronic-music vein, which suggests post-Tubeway Army vintage. The title of the song (if such it is) was repeated many times, and then it ended. Or maybe that one was by Euan Thorburn. Maybe they both were. Or maybe it is all a figment of my imagination. Help!

Song of the day

"Call Me Superbad (Cornelius Rework)", by Mr James Brown. Cornelius is a clever guy. His "Ball In - Kick Off" is a favourite amongst the under-tens at our house (now a category of one, sigh). In today's song, he takes on the Godfather of Soul, Hardest Working [adjectival hyphen optional; works both ways - ed] Man In Show Business. And lives to tell the tale.

I would not normally endorse messing about with a stone classic. James Brown should be allowed to do his thang unadorned, unhampered, unhacked (and, preferably, unhinged). So this probably shouldn't work for me. Why it does I have no idea. I quite like the way he decontextualises Brown, making him come across, implausibly, a bit like Mark E Smith ranting over an irrelevant (but independently listenable) backing track. But then the horns creep back in, subtly and in fragments, tying the two strands at least slightly together. It's not going to set the world on fire, and JB would most likely have hated it, but I am finding it oddly compelling.