Friday, May 28, 2010

Song of the day

"A Little To The Left", by The Renderers. Her voice, somewhere between speaking and singing, narrates a fragmented tale of, well, it's a bit hard to tell, really, but it doesn't sound promising, and is probably not going to end well. (Who is Jeff Rose?) She hovers, fragile, above a spartan backdrop of acoustic guitar, (what I assume to be) mandolin, brushed drums, and the sound of (again what I assume to be) New Zealand birdsong. It takes six minutes, six minutes in which the listener, particularly late at night, is transfixed like a rabbit trapped in the headlights. Like the best short stories, it takes hold of you from the start and never releases its grip. It is perhaps an anomalous curiosity that at the point when it threatens to burst open into something bigger, it bears similarities to The Scientists' "Swampland". (It bears no resemblance to The Birthday Party's "Swampland".)

The album it comes from, "Monsters And Miasmas", I cannot recommend highly enough. (Yes, I am talking to you.) 

It is an interesting thing that one can be acutely attuned to the emergence of any news of further musical activity by, say, David Kilgour, The Clean, The Bats and The Chills (in the case of The Chills, maintaining something of a forlorn vigil, year after year, in the increasingly unlikely hope that we will get new material before Martin Phillipps dies of old age), while equally worthy groups like The Renderers, The Terminals, The Verlaines, The Cakekitchen and any of the seemingly hundreds of bands Hamish Kilgour may be involved with at any one time, can continue to plough their own fertile fields, ignored since the tail end of the 1980s. Heck, I had no idea until recently that either The Renderers or The Terminals were still going.

One the one hand, I feel somewhat guilty for not keeping the flame burning for any of those latter groups (it's not as if I don't like what they do). On the other hand, it is kind of comforting, in a selfish way, to know that the music is out there, waiting for me, waiting for the moment when I need to turn to it. 

Television Personalities

We bought a new TV.

You haven't seen Graham Norton until you've seen him in HD.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Song of the day

"It Happened Before Our Time", by Jeremy Jay. It's always nice to hear a new song by Jeremy Jay. He has the ability to clear away all the bad air, so that everything, for a little while, is all shiny and clean (plus, nobody says "yeah" quite like he does -- although he doesn't do it on this song). This time around, he has moved a little away from his trademark skinny-tie power-pop, more into a seventies zone. The guitars are a bit fatter, the sound a bit fuller. But really, it's all good. And you can download it at For free! Oh it's a good time to be alive.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Song of the day

"Ding-A-Dong", by Teach-In. We're warming up here for Eurovision. Obviously.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Song of the day

"Tired of Toein' the Line", by Rocky Burnette.

Nah, just kidding. (Though that video is pretty freakin' awesome.)

Actually, it's:

"Come on Home to Me", by Tracey Thorn.

Tracey Thorn. Jens Lekman. Lee Hazlewood. It's a marriage made in heaven. (Sadly, in Lee's case, literally so.) In fact, I assumed it would be too good to be true. And yet it turns out that the song, which is way different from what I expected it to be, is much, much better than it would have been if it had been what I expected it to be. There. That makes complete sense, doesn't it?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Song of the day

"OFYC Showcase", by The Fall.

Midlife crises. Some blokes go out and buy red sports cars. Some quit their established, successful careers, sell everything, and move to the country somewhere so they can do what they "really want to do", which inevitably will end in bitter failure. Me, I seem to be compelled, not exactly against my will but without thought, to listen to copious quantities of music by The Fall. And not only the music of their own Golden Years (and mine), but the new stuff, too. I am totally, unexpectedly, into the new album, "Our Future, Your Clutter". There is no sense of a band going through the motions. Everything is urgent, everything is the most important thing they could be doing right now. Whatever was missing in The Fall over most of the last 20 years is back.

This, the first song on the record, has the kind of incessantly rolling groove that they were capable of pounding out, as if it grew on trees, around the time of "Cruiser's Creek". It doesn't let up for nigh on six minutes. Nor do you want it to.

Curiously, around the four minute mark Smith begins to sound just like former Australian Rules champion Alex Jesaulenko singing about drinking Canberra Milk. See for yourself.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Song of the day

"You Are Waking", by Jamie Lidell. Roughly half way through Jamie Lidell's new album, "Compass", just as one is starting to think about how much further he can go with this Smoother Than Stevie schtick before it starts to get just a little bit, erm, well, boring, along comes this song, which, after a deceptively calm thirty seconds or so, morphs into a genuine get-yr-balls-out-and-swing-'em-around big rock'n'roll number, featuring pretty much every type of big guitar action known to man. God bless him, it even has a bridge lifted straight from the power ballad playbook. And look at that drummer go.

My knee hurts.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Song of the day

"(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang", by Heaven 17. Not because Britain has moved from Labour to Conservative (well, semi-Conservative) rule for the first time since the election of Thatcher herself, but because at my work we have all been given something called "proximity readers" (they unlock doors and probably give you cancer) and I have discovered that if I hold it at one end and shake it from side to side I can make a close approximation of the rattling sound that introduces, and drives, this song.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Where have they been?

Following the last entry, you probably figured that I have taken a couple of weeks to engage in quiet contemplation and reflection on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of Ian Curtis's death. You would be partially right: it has been on my mind, more so than it has been for a long, long time. I don't quite understand why that is. Maybe it's because I am now almost twice as old as Ian Curtis ever was.

But mostly, I have been staring, mesmerised, at the Flensted mobile I got for my birthday. (It's funny how language has changed. Every time I said to somebody "a mobile" in answer to the question "What did you get for your birthday?", a few moments of confusion ensued as I had to explain that, no, it's not a telephone, and that, no, hanging a telephone from the ceiling would serve no useful purpose.)

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Unknown Pleasures

I don't know why I recently found myself looking at the "Goings On About Town" section of the issue of the New Yorker dated 26 May 1980, but there I was, failing to recognise the names of more than one or two of the bands playing at CBGB, and contemplating why the magazine, at that stage in its history, set the names of jazz musicians in bold type but not those of "pop" musicians or punk rockers, when something stopped me in my tracks: a listing, at a club called Hurrah (where DJs, the magazine said, spin "sides" by The Clash, The Specials and The Pop Group -- sounds like my kind of place), for Joy Division to play for three nights, Wednesday to Friday the 21st to the 23rd.

Upon reading this, a moment or two of cognitive dissonance ensued. Things slowly came back into focus, and it dawned on me: that never happened. 

The New Yorker, I thought to myself, at least these days, is cover dated a week ahead, which suggests the presses would have been running in the evening of 18 May. The first day for that issue's listings section was 19 May. In the early morning of 19 May 1980 Ian Curtis committed suicide. I was looking at a strange and morbid kind of historical artefact: if the magazine had come out a couple of days later, or if Curtis had taken his own life a couple of days earlier, the venue would presumably have rescheduled those nights' gigs in time for the listings to have been changed, with Joy Division's name removed. 

One always hears that Curtis's suicide occurred "on the eve of their American tour", but what this discovery brought home to me was how literally that was the case.

Here is the page. (Click to enlarge.) I find it kind of creepy to look at. It is like sneaking a glimpse at a future that never was.

(For what it's worth, there would still have been plenty of music to catch that week: what must have been a very early gig by Mission of Burma (also at Hurrah), Defunkt at Max's Kansas City (and also, with Nona Hendryx, at something called the Squat Theatre -- that's where I would have been, man), John Cale, also at the Squat Theatre, the "Velvet Fog", Mel Torme, at Marty's, Kinky Friedman or Bo Diddley at the Lone Star Cafe. Meanwhile, Sun Ra was flying in from Saturn to entertain us, and Jonathan Richman and James Brown, in their respective 1980 incarnations, both had gigs at Irving Plaza. (It might also have been nice to squeeze in Mongo Santamaria, at the Village Gate, although I have no idea where his head was at in 1980.))

Things I Learnt Today

Though my vinyl copy of Swell Maps' "A Trip To Marineville" (with bonus "Loin of the Surf" seven-inch) has long been one of my prized possessions, I had no idea, because, at least to my knowledge, we never got to see Gerry Anderson's "Stingray" in this country, that Marineville is the Headquarters of the World Aquanaut Security Patrol (WASP). 

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Chris Ware's rejected cover for Fortune magazine

One question: why would you commission this in the first place, but then why would you, at the last minute apparently, cancel it? (Okay, it's pretty obvious, really, why somebody got cold feet.)

It is a towering piece of art (literally), and perhaps the most scathing commentary on the American way of capitalism I have ever seen.

You need to be able to view it close up. I suggest saving it to your own computer and opening it in a viewer that allows you to zoom in, in order to see as many of the little details as possible.

Song of the day

"Go Go Pongs", by A La Ping Pong. From 1981. Is this the well from which all of dubstep has sprung? Okay, probably not, but I venture to suggest that if you spun it at your local dubstep night it wouldn't at all sound out of place, at least for the first couple of minutes, and by then you are hooked anyway.