Friday, July 30, 2010

YouTube of the day

Galaxie 500 live. Something I never had the chance to see. The perfect soundtrack to Mike McGonigal's oral history of the band that appeared a while back; what a happy, sad, sweeping narrative trajectory that was. A bit like their music.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Song of the day

"Come With Me", by ceo. As promised (see yesterday's entry), another improbable vocal sample threads its way through this song: "I need the griddle"? I suppose it could be from a campfire scene from some old-timey cowboy movie. (The song is also a fine example of present-day Swedish pop maximalism, complete with a gentle nod to "Brazil" (a song best known in its Django Reinhardt incarnation, but most memorably covered, if almost unrecognisably so, by the very wonderful Tav Falco's Panther Burns).)

ceo appears to be one half of The Tough Alliance, who seem to have some kind of mentoring role in relation to jj, who have a song on the Internet called "ceo Birthday". I don't know. You figure it out.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Song of the day

"No Sell Out", by Malcolm X. There is a passage early on in this song (a song which, I often wonder if it would exist but for the trail blazed by "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts", and in which I should not be, but am, surprised to notice a similarity with "Buffalo Gals") where, to this day, I swear the vocal sample has Malcolm X saying "brown windsor soup ... windsor soup ... windsor soup". Of course, I could be wrong. I'm not sure how that would fit into a speech about stamping out skulduggery and flim flam, and not compromising.

(Also, am I the last person to pick up on the irony, if irony it be, that "Keith LeBlanc" translates from the French as "Keith the White"?)

Coming tomorrow, weather conditions permitting: further misheard vocal samples.

Song of the day

"Stumbling 22nd St", by Moon Duo. Or, "We've got a scuzzball and we're not afraid to use it."

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Department of Forgotten Songs

One of life's mysteries has been solved.

Approximately 28 years ago a small fragment of song got stuck in my head. It has run around up there, appearing from time to time, ever since. I have made many attempts to hunt it down, all fruitless. All I had was the vocal line "press the button, hear the sound, elevator up and down", and a sense that the song was in the style, loosely, of Plastic Bertrand.

A few months ago I visited a work colleague's house for lunch. Music was playing. It was another song I hadn't heard in years: "I Like 'Lectric Motors" (you can -- and should -- watch it here), by someone called Patrick D Martin. Last night, while on the trail of Shanghai Au Go Go and other Melbourne early-eighties synth nostalgia, I stumbled upon this page, which was offering to share with me a mini-album by Patrick D Martin (thanks, pal). What the heck, I thought to myself. It's probably all rubbish apart from "'Lectric Motors", but you never know. (It's the thrill of the chase, don't you know.)

So today I listened to it. I got to a song called "Police Paranoia" and thought, that's funny, I could swear I have heard this before. I got to the next song, "Press The Button", and I realised, almost instantly, that this was the song that has eluded me for all these years: "press the button, hear the sound, elevator up and down".

And you know how you wait so long for something, building up expectations in your head that are inevitably dashed on finally getting it? Not this time. It is exactly how I remembered it.

What's weird though (aside from the back cover photo, which in its own way is kinda beyond weird) is that if you had asked me at any time before this year who Patrick D Martin was, I would have said I had absolutely no idea, and yet three of the seven songs on this record -- a record I had no knowledge of until last night -- I have had sitting in my head for almost 30 years. I assume that what happened was that these three songs were, at one stage, on high rotation on 2JJ, in those halcyon days when I spent as many of my waking hours as I could tuning in to the tenuous radio signals that made the journey all the way from Sydney to Fish Creek (weather conditions permitting), fading in and out such that more often than not you weren't able to catch the announcer telling you what he had been playing (or, if it was Mac Cocker, which it often was, you probably couldn't understand what he was saying even if the signal was clear enough to hear it). Which would explain why I may never until 2010 have heard the words "Patrick D Martin", even though his music has played a disproportionately large part in my life.

Today has been a good day.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Song of the day

"I Cried All Winter", by Shanghai Au Go Go. Melbourne band from the early 1980s. I saw them play at the Tote in Collingwood, fairly early on. They comprised one intimidatingly cool guy and two intimidatingly gorgeous (to my naive country-boy eyes) girls. They used a drum machine and what would now be called "vintage synths" but then were just synths. In the Melbourne of 1983 they were very much on the cutting edge. Listening to this song now, what is surprising is how close it sounds to 2010. If you played this, and followed it with, say, "Love or Music", by Soft Metals, you could be forgiven for thinking that music had gone nowhere since 1983. (Not that there would have been anything wrong with that.)

YouTube of the day

It's always time for some vintage Talking Heads.

(via Aquarium Drunkard)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Song of the day

"My Love", by The Bird And The Bee. It's a pleasure to wake up with this song going through your head. From "Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future", yet another in the increasingly long list of Albums That Pitchfork Completely Missed The Point Of.

Travels in the third person


He had been putting it off for so long he had managed to convince everybody, himself included, that it was never going to happen. But a felicitous and timely invitation, together with fortuitously available accommodation in the vicinity of the place, drew him out of whatever shell he had erected around himself, and he knew that it was time.

His researches uncovered the important information that the farm had been split up and sold off, to three different owners, identities unknown, since he parted with it, ten years ago. He found this knowledge distressing at first, almost as if somebody that he once knew had died unexpectedly. But, once assimilated, it actually made his decision to go back there easier. There was no more unfinished business, no half-severed ties. He could be a comfortable stranger.

Nevertheless, he had no idea what he might find there, and less idea how he would psychically handle whatever he did find.

They travelled due south, a direction they had never been before. An hour or so out of Canberra, the temperature briefly dropped below zero. At Bombala, the drinking fountain in the park, even though it was in direct sunshine, was covered with ice. They stopped for lunch in Cann River, which he had first visited in 1972, on Grand Final day, an unusually high-scoring affair between Carlton and Richmond, and which he last passed through in the May school holidays of 1979.

The mind does funny things. When they turned into the main street of Bairnsdale he remembered that this was where he had bought the cassette of Meat Loaf's "Bat Out Of Hell", many years ago. When they turned onto the road from Morwell to Mirboo North he thought of the lengths to which his father went to find a cure for his bad back. He remembered that they included acupuncture, and that nothing that he did really worked. When they went through Mirboo North he recalled going to Sue Williams's 21st birthday party at a restaurant there, and he wondered where she might be now. When they got into the hills around Leongatha, with their green paddocks dotted with Friesian and Jersey cows, he was home, in a way that Canberra will never be home, and yet at the same time his elation was tinged with the certain knowledge that this will never be his home again.

He spent time around Leongatha. He was surprised to discover that he had forgotten his way around its back streets. 84 McCartin Street has new front steps, and has lost its tree ferns, but otherwise looks just like the house he left for Melbourne 20 years ago.

He took the boys to visit their grandparents in their permanent home at the Meeniyan Cemetery. One of the boys discovered other Emmersons: it appears that persons unknown (but suspected) have had the graves of his father's parents (who died before he was born), and two or three other relatives, just names to him (although one of them he might vaguely recall being mentioned by his father in relation to a fatal boating mishap), relocated to a central part of the cemetery. He was aware that they had been buried outside the modern boundary of the cemetery but he had never been able to find their graves. He took the time to stand before the graves of his uncles Jack and Charlie, who had been such a presence in his childhood. He felt less emotional than he anticipated. He felt peaceful. Among friends.

Fish Creek. The town has undergone a renaissance as an artistic and latter-day hippie centre. It looks good. This made him happy. The board listing deceased members of the bowling club contains a number of names he didn't expect to see: a reminder of the time that has passed since he was a part of the life of the town.

He drove down the one and a half miles of potholed dirt road to the farm. He drove to the top of the hill, got out of the car, and listened. He listened to the silence. The silence, there, is a very big silence, and he had forgotten it. He had a curious sensation of travelling back in time, but of having travelled back to a universe that was not the one he left. It was undoubtedly the same place, but some things were not how he expected them to be. (If you have read the second book in Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, you might think of Will taking Lyra to his Oxford (which is similar to, but different from, hers), and Lyra's surprise and confusion upon looking around: yes, I recognise this place, but where is this, and this, and this.) The house has been done up and hidden from the road by generous tree plantings. The dairy, which his father built with his own hands, and which carried sounds and smells of its own, is gone. A new wetland has been created. All the big, spooky old cypress trees have been cut down. They walked down the road that used to go to the dairy, and up the other side (via a straight stretch of road that wasn't there before) as far as he felt comfortable going. It is a public road now, but still he felt a little bit like a stalker. He pointed things out to the boys as they went; told them stories. He expected them to say "Yes, dad, can we get back in the car now?", but they were actually very attentive, very good. He took in the view. Like the silence, the view is very big. The sky goes on almost forever. It is a view he can see with his eyes closed, but it was nice to be able to see it with eyes open. Two wedge-tailed eagles circled the air currents far overhead. They, too, were a part of his childhood: eagles lived in a dead tree on a remote part of the property for many years, but they had been gone for a long time. He thought he heard them whispering, "Yes, you have come back. We have come back, too."

He realised that he had forgotten the sound your boots make as you walk over waterlogged ground. South Gippsland is a very wet place, and this is a very wet year. Canberra is a very dry place and has been in drought most of the time he has been living there. You do not hear water underfoot in Canberra. It is a lovely sound. He had been missing it, without even realising that he had been.

He knocked on some doors. He said hello to people he has not seen for a very long time. He was relieved to see that the years have been good to them. For some of them it is the first time they have met the boys (who were so patient, and so friendly, he was very proud of them. He was in their position once, when his father took him on something of a pilgrimage back to Malmsbury, his father's own childhood home, meeting "old" people and having no idea of who they were or what he was even doing there.)

He got to catch up, and this was the reason for his going back, with numerous relatives on his mother's side. They are entirely the nicest people you could ever wish to know, and on all of the available evidence this has rubbed off on the next generation.

And then it was over. The question of whether he will go back there again seems much smaller now. To have gone back after ten years, and seen that the farm, his dad's farm, is in good shape and in good hands, was something he needed to do. Now it has been done. It was okay. He was okay. (Although he wonders whether the appearance of silent but real tears numerous times while watching "Toy Story 3", a couple of days later, was some kind of emotional aftershock.)

Later, back home in Canberra, which somehow does now feel like home in a way that it didn't before he embarked on this journey, he sits down and smiles. He closes his eyes and sees the green, rolling Gippsland hills of the mind, hears the shucking sound of rain-sodden ground underfoot, the cows tearing grass from the ground, the sound of baby calves calling for their mothers, of milk tankers driving along the main road late at night. It is true what they say: you can never go home again. But you can go to some pretty nice places that just happen to feel like some kind of home, that may even have been home once, a long time ago. And you can be happy in the knowledge that they will always be there, and that enough of what you remember so fondly will always remain, so that, if you do go back there later on, sparks of memory will catch fire and rise up into a bright and warming flame.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Song of the day

"ILU", by School of Seven Bells. Not necessarily in the sense of being the best song of the day (although not necessarily not in that sense, either) but certainly in the sense of being the most unexpected. This sounds as if it has sprung, fully formed, from the distant and (mostly justly) maligned land of the post-new-pop mid-eighties. It's all Fairlights, "In The Air Tonight" drums, echo on everything, and generally carrying an AM radio sheen that makes it more hyperreal than real (although it sounds at times like Kevin Shields must have wandered into the studio occasionally and mucked around with the settings). Whichever of the twins is doing the singing makes it work as a "real" song, too.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Chair of the day

Ad found in the New Yorker, August 1960.

(Click to enlarge.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Song of the day

"Pure Affection", by Eternal Summers. What we have here is a good old-fashioned K Records feel bolted onto something that sounds like the quieter moments (yes, they do exist) of Sonic Youth. A little bit special.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Song of the day

"Everlovin' Man", by The Loved Ones. Another fine, albeit slightly unhinged vocal performance from the acid-tinged late sixties. And it's from Australia. We heart local content.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

We're going to take a short break now

But we'll be back after a while.

Two weeks, actually. We're off to a cabin in the woods, to revisit some old, old haunts, and to prove that, as they say, "You can never go home any more".

We will likely miss two or three entire music trends while we are away. Woe is us.