Sunday, April 28, 2013

2013 is not 1962: thank goodness

If a picture tells a thousand words, what happens when you add a caption to it?

Ad found in the New Yorker, some time in 1962.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hypothetical mixtape: May 2012

Hot, or at least lukewarm, on the heels of the last one, here is our hypothetical mixtape, inna May 2012 stylee.

"I Only Have Eyes For You", by Oneohtrix Point Never. Last month it was Beck's turn. This month it's the guy with the partly unpronounceable moniker. He so totally deconstructs the song that it almost stays deconstructed. And yet tiny filaments of the original flicker ever so fleetingly that it ends up not disappearing up its own edifice. Although the risk was certainly there.

"I Call On One's Muse", by Rob Jo Star Band. Nice try with the English usage there, Rob, but I don't think you've quite nailed it. One calls on one's muse, perhaps. Or I call on my muse. But the two don't tend to play well if mixed together. Unless, that is, you meant "One" in the "Prisoner" sense. Yes, that could work. Cool song, by the way. I particularly like the seemingly random synthesiser farts that unexpectedly appear at various points. "What does this button do?"

"My Ancestors", by Chris Zebby Tembo & Ngozi Family. Some fine African psychedelic music has been unearthed over the last few years. Is the well running dry? It would appear not.

"Right Where You Ought To Be", by Mr Elevator & The Brain Hotel. Quite. Mr Elevator & The Brain Hotel exist in the present, but sound like they have been brought up on a diet of nothing but "Nuggets". As a scientific experiment it proves the soundness and immutability of the theory that if you put four boys in a room with two guitars, a bass, drums, and a microphone, they will sound like sixties garage rock no matter what time period they happen to be living in. As a song, well, it is nothing you haven't heard before but just fine nevertheless.

"Tell Me What's On Your Mind", by The Allah-Las. As for the last song, only -- if this is even possible -- more so.

"Tattoo On Her Shoulder", by Capital Grey. Capital Grey take it out of the garage and into, let's say, Abbey Road. "Nuggets" after the drugs have kicked in, perhaps. This and Mr Elevator & The Brain Hotel were introduced to us by the ever reliable "Clifton's Corner" segment over at Aquarium Drunkard. Shout out!

"Up The Hill And Down The Slope", by The Loft. From '66 to '86, perhaps; C86 to be precise. And the distance is not as far as you might think. If this song had a fault it would probably be that it goes for about a minute too long. But that might only be because all other songs of the era cut out after two minutes, which is hardly The Loft's fault.

"Supermarket", by Supermarket. Perhaps the least Googleable song EVAH. Basically Lawrence, from Felt, with a vocoder and some keyboards. How you respond to the song will depend on how you responded to that last sentence.

"Here To Stay", by New Order. Ah, New Order. Always the same dodgy lead vocals. Always the same naff lyrics. In short, always the same. And yet always frakkin' brilliant. No, I don't get it, either.

"This Is Not The End (Gui Boratto 2012 Mix)", by Gui Boratto. From the "pop" corner of Kompakt's repertoire (and a happy 20th birthday to you, too), and clearly indebted to N*w Ord*r. In fact, you can almost sing along to "Here To Stay" while this is playing. So do you "need" both? Only you know the answer to that.

"Exercise 5 (September)", by CFCF. One of David Sylvian's finest moments, reworked, sublimated, recombined, reimagined, tweaked, reinvented, deconstructed. Some or all of the above. Or none. I should hate this, precisely because it's not "September", by David Sylvian, but strangely I don't. I'm not sure exactly what I should do with it, mind you, but that's another question.

"Belle Tristesse", by Miharu Koshi. Evidently, this little sweetie is from a Christmas compilation circa 1983 and featuring various members of Yellow Magic Orchestra. 1983 was at the height of my love affair with YMO so I can only explain my ignorance of its existence by pointing out that the Internet only came along later. That's my excuse, anyway. Astute readers will note the tenuous link between this and the previous song, being Sylvian's sometime involvement with Ryuichi Sakamoto (including on the "Secrets of the Beehive" album, from which "September" comes). Yes, we are not averse to clutching at straws here.

"Maybe Tonight (Morgan Geist Vocal Edit)", by Lovelock. The opening combination of acoustic and electric piano is the real winner here. Morgan Geist's vocals are the icing. Once again, ten minutes proves to be barely enough. Lovelock, in case you didn't know, is one of many handles of Mr Steve Moore, who has proved himself capable of doing a large number of things, not all of them sounding remotely like this but all of them worth a listen (or ten).

"Sweetness In Her Spark", by Lightships. What we have here, in essence, is a Classic Pop Song. It will remind you of the gentler corners of the Flying Nun roster, it will remind you of The Clientele, it will remind you of some band from Sweden whose name you can never recall. One day other songs will remind you of this. The wheel turns, and it will turn again.

"Equal Mind", by Beach House. Proof that a Beach House b-side is better than most bands' a-sides.

"Happy Pills", by Norah Jones. I hipped to Ms Jones through the agency of Danger Mouse, and in particular his paean to Italian soundtrack music of the sixties, "Rome", wherein she goes mano a mano (or should that be mano a birdo?) with Jack White and comes out with her dignity more than intact. Here, she is working with Danger Mouse again. They seem to be a good combination. (Note to self: maybe I need to spend more time with that last Belle & Sebastian album.)

"Blind Alley", by The Emotions. Sometimes it's better just to let the song speak for itself:

"Sister Brother", by FJ McMahon. From an album with the curious title of "Spirit of the Golden Juice". This song, together with many others like it, operates as a signal from another era, reflected out into deep space in the early 1970s and bounced back to earth only now, as the seemingly endless quantity of "lost" private-press albums, made for pleasure rather than profit and produced in tiny quantities, and bearing names you have never heard of, are discovered afresh and reissued for an inquisitive, and unexpected, new audience. Or at least an audience that might have sung its praises first time around if they had been given the chance. Well, Adrienne likes it, anyway.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cover version of the day

"My Generation", by Atom(TM).

In which Uwe Schmidt tackles The Who head-on, demonstrating that he is either very brave or very foolish.

The danger with this kind of thing is that it can seem like a brilliant idea at first but, after a minute or so, the listener says, well, I get the idea but I'm bored now, and then goes straight back to the original, which is, in this case, let's face it, unimpeachable.

And yet.

For the final minute, Schmidt gives us a Keith Moon-style freakout which, if Keith Moon were a tangled pile of electronic circuitry, you imagine that he would sound exactly like this.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Song of the day

"Buddy", by Snapper.

And speaking, as we were, of Peter Gutteridge, I learn from Pitchfork that the self-titled four-song twelve-inch from his long-running Snapper project, originally released on Flying Nun in 1988, is being reissued for Record Store Day. If you only buy one piece of vinyl this year, it should probably be this one. I went to pull my own dog-eared copy off the shelf this morning, only to find that it was gone. Insert sad face here. As fond as I am of Gutteridge's solo XPressway cassette, "Pure", this might be the one essential Peter Gutteridge release. These four songs pretty much express the entire range of his talents; he has, over the years (albeit hindered by ongoing heroin, uh, "issues"), refined and developed them, but hasn't really, to my ears, taken them anywhere that is discernibly "better" than the songs on "Snapper".

This is not meant as a criticism; it is meant as, You need this record in your life. The surprising thing, listening to these four tracks in 2013, is how far their influence has spread in the interim: from Stereolab to Wooden Shjips. The other surprising thing, if you haven't listened to it for 20 years, is just how bloody good this record is.


(By the way, if anybody out there can set me up with a zeros-and-ones copy of "Gentle Hour", a Snapper B-side that has been covered by both The Clean (perhaps not surprising, as it includes David Kilgour on guitar) and Yo La Tengo, and which also appeared on the "Where In The World Is Wendy Broccoli?" compilation, I would be very grateful. Consider it as payment for how much I have enriched your life, heh heh, over the years. Email at right.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Song of the day

"Disco Pope", by The Prats.

Everything about this song -- the running time, the format (four-song seven-inch "EP" in a black-and-white paper sleeve), the searing but also endearing amateurishness of the performance, the herky-jerk rhythm, the what I call (possibly inaccurately) "Mi-Sex" lettering, the name of the band, the catalogue number (RT042) -- is so redolent of that brief moment in time when everyone else noticed that the doorway that punk had crashed through was still open and that there was room for all of them squeeze inside and make music, glorious music, that you can almost smell it. (In fact, if you had an original vinyl copy you most probably could actually smell it.)

Oh, and with the papal appointment of a South American, there is no better moment than right now for a song called "Disco Pope".

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Stand Down Margaret

Between the years 1979 and 1982 I absorbed every word of every issue of the NME. In those days the NME was not just about music. It introduced me to the films I needed to know about (but at that point in my life would have no hope of ever seeing), the writers who would mean the most to me for a very long time (Amis, McEwan). One other thing I absorbed from its pages was a kind of long-distance hatred of Margaret Thatcher. "Thatcher" was more of a name and a concept to me than a flesh and blood human being (although she did appear with some regularity on the ABC News), but I was able to grasp what she stood for and I had some sympathy for the victims of her "reforms", at least as they were conveyed in the pages of Britain's premier music weekly. (I also came to understand, somehow, through those same printed pages that it was best pronounced "Fatcha".) In fact, I think it is probably fair to say that my political belief structure was framed more by my vicarious involvement in the anti-Thatcher campaign waged by the NME than by anything that was happening in my own country. There is probably something fundamentally wrong with that, now that I think of it. But what can you do?

Much has been written over the last few days of Thatcher's impact on the UK music scene of the time. There's not much more to say, really. If you followed it at the time, you already know. If you didn't, it's not really going to mean that much to you in this day and age. I'm not, and never have been, a fan of overly political songs and/or "statements", but I also don't think Thatcher's influence was limited to knee-jerk reactions or musical middle-finger gestures. Put it this way: I don't think the fact that an enormous (new) wave of exciting, original music came out of Britain during the Thatcher years, particularly the early years, was mere coincidence.

But that's a university thesis for someone else to write. For now, here are a couple of songs that took a slightly different tack: neither is overtly "political", but in turning her voice, and her words, into part of the fabric of the song they found a way to let the Iron Lady speak for herself, and for all time. (And it don't 'alf set yer teeth on edge, innit?)

"No Alternative (But To Fight)", by Dub Syndicate featuring Doctor Pablo:

"Maggie's Last Party", by V.I.M.:

I particularly like this last one, as it has a timeless absurdist streak to it that would have appealed to, for example, the Bonzo Dog Band back in the pre-punk era, or even the Dada collagists (like I would know). It also reminds me of this fine piece of, um, "art" that fell out of the pages of RAW Magazine, which utilises, in a not sympathetic but also not polemical way, the spoken words of her old friend Ron:

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Song of the day

"Turn of the Century", by Beat Rhythm Fashion.

Back when I first became obsessed with the music of Dunedin, both through regular (but infrequent) visits to Exposure Records in Cotham Road, Kew, and irregular (but frequent) deliveries of XPressway tapes into the letter box courtesy of Bruce Russell, I adopted (at least subconsciously) the view that the mere fact, let alone the quality, of the Dunedin scene was so exceptional and unlikely that it had to be singular. Hence, it seemed to me that if something out of New Zealand wasn't from Dunedin and/or on Flying Nun, it probably wasn't worth my time.

Beat Rhythm Fashion were from Wellington. They weren't on Flying Nun. They remained undiscovered (by me) until a few weeks ago, when this emotional rollercoaster of a song appeared on a FACT mix by Matthew Mondanile (whom I wrote about recently in connection with Dunedin rock royalty). I suppose you could say that it inhabits a space where a nascent New Order sit down and play nicely with early Cure, but that disregards the ineffable power of the chorus, which acts as the parting of the clouds to reveal a sunny, hope-filled new day. And couldn't we all use one of those.

(Guest mixes, it seems to me, are the new radio. They are one of the few places now where I can, if only occasionally, hear something that stops me in my tracks and demands that I track it down. (And like radio, it can also be less than easy to work out what it was that I had been listening to. Thanks, Denis, for finding what I needed.))

Smackdown of the day

"What Goes On": The Velvet Underground vs The Feelies.

Which version is better?

You be the judge*.


* The correct answer, of course, is: they both are.

Although what you really want is for the closing rave-up in the Velvets version to go on, like, forever. Which it more or less does, here: