Friday, August 29, 2014

Hypothetical mixtape: September 2013

If you were a lost soul wandering in the dangerous and murky backwaters of the internet in September last year, these are the songs you would have found. Actually, you would have found considerably more, but I have slowly filtered the list down to these essentials, so that you don't have to.

"Back to Nature", by Fad Gadget. Nothing to do with the very fine song by Magazine of the same name, but nevertheless notable in its own right, being both the first record by Mr Gadget, who went on to have a sterling career putting out electronic records on a Goth-industrial fringe, and also the second record released on Mute Records, also the first by someone other than label honcho Daniel Miller himself. (Although, this seems to be open to debate: the catalog number, MUTE 002, bears it out, but according to Wikipedia -- as of today(ish), anyway -- Silicon Teens' jaunty electropop take on Chuck Berry's "Memphis, Tennessee", another song I remember very fondly, came out first. It's all rather vexing, although, given that Silicon Teens turned out to be Daniel Miller in disguise anyway, ultimately not actually relevant to anything.)

"Tonight, We Fall (John Foxx and the Maths Remix)", by ADULT.. More fatback analog synths, although in this case we probably have to classify them as "retro", even though Foxx himself did sound like this back in 1979. Parts of this come across like a slowed-down version of DAF's "Der Mussolini", yet another fireside favourite. [Don't get too fancy -- Ed.] Elsewhere the synths are so huge you keep waiting for them to blow a fuse.

"All Night", by Icona Pop. This, on the other hand, is thoroughly modern. But a pop song, done right (as this one is), is timeless. I dare you not to jump around the room to this when it is played at high volume. Even if someone else is watching. How embarrassing.

"Jupiter", by Blackfield. Then we get the big, lachrymose strings, and the portentous piano, and it's like we're straight into Eric Carmen's "All By Myself", but this is not that song (mercifully) but another song, and it's not actually, once you get past the first 20 seconds, maudlin at all. (Well, I suppose it is, but within reasonable tolerances.) Mid-seventies pop-rock will never grow stale. What? This was made last year? Shoot me now. At least tell me they are from Canada. No? Damn.

"Mexico", by Firefall. Is it okay to hate The Eagles but to like music that sounds, largely, indistinguishable from The Eagles? Of course it is, nobody ever said I had to be consistent. The lead guitarist here may not be Joe Walsh, but he's no slouch. Bonus points for the mariachi interlude. (Postscript: it doesn't really sound that much like The Eagles, does it?)

"Summertime", by Booker T & The MGs. Oh that Hammond.

"Castles Made of Sand", by Four Tet. And old random stray Four Tet track, coming from his LateNightTales installment. You know the song. It's one of Jimi's. Whether you recognise it or not is an entirely different question.

"Tell Me What Is True Love", by Bert Jansch. Is Bert Jansch. Is good.

"Gnostic Serenade", by 3's a Crowd. Bands with both numerals and apostrophes in their name rarely make it big. (Now there's a challenge ...) That is the only possible reason for this mesmerising song being hitherto unknown. (Unknown to me, at least. Perhaps you knew better.)

"Sand", by Clear Light. You can be forgiven that thinking, after the first few seconds, that you were listening to "London Calling", by The Clash. You realise the error of your ways as the song rapidly morphs into what it actually is, a sixties guitar-driven garage smoulderer.

"Pink Dominos", by The Crescents. This is probably what The Beatles, or at least the kids who then turned to The Beatles, had been listening to just before The Beatles became a thing. You can hear them in it, but you can also be astounded at what they turned it into.

"Cocaine Blues", by Escort. There are other songs called "Cocaine Blues". This is not any of those. Escort have done their homework so well, there are no clues that I can spot that indicate that this wasn't made 35 years before it actually was. I hope they take that as a compliment.

"Hills of Katmandu (Patrick Cowley Mix)", by Tantra. Disco on steroids. And divers other substances, not necessarily all legal. Enter at own risk.

"Rainbow Circles (Beatless Version)", by Kaito. Whereas this is disco, or rather Kompakt-style techno, on, well, I don't know what: helium perhaps? All the bottom-end propulsion has been extracted from the track, leaving a residual pulse and an overall sensation akin to being lighter than air. Nice.

"Flares", by Land of Light. It's not every day you hear a piece of music that transports you back to David Sylvian's solo masterpiece, "Brilliant Trees", or the second disc of "Gone to Earth", but this does that trick in such a way that, even after 11 minutes, you don't really want it to end. Ah, so that is what the "Repeat" button is for.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Song of the day

"Lentil Nightmare", by Neil.

It seems to me that a parody of a particular genre of music, with the passage of time, becomes indistinguishable from the genre of music that is being parodied, as long as the musicians involved know what it is they are having fun with.

Here is the evidence. (In this example, and this may or may not be important, the genre concerned was already a few years past its moment in the sun when this was made. It's easier, perhaps, not to sound dated when the sounds you are making are, themselves, already dated. No, I don't understand what I'm saying either.)

The fun starts around one and a half minutes in. If you don't know The Young Ones then (a) this may make no sense at all and (b) I feel sorry for you. Don't forget, you are here for the music. And, I suppose, the vocal, uh, "stylings". (Bonus: listen out for the voice of Stephen Fry.)

Saturday, August 09, 2014

2014 is not 1964

Volkswagen has had its share of negative publicity of late. But at least it no longer runs ads like this. (Actually, old VW ads are frequently surprisingly modern in tone and design, but this one seems to have been a victim of its times.) From the New Yorker, issue of 15 August 1964. You can open it in a new window by clicking on it. From there you can enlarge it, the better to read the offending message.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Song of the day

"The Dolphins", by Fred Neil.

Over the last couple of years we have been quick to recommend to anybody who will listen, and to many who won't, the Irish movie "The Guard". Now its director and lead actor, John Michael McDonagh and Brendan Gleeson respectively, have returned in a new, much darker, but still excellent film, "Calvary". It's a kind of riff on "High Noon", in its own way. You know from the outset that things are going to end up with some kind of a showdown (but on a beach rather than on the main street). The writing is perhaps not quite as crisp as it was in "The Guard", and it sometimes steers a bit close to cliche, but the wide cast of characters and the many stories they have to tell keep you interested. The Big Theme is what is the use of the Catholic church in Ireland in what has become, by and large, a godless society, and particularly in an environment where the church has been painted, and not without reason, as the bad guy. It's a large and weighty theme, and the comedy that is interspersed with the drama can sit a bit more awkwardly than it did in the earlier film. But, you know, it's a powerful picture, set in a bleakly stunning landscape, and Gleeson is extraordinary. Also of note is the appearance of Dylan Moran, cast somewhat against type as the nouveau riche Lord of the Manor. (Only slightly against type: he's still a bastard.)

"The Dolphins" appears early in the film. It's a good omen.