Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Song of the day

"Walk On By", by The Stranglers.

Following on from our most recent dispatch, today we were reading a list on The Groanydad web site of "the 50 best covers". Aside from being immediately struck by how many great covers aren't on that list ("Life Is Life", by Laibach; "I Heard It Through The Grapevine", by The Slits; "The Model", by Snakefinger; "The Model", by Big Black ... we could go on; we won't), we were drawn to number three. Did we know that The Stranglers had tackled "Walk On By"? If we did, we had long forgotten.

In retrospect, maybe we shouldn't have been as surprised as we were by "Golden Brown" and "Skin Deep". Any supposedly "punk" band that: (a) had the vision to take Bacharach and David and play it straight (and long), and with a complete absence of punk subversion, attitude or (perhaps) irony; and (b) could meanwhile sound exactly like themselves, was clearly capable of anything.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Song of the day

"Skin Deep", by The Stranglers.

This morning in the background we have been listening to a random selection of UK top 40 songs from the 1980s (thanks, Darren; you have no idea the extent to which your hard work has added to our boys' broader education).

I always stop what I am doing when I hear this song. There is something simple but compelling about it, whether it's the excellent use of 1980s synthesisers or the astounding feat The Stranglers pulled off by going from "No More Heroes" and "Peaches", via the extraordinary "Golden Brown", to songs like this.

The other thing about this song is how much Hugh Cornwell's voice, at times, is a dead ringer for David McComb.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Hypothetical mixtape: November 2013

Back again for another month's worth of web trawling. As is the norm, almost 12 months out of date, but whatever. We're trying.

"Ochansensu-Su", by tricot. If Tortoise suddenly, and inexplicably, morphed into four Japanese (post) rock chicks, this is what they would sound like. Because Tortoise plus Japanese rock-chick vocals would be, like, hell yes.

"Far Away From You", by Sachiko Kanenobu. Also from Japan, this time from 1972, and, more precisely, the "sunshine pop" corner of the 1972 yard. Which possibly explains how it appeared as a reissue on Melbourne's own Chapter Records label, although even so it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Produced by Harry Hosono, because what would one of these playlists be without at least one nod to YMO?

"I Like You", by Katy B. This song gets off to a slow start, such that you might not give it the time of day if you were a person of little patience. But stick with it: the chorus is an understated pop wonder. Well, I think so anyway.

"I Could Be Happy", by Altered Images. On the other hand, if you are going to hold someone like Katy B up against the might and majesty of Altered Images, she is going to be found wanting. That's just the way it is. This is the superior-in-every-way seven-inch version. It cuts to the chase.

"Running To The Sea", by Royksopp. Latest word on Royksopp is that they are packing it in. That's too bad: a couple of the songs on their recent collaboration EP with Robyn are right up there. In the meantime, this is one of a number of stray songs that they tossed into the atmosphere a while back. It sits on something of a goth tip, which, I have to say, suits them.

"Melody", by Blonde Redhead. There is a hint of the gothic, as well, in this mesmerising piece of mysterious pop from the always reliable Blonde Redhead, from a few years (and albums) ago. They happen to have a new album out, which was given the Pitchfork seal of harsh disapproval. But we all know, don't we, that a negative P4k review isn't always an accurate reflection of how things really are.

"How Long", by Lipps Inc. You probably know Lipps Inc for "Funky Town", but that is most likely the sum total of your knowledge. But -- surprise, surprise -- you also know this song. It was written by Paul Carrack, and was a hit for a band called Ace back in the mid-seventies. (I had thought, when I was hearing it on the radio back then, that, given the electric piano and the rich harmony vocals, I was listening to 10CC. Or maybe Little River Band.) It was covered, if memory serves, by an Australian group called Scandal, during the Countdown era (this is impossible to Google). Still, it was a surprise to me to learn that Lipps Inc did a version too, although upon hearing it I immediately recognised it as the backing track for an early Kompakt klassik, "Timecode", by Justus Kohncke. (Which, in turn, I learned about through hearing Marit Bergman singingthe Pet Shop Boys' "Rent" over the top of it. Layers. Upon layers. Upon layers.)

"Projektions (Gabe Gurney Factory Floor Remix)", by Girls Names. You could sneak this onto a compilation tape of Cabaret Voltaire songs circa "Just Fascination" and only the most attentive would ever notice the difference. A welcome nod to an underappreciated era of a significant band which also serves to underscore the continuing importance of Factory Floor. 

"Break My Love", by Nicolas Jaar. This is probably included here for the sake of completeness (there can never be enough Nicolas Jaar music in the world; this track snuck onto a compilation album put out by his label, but doesn't seem to be otherwise available). But I do love the way the track opens up after its first minute of hesitant synths. Is it my imagination or is this faster than most of Jaar's music?

"Black Savates", by DJ Steef. Otherwise known as "Planet Caravan", by Black Sabbath, given the re-edit treatment and turned into a lesson in beachside dance music bliss. (Like I would know.) DJ Steef is, apparently, a "mysterious Frenchman". As if there were any other kind. Note the distant echoes of the "Dirty Edit" of Sylvester's "I Dig You".

"Icct Hedral (Philip Glass Orchestration)", by Aphex Twin. "You are pulling my leg", I said. But you weren't. And it is. (It's pretty impressive, too. Maybe not the precise mid-point between "Koyaanisqatsi" and "Selected Ambient Works Volume II", but it sits somewhere along that line.)

"Song Of Bliss", by The Khalsa String Band. Trends in music can operate unfairly: some music that is created at a point in time when that style of music is out of fashion gets lost in the (bum's) rush. It is plausible that the only reason we don't all have this song on the mix tapes we have been making for our significant others over the past 40 years is because it can be easily dismissed as Hippie Music, and the world of 1973 had no place for such things. (If Marc Bolan had continued with Tyrannosaurus Rex beyond 1970, we may never have heard of him, either.) Whereas, detached from the world of 1973, this is quite simply a beautiful song, and there should always be room for one of those.

"You Can Do Magic", by America. We think of them as one hit wonders. (But what a hit.) If this is an example of what lies beneath "Horse With No Name", pass me a shovel: it's time to start digging.

"Lay Low Day", by Don Muro. It might be churlish to note that "More Than A Feeling" was a hit record the year before this song appeared. But you cannot help but recognise the former at both ends of "Lay Low Day". On the other hand, maybe that's what makes this such an appealing song. (And, to be fair, large parts of the rest of the song are from somewhere else entirely.) Credit, too, to Don Muro for, or so it would appear, playing all instruments in what sounds like a professional rock-band performance. Could one person really do all that? And, if so, why have we never heard of him?

"My Kind Of Woman", by Mac DeMarco. It's not from the 1970s, but doesn't at all feel out of place after a bunch of songs from that decade. The melody line is worth a thousand words.

"Clear The Air", by Jacco Gardner. Similarly, this cat is making the music of 20 years before he was born, and I'm darned if I can detect the seams. This is possibly the most gorgeous song of 2013. Or 1967.

"Black Roses", by Escondido. If you put Mazzy Star into a lead-lined box with Calexico and shook the bejeezus out of it, then inserted a small hole at one end, attaching a filter so that only the purest goodness could seep out, this is what you would find in the specimen jar. It's as close to magic as science will allow. (As recommended by known hipster David Lynch in Mojo some time back. Mojo may be a magazine largely populated by hacks and yesterday's rock writers, and it may be statute-bound to include The Rolling Stones, Dylan, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin on the cover at least once every two years, but it is still worth flicking through. You just never know.)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Song of the day

"This Evening So Soon", by Bob Dylan.

Dad died 25 years ago today. I've written about him, and about that day, before. I don't need to go over any of that ground again. But, being an only child, I do have to mark the occasion, because nobody else is going to.

How about we limit it to one memory: a memory that only recently worked its way up to the surface.

Dad and I were at the farm, working. I don't know what we were doing, probably something like digging post holes, repairing fences, or mucking about with water pipes or tanks. It was a still day. The blue sky stretched all the way from one horizon to the other. At some point we both thought we could hear, far off, what sounded like a lawn mower. This made no sense. The only house close enough for the sound of a lawn mower to carry to where we were was our own, and mum wasn't the one who mowed the lawn. We stopped what we were doing and concentrated on where the sound was coming from, until one of us noticed a tiny dot in the sky over to the east. As this tiny dot gradually increased in size, so the sound of the lawnmower gradually increased in volume. Time passed, and it continued to head in our direction, until eventually we could see what it was: a person flying an ultralight, quite literally a lawn mower with wings. We watched, stunned, as it buzzed its way over our heads and off to the west, where, eventually, we lost sight of it, and the sound faded away to nothing. I don't imagine either of us said anything. More likely, we just looked at each other and got on with the job at hand.

It's a good memory, because it involves just the two of us, working together out in the paddocks, which is how I like to remember the time I was able to spend with him.

Today's song, by Bob Dylan, has nothing to do with any of this. But it is about somebody called "Old Bill", and I think of dad whenever I listen to it. Dad, I don't think, would have thought much of Dylan. He was more of a Bing Crosby kind of guy: technically correct crooners who didn't do anything too fancy. (I doubt he would have thought much of Sinatra, either.)

Dylan being Dylan, the song cannot be found on either Soundcloud or YouTube, but you can listen to it on a page of Bob's official web site, if you can find the "play" icon. (Hint: it is not drawing any attention to itself.)


The other thing that I have been dwelling on is that I am now only 13 years younger than dad was when he died. I have been in my current job, and living in the same house, for 15 years now. It doesn't feel like a long time.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Song of the day

"Things Behind The Sun", by Dave Harrington Featuring Tamara.

If you only listen to one song today, make sure it's this one. (Yes, it is the Nick Drake song.) It first appeared earlier this year kicking off Darkside's Modcast mix. If you heard it there, it has haunted your dreams ever since. If this is the first time you hear it, it will haunt your future dreams. Let it.

[Editor's note: I'm sorry this clip cuts out early; it kind of spoils the effect. I am guessing this is the version taken from the Modcast, and that it cuts out in order to avoid the segue into the next track. It's available now, in its entirety (ie with an extra 20 seconds or so), on the new Other People compilation record, "Work".]

Now Play Long

Or, Fifty @ 50, Part Two.

(With apologies, vis-a-vis the title of this post, to Marcello Carlin via Fleetwood Mac. Or vice versa.)

"Closer", by Joy Division.
"Marquee Moon", by Television.
"Horses", by Patti Smith.
"Crazy Rhythms", by The Feelies.
"The African Man's Tomato", by The Cannanes.
"Fear of Music", by Talking Heads.
"Remain in Light", by Talking Heads.
"Another Green World", by Brian Eno.
"Before and After Science", by Brian Eno.
"The Correct Use of Soap", by Magazine.
"London Calling", by The Clash.
"The Return of The Durutti Column", by The Durutti Column.
"Colossal Youth", by Young Marble Giants.
"Up on the Sun", by Meat Puppets.
"Entertainment!", by Gang of Four.
"The Transfiguration of Vincent", by M Ward.
"Time (The Revelator)", by Gillian Welch.
"Imperial Bedroom", by Elvis Costello and the Attractions.
"Music for 18 Musicians", by Steve Reich.
"Second Edition", by Public Image Limited.
"Medicine Show", by The Dream Syndicate.
"Liege and Leif", by Fairport Convention.
"The Firstborn is Dead", by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
"Tindersticks", by Tindersticks (second album).
"For Your Pleasure", by Roxy Music.
"The Perfect Prescription", by Spacemen 3.
"World of Echo", by Arthur Russell.
"King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown", by Augustus Pablo.
"Quasimodo's Dream", by The Reels.
"Swordfishtrombones", by Tom Waits.
"Einstein on the Beach", by Philip Glass.
"My Life in the Bush of Ghosts", by David Byrne and Brian Eno.
"Daydream Nation", by Sonic Youth.
"Jamboree", by Beat Happening.
"Brilliant Trees", by David Sylvian.
"Hatful of Hollow", by The Smiths.
"Shoot Out the Lights", by Richard and Linda Thompson.
"Honey Steel's Gold", by Ed Kuepper.
"Moon Safari", by Air.
"Crocodiles", by Echo and the Bunnymen.
"Rattlesnakes", by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions.
"Millions Now Living Will Never Die", by Tortoise.
"Low", by David Bowie.
"Hex Enduction Hour", by The Fall.
"Hounds of Love", by Kate Bush.
"A Walk Across the Rooftops", by The Blue Nile.
"Trans-Europe Express", by Kraftwerk.
"The Man-Machine", by Kraftwerk.
"Compilation", by The Clean.
"Before Hollywood", by The Go-Betweens.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Song of the day

"Wivenhoe Bells II", by The Cleaners From Venus.

I never claimed (well, I might have pretended) to know everything about everything. But, given my cloistered youth, spent with one ear glued to 2JJ and one eye glued to the NME, I thought I could reasonably claim to have a solid enough working knowledge of the staunchly independent, I-did-it-my-way corner of the United Kingdom music scene from the end of the seventies (and beyond), nowadays collectively labelled as "DIY".

And then along comes Jon Dale (hey, Jon, can you do the corresponding Melbourne scene next?) with a survey of 131 key exponents of the "DIY" genre, and on a quick count I can give name recognition to roughly one in four of the entities involved, with an even smaller number of boxes ticked for individual songs. (But a hale and hearty "YES!" to ... And The Native Hipsters, Fatal Microbes, and The Prats.) Jon's is at once a heroic achievement, and more than slightly humbling. (Also exciting, at the thought of all those stones yet unturned.) I highly recommend that you spend some quality time with it.

Also, it gives me an excuse to plug, once again, The Cleaners From Venus, down whose rabbit-hole I have been crawling for the last few months, sparked by Captured Tracks' admirable and impressive reissue programme. The Cleaners From Venus, The Brotherhood of Lizards, The Stray Trolleys: it's a rabbit-hole with many branches, but all of them lead back to Martin Newell, creator of a spectacular number of classical English pop songs, many of which could have been propelled to the upper region of the charts under the guiding hand of someone other than Newell, who was content to send his music out into the world by way of cassette tapes housed in hand-coloured covers. Jon's piece serves as a reminder that he wasn't alone, at that time, in operating in this way. Was there an entire generation of musicians fiercely intent on "sticking it to The Man"? Or was this the only way they could get their music heard?

Anyway, "Wivenhoe Bells": Jon opts for the second iteration of this song (Newell clearly knew a good thing when he heard it; some of his best songs were recorded more than once: see also "Marilyn on a Train"). I fell in love with the song via the original recording, from 1980's "Blow Away Your Troubles" cassette. It has taken me a while to come to terms with the (relative) slickness of the 1982 edition, but ultimately the quality of the song itself wins out, whichever version you listen to. And, you know, I'm starting to think that Jon's choice might be right.

Saturday, October 04, 2014


You probably know this already, but earlier in the week, to mark what would have been Trish Keenan's 46th birthday (so young ... so young ...), the Broadcast website posted demo versions of two songs from the "Tender Buttons" album.

In truth, they don't veer too far from the versions that were released on the album, but it's always nice to have an excuse (if any were needed) to listen to some Broadcast, and it's a treat, if still somewhat harrowing, to be able to hear that voice again.