Saturday, January 31, 2015

Song of the day

"Disappearing Ground", by Group Rhoda.

We can only assume that Group Rhoda really mean it (man), as the only bandwagon they could have been accused of catching left the station a couple of years ago. But, "cold wave", "minimal wave", or whatever wave-adjective you want to throw at this music, Group Rhoda most definitely have the sound of early-eighties cassettes-by-mail synth music in their veins. Ancient, cantankerous synths sit on top of a rudimentary drum-machine track and some kind of Snakefinger/Suicide rhythm bed, bolstering the affectless singing of a lone female vocalist. (The eponymous Rhoda? I don't know.)

A whole album of this could well drag, and there are moments when the vocals drift a bit too far into Space Lady territory, but in small doses there isn't anything not to like.

There is even a synth patch (is that the right word?) that comes straight from the Stinky Fire Engine playbook. See if you can spot it.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Hypothetical mixtape: February 2014

Gosh. This was a tough one. We could probably have filled a second disc and then some. Spare a thought for the ones that were lost along the way.

"Come Save Me (Pachanga Boys' Jagwar Pawar Version)", by Jagwar Ma. This is so hypnotic that you barely realise that 12 minutes have passed you by. Is that a good thing? Absolutely.

"International Feel", by Todd Rundgren. A song that has launched a thousand careers, and even lent its name to a record label. Rundgren has always been around; so much so that it is easy not to notice him, or his influence. If Don DeLillo can be singled out for the construction of his sentences (he can), Todd is in the same category vis a vis chord sequences. This song could be exhibit A.

"You're Looking Down A Road", by Ross. This is, in essence, Pink Floyd's "Pow R Toc H" -- or is it "Time of the Season", by The Zombies? -- blended together with prime-era (if there be such a thing) Chicago. Oh those perfect tight-trousered vocal harmonies. Further evidence that 1974 may have been a key year in our musical evolution. Bonus: album cover of the month.

"STUPiG", by BiS. And then there's this. J-Pop laced with speed-metal guitars and a bit of shouting a la "This Is The Excuse". Not that there's anything wrong with that. (Warning: video may cause seizures. Or bad dreams.)

"Warrior in Woolworths", by X-Ray Spex. You want iconic? The opening guitar line of this song. That's iconic.

"Adolescent Sex", by Japan. Here's an idea: try entering "Adolescent Sex Japan" into Google on your workplace computer and see what happens. On second thoughts, don't.

"Disco 2000", by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. You wonder how this came about. The Baddest Seeds are in fine form on this take on the Pulp heartbreaker. Cave's voice tends towards the slightly awkward croonerisms that sometimes makes the listener, if he is the kind of listener who tends to root for the Cavester, cross his fingers behind his back while quietly preparing to wince. Bad cover version? No, actually.

"Freiburg V 3.0 (Club Europe Mix)", by Tocotronic vs. Console. Around the dawn of the new century, when I first discovered how easy it was to extract music from the internet onto the comfort of my own hard drive, and real life consequently receded into the realm of "abstract concept", I stumbled upon something called the "I Like Giorgio" mix of this song. (At the audio-tastic bitrate of 96 kbps.) It may be that I respond to this quite different mix in a fit of misplaced nostalgia. Whatever.

"Sunshine", by John Talabot. Late to the party as usual, I took my old sweet time hepping to John Talabot's "Fin" album. Having done this, belatedly, I looked backwards. And found this. Nice, isn't it?

"Oddball", by Alan Hawkshaw and Brian Bennett. In which the A Team of British library music create an ersatz blacksploitation funk groove and hit it out of the park.

"Pair of Wings", by Frankie Rose. The day I no longer fall head over heels in love with this kind of song will be the day I quit. For now: quick, pass the smelling salts.

"Number One", by Silent Corner. And as long as good people keep digging up nuggets from the synth-pop / "dark wave" end of the post-punk continuum, I will continue to listen.

"Week End (Larry Levan Mix)", by Class Action. Originally released on Sleeping Bag. Produced by Bob and Lola Blank. To borrow a catch-phrase from the other Stan: 'Nuff said?

"Surfers Hymn (Actress Primitive Patterns Mix)", by Panda Bear. Every so often Kompakt will throw out a curve ball, often involving artists not usually, or at all, associated with the label. (See, for example, Pet Shop Boys tackling "I'm In Love With A German Film Star".) The tradition continues. While not approaching the wilful difficultness of Actress's very impressive album from 2014, "Ghettoville", this is a much harsher, almost industrial sound than we are used to from Kompakt. Cynics could say, "they couldn't get Factory Floor, so they went with this instead". Cynics be damned.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Fütter Mein Ego

True story.

Earlier in the week I was introduced, in passing, to the newly appointed judge who is about to become my latest "stakeholder". He seems like a nice guy, which might be a platitude but is also true.

So anyway, later on I bumped into the person who had done the introducing. She said to me that afterwards the judge had said to her words to the effect of, "I am glad to have met Stan. Everybody knows about Stan: he's a legend."

Now, assuming that he wasn't making this up, and assuming also that he hadn't just been well briefed by another, soon-to-be-retired judge, I find it hard to know what to make of this. The idea that I am on the radar of people I don't know makes me very uncomfortable. It also strikes me as entirely ridiculous, and a bit scary, that the people doing the talking would include people of the calibre of recent appointments to the esteemed institution at which I work, and where all I have ever tried to do is an honest day's work. (Also: I am not a legend. (But nor am I a myth.) One of our boys may once have referred to it as "Daddy's High Court", but it actually isn't.)

Still and all, I must admit that it also put a smile on my face: at least until I realised that I had an overwhelming urge to tell my parents about it, which, of course, is one thing I cannot do. I wonder what they would have said. Dad would probably have been quietly complimentary and encouraging. Mum would have found a way to put me back in my place. She wouldn't want such things going to my head. That would be a dangerously slippery slope.

But I can't tell them, so I'm telling you instead.

Song of the day

"Banana Boat (Day-O)", by Stan Freberg.

Notwithstanding that it bears the same relation to the ancient and noble sport of cricket as World Championship Wrestling bore to the ancient and noble sport of wrestling, the almost-15-year-old and I have been inexplicably glued to this year's Big Bash League. I don't think either of us is interested in it as a sporting contest as much as we are observing with morbid fascination how a thing can become commercialised to within an inch of its life and then a bit more, and yet still retain some slight vestige of the thing that it once was.

Heck, there is even a sponsor for the innings break.

What I have noticed is that every so often the cry of "Day-O", from Harry Belafonte's "Banana Boat Song", erupts from the ground's loudspeakers. Aside from there being one or two West Indians scattered amongst the teams, I have no idea what purpose it serves. But at some point it brought back a childhood memory.

I spent a good amount of my primary-school-era downtime at the house of my best friend, Weary. On one such occasion Weary played me a seven-inch single that belonged to his mother, called "Banana Boat (Day-O)". It turns out to have been a parody of the Belafonte song, although I wouldn't have known that then. It amounted to a couple of grown-ups talking like beatniks (man) and occasionally singing a bit. It had us in stitches, to the point where, after a while, if one of us said "it's too loud, man" we would both be rolling around on the floor laughing unstoppably and gasping for breath.


And now I've got the next generation doing much the same. (Although instead of rolling around on the floor laughing they adopt the faintest hint of a smile, throw a pair of air quotes, and deadpan the word (if it be a word) "lol". And occasionally shout the word "Bunch!" As I said, "Kids.")

(Weary and I also got a good amount of mileage from the b-side, "Tele-Vee-Shun". ("I'm sick of it.") I haven't introduced the boys to that one. Yet.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Vimeo of the day

"Subterranean Homesick Blues", by Bob Dylan.

Just as you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, you don't need an excuse to listen to "Subterranean Homesick Blues". That old rollicking skiffle-beat word-salad never gets tired. But if you happened to be looking for an excuse, you have one: according to this piece by Mr Richard Williams in Ye Olde Guardian, it was 50 years ago today that Dylan committed it to tape. ("Is it rolling, Bob?")

Nor do you need an excuse to watch, for the umpteenth time, its highly influential, oft-parodied "film clip" (actually taken from D A Pennebaker's "Don't Look Back"). "Don't follow leaders."

(You all know that's Allen Ginsburg in the bottom left corner, right?)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Tintin homage of the week

R. Sikoryak. I'm not sure how he does it but I'm glad he does.

(via D&Q)

Friday, January 09, 2015

Song of the day

"Time is Tight", by Dick Hyman.

Homophonically speaking, the name Dick Hyman is something of an awkward non-sequitur; a contradiction in terms, even. Musically speaking, Mr Hyman may also have fallen into that category. He made his name as a straight-ahead jazz player, but somewhere in the 1960s he took a major left turn, investing his energies in the brave new world of electric keyboards (see also, but also c.f., Miles Davis) and, specifically, with two albums released in 1969, the Moog.

Those two albums were themselves strikingly bifurcated, one ("The Age of Electronicus") taking the Martin Denny route of spicing up the standards of the day; the other, "Moog: The Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman", couldn't have been more different (or more difficult): a kind of musique concrete investigation of possible futures.

"Time is Tight", which you all know as a Booker T and The MGs standard, appears on the first of those albums. There is, however, a 1997 CD reissue of the "Moog ..." album that takes three tracks from "The Age of Electronicus" and appends them to the more difficult stuff, breathing new life into those three tracks (and particularly into "Time is Tight", which appears right at the end) as a kind of palate cleanser to the largely avant garde business that precedes them. Of course, to each his own, but these three minutes seem to me to contain more life, and more future possibilities, within them than the whole of the original "Moog ..." album put together. Fightin' words? (As an aside, I also tend to think that the strength of a song can be tested by how well it lends itself to weird and/or unexpected cover versions. On that hypothesis, "Time is Tight" clearly prevails. But you already knew that.)

(You may also ask yourself how much the cover art for "The Age of Electronicus" might have influenced the young Julian House, designer of record covers for the Ghost Box label, as well as for artists as sound and sturdy as Broadcast and Stereolab.)

Thursday, January 08, 2015

YouTube of the day

The Feelies @ Asbury Lanes 5/12/14.

I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing on a hot summer afternoon than sitting at the computer watching some recent Feelies concert footage. Maybe that's sad. Mercer and Million sure can build up a head of steam for a couple of old guys.

(via Doom and Gloom from the Tomb)

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Song of the day

"Primrose Green", by Ryley Walker.

Happy 2015.

What better way to kick the new year into some kind of shape than with the lead-out song from the soon-to-be-here second Ryley Walker LP, "Primrose Green". As you know, his first album was one of my faves from 2014. On the strength of this song, which is built from the same basic template, Mr Walker shows no sign of falling from those dizzy heights just yet. Woot!

Props for the cover art, too (assuming this to be it; via Aquarium Drunkard), which comes across like a 1971 LA private-press album.