Speakers Push Air

Rock The Casbah
January 22, 2008, 8:18 pm
Filed under: MP3

Right. I’m off to Marrakech for a few days (a post-exam / late birthday present for my girlfriend kind of a deal) so no new posts from me for a while. So I’ll leave you with my current favourite Thin Lizzy song. They’ve been with me longer than any other band, and Iwon’t hear a word against them. This song is particularly lovely, and vaguely appropriate so it’ll do for now, till I write the mother of all Thin Lizzy pieces at some point

Thin Lizzy – Southbound
from the album Bad Reputation (Mercury Records)

Take care, y’all

Sound Of The Underground
January 16, 2008, 4:08 pm
Filed under: MP3

Mount Vernon Arts Lab was one of those acts I knew by name, and little else. I seem to have boxed him (for it’s one Drew Mulholland) off with the likes of Flying Saucer Attack and Seefeel, for some reason, and somehow I managed never to hear a note. However, a piece in the latest issue of the ever-more-essential Plan B magazine about last year’s Ghost Box reissue of Seance At Hobs Lane compelled me to investigate further – talk of of Quatermass, psychogeography, weird whirring analogue machines and Coil drew me right in. So I downloaded the album, and ordered the CD that same day (a resounding counterblast to copyright fascists and industry doom-mongers, I’m sure you’ll agree).

It’s excellent: a handful of tracks that are – or veer close to being – actual songs are outnumbered by some genuinely disturbing but really engaging atmospheric pieces. London looms large, in the track titles (Sir Keith At Lambeth, While London Sleeps, The Vauxhall Labyrinth) but also in the general feel of the album. The references to Quatermass in the review certainly hold – the sounds really conjure alien goings-on in abandoned tube stations and the like. The Coil comparison is fair (and indeed, Coil remixed the track I’m posting; Barry from Add N To X remixed another) but Nurse With Wound is probably more apposite. It’s good hear that, as well as publishing a book on psychogeography, Mulholland has unearthed some collaborations with Coil thought lost, and is planning to make music again (having sold all his gear when World Serpent Distribution went down a few years ago, leaving MVAL high and dry).

Because you’re sensitive little souls, I’m posting perhaps the most conventional track from the album, Hobgoblins (remixed, as already mentioned, by Coil) but it really is worth paying a proper visit to Hobs Lane.

Mount Vernon Arts Lab – Hobgoblins (Coil Remix)
from the Ghost Box reissue of Seance At Hobs Lane

This Is What Bad Days Need
January 14, 2008, 11:49 pm
Filed under: MP3

There’s no carefully constructed argument for this offering, no thematically linked trio of tunes that fit snugly together. I’m posting this one because (as an attempt to cheer myself up as I come to terms with the imminent flunking of two important exams), it just makes me fucking smile.

Misty’s Big Adventure are really, really ace. They’re probably open to all sorts of easy criticism: they’re ‘wacky’, they ‘sound a bit like the Cardiacs’, they’re a bit ‘school music project’, they’re ‘Brummies’. But fuck all that. They’re joyous and bouncy and yet full of melancholy and disappointment (joyous melancholy and bouncy disappointment, naturally). They’re like (and I hate doing this) a mixture of The Teardrop Explodes, Scott Walker, The Cardiacs (yeh, yeh – get over it), a ska band, an oompah band and some other stuff that my revision-addled brain can’t quite place.¬† They ‘give good show’, the mainman is wonderfully and implausibly named Grandmaster Gareth (and he does morose better than anyone), they’re not famous enough and they have the prettiest trumpet player since.. erm… Louis Armstrong.

So, then. This is off their best album, The Black Hole. It might not be their best album really, because I haven’t listened to the recent one enough yet, but it’s a bit better than the first one.

Jesus Christ, I need a drink.

Misty’s Big Adventure – Evil
from the album The Black Hole (Targo)

Up Against The Wall Pt 1
January 13, 2008, 7:07 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Weather Report… Steely Dan… Tangerine Dream… The Beach Boys… The Red Hot Chili Peppers… Nick Drake… Joss Stone… Sergio Mendes… Nine Inch Nails… Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen… Soundgarden… The Levellers… Rage Against The Machine… Kate Nash… Pope John Paul George & Ringo… Cast, The Las, The Zutons and all the other fucking cosmic Scousers… Level 42… Brandon Block and anyone else who was largin it on Ibiza back in the day… Ryan Adams… tribute bands (apart from El Vez)…

Dubversion & His Amazing Dancing Bear
January 13, 2008, 3:18 pm
Filed under: MP3

There’s a bunch of songs I remember vividly from my early 70s childhood, mostly from that Ed Stewart kids show and then Jimmy Savile’s Old Record Club – the two blur for me, but certain songs always meant Sunday lunch was nearly ready. The late 60s / early 70s were blighted with dreadful novelty records, but some were really bizarre – Mouldy Old Dough by Lieutenant Pigeon comes to mind, surely the weirdest number one ever (I mean, what the fuck was that?) – and some perhaps weren’t novelty records at all, not really.

My favourite record when I was a kid was a scratched up copy of Simon Smith & His Amazing Dancing Bear by The Alan Price Set that my dad gave me. A big hit in 1967, it was originally a Randy Newman song, but as (almost) always, Newman wasn’t the best performer of his own songs. Price (who’d done some brilliant stuff as part of the Animals) exaggerated a kind of music hall element Newman had hinted at, and came up with a really beautiful, fairly odd song about the exploits of a boy and his bear. It honestly makes me well up sometimes when I listen to it, partly I’ll admit through sentimentality and nostalgia, but also because it’s just so bloody lovely.

Keeping to the pattern of 3 tracks at a time, first off here’s the Alan Price version (and I recommend the compilation it’s lifted from, Price was a brilliant and curious talent – especially his work with Lindsay Anderson on O Lucky Man).

The Alan Price Set – Simon Smith & His Amazing Dancing Bear
from any number of Price compilations

Next up is a stripped down, jauntyness-free version by Okkervil River, a patchy but sometimes impressive indie /country outfit from Austin. I like the way that slowing it down and taking out the sparkly piano (and adding a fairly wracked-sounding vocal) leaves you with a song that sounds so sad and weary, despite cheeriness of the lyrics.

Okkervil River – Simon Smith & His Amazing Dancing Bear
from the free ‘mixtape’ Golden Opportunities (available on the band’s website)

To be honest, though, this is all a preamble to my best Youtube find ever. Watching this (on repeat) made me unreasonably overexcited and happy, and maybe it’ll hit you like that too.

New Wine In Old Bottles.
January 13, 2008, 1:55 pm
Filed under: MP3

A confession. All three of these tunes I first heard on Mark Lamarr’s Saturday morning (or Friday night, if you prefer – midnight – 3am) show on Radio 2. But then probably 50% of all the best ‘new’ (to me) music arrives via that show – whatever people’s feelings about Lamarr are (largely based on Buzzcocks, it seems – and for the record, I like the guy a lot), he really knows his stuff, he’s utterly immersed in it. His genre shows – the rock’n’roll one, the reggae one, the sixties / garage one – they’re all good. But the Friday show – God’s Jukebox – is the only essential listening I have in any week. 3 hours for him to cover gospel, blues, reggae, hip hop, ska, country, garage, soul, some jazz, a bit of indie.. And it’s rare that I dislike more than a handful of songs a week.

ANYWAY… here’s three tracks he’s played of late that have a fantastic vintage quality – without, I think, slipping into pastiche.

It turns out that Magic Sam, the man behind For Old Time’s Sake, told me about CW Stoneking a while ago. But I was drunk. So I heard Stoneking first on Lamarr. Perhaps the most ‘authentic’ (whatever that means) of the artists featured, Stoneking is a real curiosity. His wikipedia biog starts

“Stoneking was born to American parents in Katherine, Australia in 1974 and raised in the Aboriginal community of Papunya until the age of 9 and then in Sydney where he began playing the guitar at the age of 11. In 1997 he moved to Melbourne after some years living in Mailors Flat near Warrnambool in rural Victoria and began performing as a solo blues guitarist and singer in the 1920s-30s style.”

He refers to himself as a hokum player (a new one for me) and his finest album, King Hokum, is the source of this track, which I think is just wonderful.

CW Stoneking – Goin’ The Country
from the album King Hokum (Inertia)

Next up are Ollabelle (Levon Helm from The Band’s daughter, or something). I’m mostly in agreement with Lamarr about Ollabelle – this track is spine-tinglingly marvellous, and nothing else they’ve done comes close. I’m not as dismissive of the rest as he is – there’s some decent stuff, especially on self-titled album this comes from – but it’s still not on a par with Before This Time.

Ollabelle – Before This Time
from the album Ollabelle (Sony)

Probably the best known of the 3 act here (in the UK at least) are Kitty, Daisy & Lewis. Three ludicrously young, ludicrously photogenic north London teens from a musical family, they seem steeped in all the good stuff – rockabilly, swing and jump jazz, country – and have a slavish, Toerag-esque love for analogue, bakelite and pomade

Their debut album is a long time coming, I do worry how much of the attention on them is age-related and that they might be considered unremarkable once they’ve all passed voting age, but nonetheless they are really, really good. Some decent original material, faultless choices when it comes to cover versions and a genuinely raw and spirited energy to their recordings (and, based on the one time I’ve seen them, their shows).

Kitty, Daisy & Lewis – Ooo Wee
from the compilation A-Z: Kitty Daisy and Lewis: the Roots of Rock ‘n’ Roll¬† (Sunday Best)

Lamb To The Slaughter
January 10, 2008, 10:07 am
Filed under: Radio

A little outside this blog’s professed remit, but can I point you in the direction of this petition.

Of course, I could argue that this blog is about quality music, which is the antithesis of what Lamb is about, so maybe it’s not so outside the remit at all.

He’s taken to checking out some patois website and starting his show with stuff like “wha’ppen, listeners” and the like. He really needs to be boiled in oil. Tiresome, talentless, unfunny, puerile, offensive little twatmonkey.

(And yes, I do listen to 6music sometimes…)

Indie Kids With Laptops…
January 8, 2008, 9:48 pm
Filed under: MP3

I’ve been listening to a lot of electronic and indie stuff from the early noughties (is that what we’re calling them?) and have fallen in love all over again with a trio of tunes that sum up a particular time for me, but also offer fine examples of a particular collision happening around that time. There seemed to be a lot of cross-fertilisation then between fairly gentle, even twee, indie acts, and some of the glitchier or more retro-sounding electronic artists. It could even be seen as the precursor of a lot of the stuff that came to be called (spit) folktronica.

The first is Pilot by The Notwist. I know next to nothing about the band (German, formed in the late 80s, various offshoots and a lot of shifts in direction). But their crossover album, Neon Golden, is absolutely lovely from start to finish. Pilot is by far the standout track.

The Notwist – Pilot
from the album Neon Golden (City Slang)

The next track is by Capitol K – from the same year (2oo2) as Pilot, and again someone about whom I know very little (London-based, runs the Faith & Industry label) but this song – Pillow – is lovely in much the same way as Pilot is.

Capitol K – Pillow
from the album Island Row (XL Recordings)

The final selection is from The Postal Service, a kind of US emo / indie superduo, who for most of their output are so saccharine as to be utterly nauseating, the worst excesses of twee-tronica (I just invented that, by the way). However, they got it right just once: their cover of Suddenly Everything Has Changed (one of the Flaming Lips’ most gorgeous songs, from The Soft Bulletin). Just magical stuff.. Trust me, though – the rest of their ouput is vile.

The Postal Service – Suddenly, Everything Has Changed
from The District Sleeps Alone EP (Sub Pop)

One Step Forward, One Step Backwards
January 4, 2008, 2:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

No sooner do I trumpet the launch of an exciting new blog than I find out that another is ending. After 5 years, Mighty Matt Woebot is not only jacking in Woebot – for my money, one of the 3 or 4 best blogs I’ve ever read – but potentially all his online activity. Although there have been shifts and diversions etc with Woebot over the years, it appears this time he really is giving it all up. I’m sure he has some very good reasons (Woebot doesn’t strike me as someone to act rashly) and I’m sure he’ll come up with something else wonderful instead (even if we never get to see it), but from a purely selfish standpoint, it’s a significant and depressing loss. Make the most of the archives while they’re still there…

So, what more can I say except

Yep Roc-kabilly Rebels
January 4, 2008, 11:34 am
Filed under: MP3

In the last couple of years, Yep Roc Records (out of North Carolina) has become my record label of choice (an exalted position previously occupied by 4AD, On-U Sound, Blast First, SST.. you get the idea). In many ways, it’s become a bit of a resting place for hoary old, worthy old luddites and traditionalists (British artists like Paul Weller, Nick Lowe, Billy Bragg, Robyn Hitchcock and the like have all ended up there). But among some of the less marvellous US acts, Yep Roc has mined a rich seam of brilliant “-billy” bands of various types, and it’s those that have totally won me over.

As well as the three bands I’m going to feature here, there’s also Big Sandy & His Flyrite Boys (a chubby, parallel universe teen heart-throb doo-wop / rock’n’roller), Robbie Fulks (bitter and witty country rock), Heavy Trash (Jon “Blues Explosion” Spencer and Matt “Madder Rose” Verta Ray, turning their hand to diligently analogue / retro rockabilly), Los Straitjackets (Mexican, Spanish language rock’n’roll and garage by a bunch of wrestling mask wearing, Nashville based nutjobs) and The Sadies (rootsy ‘insurgent country’). And that’s just the acts I’ve already got round to….

What’s great about Yep Roc (hoary old pub rockers aside) is that not only does it clearly have pretty high standards, but also that its more retro acts (the ones I love most, to be fair) aren’t pitiful throwbacks, schlepping round the whatever-billy circuit churning out the same old crap. They all do something interest and exciting and new with the source material, use it as a stepping off point rather than a circuit diagram. And so to my three favourite Yep Roc bands (and three of my favourite bands anywhere, ever.. )

It pains me that I’ve still never seen Southern Culture On The Skids, I’ve somehow never managed to work it out. I first saw them on Alternative Nation on MTV a good decade or so ago, before I was really into this sort of thing, but even then they made an impact. It was the video for Camel Walk, a perennial SCOTS fave, and looking it up on youtube I realise I never noticed the ‘Flirting With Disaster’ clips / soundtrack connection – but it’s got it all: El Santo, the adorable Mary Huff shimmying, tractors and the rest…

I guess there’s a cross-over with the Cramps when it comes to SCOTS, but they replace the Franken-teen zombie trash of The Cramps with a broader palette of garage, surf and rockabilly sounds, hillybilly culture, lucha libre, fried squirrel and trucks. Brilliant musicians, very very funny people, a real variety of styles (the latest album, Countrypolitan Favourites, is a bizarre collection of souped-up, mostly country covers).

The track I’ve chosen is from their Santo Swings EP (ironically not actually on Yep Roc), and it’s a tribute to the king of the luchadores himself, El Santo!

Southern Culture On The Skids – Viva El Santo!
from the EP Santo Swings (Estrus Records)

The Reverend Horton Heat is probably the best known of this trio of Yep Roc acts, by virtue of a spell on Sub Pop, and probably the most determinedly retro too. How the Rev got lumped in with the plaid-clad hordes is beyond me, but it got him noticed. Now, the Rev is someone I have seen live, a couple of times, and it’s a great show (it’s pretty trad stuff – the double-bassist rides his instrument like a surfboard, that sort of thing) and if you ever get bored with the band (unlikely), the audience are about the best turned-out I’ve ever seen, at least to a weekendabilly like myself.

The Rev – despite (or maybe because of) being perhaps the most straight-ahead rockabilly of the lot, seems to have crossed over to all sorts of genres (a certain strain of metal fans seem to have a soft spot for him, for instance). The track I’m posting goes some way to explaining why: sure, it’s rockabilly, but it ROCKS.

The Reverend Horton Heat – Texas Rockabilly Rebel
from the album Space Heater

Finally, we come – again – to Th’Legendary Shack Shakers…

Not much more to say I didn’t already cover here, so I’ll just post the track – my favourite of all their releases – and move on.

Th’Legendary Shack Shackers – Blood On The Bluegrass
from the album Cockadoodledon’t