Some More Covers For Saturday

Feel awash on a mixture of emotions. On the majorly positive side, I am getting married in two weeks time to the wonderful soon to be Mrs. 17 Seconds, there are only four days left until the end of term (it’s basically videos next week, which takes the stress out of having to do too much planning), and I am alive. On the negative side, the weather in Scotland has been wet even by the usual standards (so we are looking at a wet wedding at this rate), Ash are apparently about to release their final album, and Fopp, a scottish independent chain have closed their doors. Not good news. At all. From a slightly selfish point of view, I loved shopping there. From a more concerning point of view, there are many sources that indicate that staff have not been paid for the last month’s work (talk about alienation of labour, as Marx would have said), and as a former employee of the company, there is a sense of ‘There but For the Grace Of God go I.’ As the owner is a millionaire he should damn well make sure his staff are paid a.s.a.p.

Who to blame? Anyone who suggests bloggers (not that anyone has. Yet.) is frankly talking out of an orifice that’s not their mouth. I wish supermarkets would stop selling CDs at discounted prices, and that people bought their music from independent stores rather than big chains. I know I have put links to online stores when encouraging people to support music, which is as much of a disclaimer I guess, but the little men and women should not be having to suffer. The staff in small music stores are generally much better informed than staff in the big stores (I should know, I worked for one briefly and it was quite a dispiriting experience generally). I don’t doubt that there are people who work in supermarkets who are very well-informed about music, but the reality is that they are not going to have the time to talk to and advise customers. Most importantly, supermarkets are only going to stock titles by established bands, rather than stocking vinyl and CDS by new and up and coming artists. This is not to anyone’s advantage.

I know I’m ranting, but this is from the heart, as it concerns things I feel passionately about, namely the people on minimum wage jobs or precious little better, and music.

Is there anything we can do? I refuse to accept that we are powerless. Support independent music stores rather than big monoliths, make sure that workers’ rights are recognised, and encourage small companies to operate as co-operatives rather than aiming to be corporate.

Related to this, a purchase a couple of months ago from Fopp, which I have picked some covers from, by my all-time favourite band, The Cure.

The Cure-’Hello I Love You.’ mp3

The Cure-’Hello I Love You (Slight Return mix).’ mp3

The Cure-’Purple Haze (Unreleased Virgin Radio version).’ mp3

The Cure-’Purple Haze.’ mp3

The Cure-’Young Americans.’ mp3

The Cure-’World In My Eyes.’ mp3

(For the benefit of anyone who genuinely doesn’t know who the originals are by, aaargh! The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie and Depeche Mode).

These tracks are taken from The Cure‘s Join The Dots boxset. After everything I have said, if you like what you hear, go and buy it from an independent store. The mp3s will be up for one week only.

Underrated albums #7: Blur " The Great Escape" (1995)

Blur‘s fourth album was released in 1995. The follow-up to their UK commercial breakthrough, it has become the most disputed album of the seven in their career. Much of that is due to an over-discussed battle with another band, which has overshadowed it. So, that’s all I’ll say about that part of the equation, and at most, just review it in on it’s own, or at least, as part of the Blur back catalogue.

The Great Escape is the third and final part of what is effectively a trilogy, the other two preceeding albums being, of course, Modern Life Is Rubbish and Parklife. Whilst Modern Life… had been conceived by a band who were seen as has-beens, the huge success of Parklife had made the band massive stars, now just as likely to be seen in teen magazines as in the music press. Given that there was just fifteen months between the third and fourth albums, maybe it seemed rushed. Granted there are a couple of tracks that might have been better as b-sides ‘Topman’ and ‘Dan Abnormal’, but then you can’t have it all.

There were four UK hit singles off the album, ‘Country House’ being the band’s first number one, and ‘The Universal, ‘Stereotypes’ and ‘Charmless man.’ Even to those who hadn’t heard the album, the knees-up ‘Country House’ was wildly different from the snarling ‘Stereotypes’ which might even have worked on the fifth album, while ‘Charmless Man’ showed that Pulp were not the only ones doing singalong social commentary. However ‘The Universal’ was utterly sublime, the sound of a band reaching for the stars.

There were also amazing album tracks, of which two ‘He Thought Of Cars’ and ‘Yuko and Hiro’ are included below. Blur might also have been the first band to work the word ‘Quango’ into a pop song as well.

And of course, the next album was a complete departure. Blur deserve to be seen as the British Band of the Nineties, and this album is just as much as part of that claim as any of the others.

Forget the historical over-analysis and enjoy for what they are. Presenting four cuts from Blur’s most under-rated album:

Blur-’Charmless Man.’ mp3

Blur-’The Universal.’ mp3

Blur-’He Thought Of Cars.’ mp3

Blur-’Yuko and Hiro.’ mp3

As always, these will be up for one week only.

Buy The Great Escape here

New Pornographers-or how I’m a Johnny-come-lately!

17 Seconds is kicking itself. On Sunday Morning, I went over to Song, By Toad to download his podcast, which is pretty damn good. I was blown away by the track ‘New Romantic’ by the New Pornographers and set about trying to find as much as I could legally.

For anyone who is even more of a Johnny-Come-Lately than me, they are an ‘indie-supergroup’ based in Chicago, and amongst their number are Neko Case and A.C.Newman, who I had heard of, but not really heard.

Their new album is called Challengers and will be out in August, from where ‘My Rights Versus yours’ comes from.

New Pornographers-’My Rights Versus Yours.’ mp3

New Pornographers-’The Laws have Changed.’ mp3

New Pornographers-’Mass Romantic.’ mp3

New Pornographers-’Twin Cinema.’ mp3

New Pornographers-’Use It.’ mp3

And some of the solo stuff:

Neko Case-’Star Witness.’ mp3

Neko Case-’If You Knew.’ mp3

A.C. Newman-’Miracle Drug.’ mp3

A.C. Newman-’Drink To me.’ mp3

Official New Pornographers website here

These will be up for one week only. If yopu like what you hear, go investigate, either at Amazon or a local independent record shop.

Underrated albums #6: Boo Radleys " C’Mon Kids" (1996)

If Giant Steps was the ‘hip’ one, which swept the readers and critics polls in 1993, and Wake Up! the commercial one, then maybe the appearance of C’mon Kids might seem like the beginning of the Boo Radleys decline.

Yeah, right.

C’Mon Kids is actually a damn fine album, all these years later, with a return to the experimentalism that had characterised the Boo Radleys work before Wake Up! but included some damn fine songs just the same. Wake Up Boo! might have been their best remembered song, it’s just that it became like ‘Sit Down’ and ‘Wonderwall.’ A crossover hot that threatened to become an albatross.

There were three UK Top. 40 hits off the album -which was considerably more than Giant Steps had done, and they were crackers. My favourite track is ‘New Brighton Promenade’ which I remember sticking on quite a few mix tapes for other people back in the day.

Try these singles and the aforementioned ‘New Brighton Promenade’ then if you like it Buy C’Mon Kids here.

Boo Radleys-’C'Mon Kids.’ mp3

Boo Radleys-’What’s In The Box?’ mp3

Boo Radleys-’Ride The Tiger.’ mp3

Boo Radleys-’New Brighton Promenade.’ mp3

A Big Thumbs Up

Well, the weather was abysmal, but when you are inside, it doesn’t matter!

Yesterday was the Wedding of Liz at The Roaring Machine and Simon at Spoilt Victorian Child, so I hope they had a very happy wedding day. All the best guys.

Yesterday was also my Stag do, for my wedding to the soon to be Mrs. 17 Seconds which is a mere three weeks away. Put together by my brother, I had a fantastic day, involving food, ten pin bowling, lazerquest and stand up comedy (watching not performing). A great time was had by all, including yours truly who was only embarassed in the comedy club when I had to get up on the stage and kiss a girl from the audience (Ben, you’re dead mate!) And Toad from Song, By Toad was also there, whipping everyone at lazerquest!

So thanks to everyone who came out, this is for you, and indeed anyone who enjoys great music.

Camper Van Beethoven-’Take The Skinheads Bowling.’ mp3

And, all over the blogs though it is, the tracks I have heard off the Justice album are just excellent so here are two for you:

Justice-’D.A.N.C.E.’ mp3

Justice-’Waters Of Nazareth.’ mp3

The mp3s will be up for a week only, so get em while you can.

If you like the music, buy Camper Van Beethoven here and Justice here.

Hope you are all having a good weekend, and that the weather is less wet than it is in Scotland.

Ed

Underrated albums #5: Kate Bush " The Dreaming" (1982)

That difficult fourth album. Just ask Radiohead (Kid A), the Smiths
(Strangeways Here We Come) or The Cure (Pornography). Actually, ask Kate Bush.

The Dreaming, Kate Bush’s fourth album was released in 1982. It’s fair to say that Britain had never produced a female artist like her. A truly independent artist, who grasped the power of the medium of the music video, who had studied mime and could write amazing songs. Never afraid to tackle difficult themes, including incest (‘The Kick Inside) and homosexuality (‘Wow’ and ‘Kashka from Baghdad’), and drew inspiration from unusual sources (‘Infant Kiss’ was inspired by The Innocents, the filmed version of The Turn Of The Screw). She also began to produce her own records. The sound of her music may have owed almost nothing to punk, but the creative spirit than continues to run through her music has much to do with the creativity, experimentalism and individuality of what has become known as post-punk.

So by 1982, the world should have been hers for the taking. What the record company were probably not expecting, as post-punk faded and the prevailing aesthetic became shiny rather than scratchy, was The Dreaming. The title track referenced aboriginal culture and featured Rolf Harris on didgeridoo. And that kind of experimentalism (or madness, as many fans and critics saw it at the time) wasn’t confined to that track. The braying donkey sounds that close final track ‘Get Out Of My House’ seem designed to unsettle.

Yet though the album only produced one UK Top 40 hit, ‘Sat In your Lap’ with a seemingly demented piano riff that might have unnerved the more MOR end of her fanbase, the songs are gorgeous too. My personal favourite is ‘There goes A Tenner’ which bombed as a single in the UK (though reportedly a Top 10 hit in Ireland). It deserved to be a hit.

It’s a cliche, but maybe the problem with The Dreaming was that it was too ahead of it’s time. It’s dated extremely well, and it’s quirkiness is one of it’s many charms. Yes, it’s bonkers, but then when Bjork’s bonkers it’s considered cool.

The follow-up album is The Hounds Of Love, which she laboured over, concerned about what would happen if she was too bloody-minded (‘Running Up That Hill’ should really have been called ‘A Deal With God’ but her record company talked her out of it, fearing that invoking the almighty’s name would mean that she wouldn;t get airplay. Kate wasn’t Cliff Richard, after all!) It’s the album that consolidated her as a long-term player and meant that every kate Bush album afterwards would be an event when it arrived after an everlong gestation period. But The Dreaming, comparitive commercial flop though it may have been, explains why she is so revered by so many. There’s many who have been influenced by her, not just female singer-songwriters either, but male guitar bands.

And if we have to wait another decade for the next album it will be worth it.

Kate Bush-’There Goes A Tenner.’ mp3

Kate Bush-’The Dreaming.’ mp3

Kate Bush-’Night Of The Swallow.’ mp3

Buy The Dreaming here. These mp3s will be up for one week only. If you like what you hear, go and buy it!

Underrated albums #4: The Cure " The Top" (1984)

By the end of 1983, The Cure seemed to have it made. After all the years of being a cult act, if a highly revered one, they had shown that they were more than a goth/raincoat band, and broken through into the charts. The two core members, Robert Smith and Lol Tolhurst, had put the sacking of bassist Simon Gallup behind them, and were having hits. Pop hits. ‘The Walk’ had reached no.12 and ‘The Lovecats’ had reached no.7. So, a pop album was to be the next thing, surely?

Surely not. If history has told us anything, it’s that geniuses are anything but predictable (Who would have thought in 1975 that two years later David Bowie would have fled Los Angeles and plastic soul for Berlin and electronic music? Still if we knew the winner of the Derby in advance, we’d all be rich).

The Cure’ next album The Top is arguably the nearest Robert Smith has ever come to putting out a solo album under the moniker that has served him and his merry men for thirty years. The album credits Smith as ‘Instruments and voices’, Lol as ‘Other Instruments’ and Andy Anderson on drums with Porl Thompson on saxophone. The single released from the album ‘The Caterpillar’ might have seemed like a logical progression from ‘The Lovecats’ but it’s almost out of place on its’ parent album.

Psychedelia is the name of the game here. Whatever drugs Mr. Smith and his merry men were ingesting -hallucinogenics, he has indicated subsequently-were giving him some bizarre visions. The album isn’t as gothic as Faith or as downright terrifying as Pornography, but there must have been some innocent souls who were freaked out by what this band had done in the space of a few months.

The lyrics seem bizarre-still plenty of animals but lots of blood and paranoia. Musically this is one of the Cure’s most adventurous albums. Not in terms of ‘How many styles can we cram onto one album?’ (see 1996′s Wild Mood Swings for that), but just how way out it sounds.

This album can seem inaccessible at first hearing, and yet, like so mnay of the best albums, repeated listenings reward. There are moments of utter gorgeousness, like ‘Dressing Up’, though the later live version on Paris is even better. Title track and closer ‘The Top’ is one of the most atmospheric things The Cure ever committed to vinyl. ‘Wailing Wall’ can take you to that very place, truly hypnotic with the riff invading your brain.

Within a year, the Cure had changed their lineup again, and released an entire album of pop songs, the rather gorgeous The Head On the Door. That’s another story, and one when The Cure were truly a band. But for sheer experimentalism, maybe The Cure, for better or worse, never sounded like they’d messed with their audiences expectations -or heads!- in this way again. Yet… : )

The Cure-’Birdmad Girl.’ mp3

The Cure-’Wailing Wall.’ mp3

The Cure-’Bananafishbones.’ mp3

The tracks will be up for a week only. If you like what you hear, buy The Top here.

Slowdive


I have been discussing music with a fellow teacher a lot at work, and disocvered much in common in terms of music, particularly stuff from the pre-Britpop era. having spent today listening to Slowdive, how could I not encourage others to listen to?

The first Slowdive album Just For A Day was released in 1991, at the height of shoegazing, or as the Americans called it -’Dreampop.’ This latter label seems quite appropriate when applied to this album. These two tracks are taken from there:

Slowdive-’Spanish Air.’

Slowdive-’Catch The Breeze.’ mp3

1993 saw the release of Souvlaki, which suggested a bit more of a dub feel. Whilst some sections of the music press were more preoccupied with grunge (on both sides of the Atlantic), there were those who fell for the charms of its dub influences, which showed the band had built upon the success of their debut.

Slowdive-’Alison.’ mp3

Slowdive-’When The Sun Hits.’ mp3

By 1995, the music scene had changed drastically. Kurt Cobain had died, and Britpop held sway in the UK, not only in the ‘indie/alternative’ scene but in the national pop charts too. Their Wikipedia entry denies that labelmates Oasis had insisted they leave the label, but this album was released a mere week before they were dropped. a shame, because this might even be my favourite of their three albums, representing truly adventurous music that’s just as out there as their (former) labelmates My Bloody Valentine had been when they released Loveless in 1991. This is ambient and dub becoming ever more important in the sound, though to be fair, the Boo Radleys -who had reinvented themselves in line with the times, had hints of it on their earlier albums.

Slowdive-’Rutti.’ mp3

Slowdive-’J's Heaven.’ mp3

After the release of Pygmalion, the band more evolved than split into Mojave 3, who had far more of an Americana-influenced sound and who still prosper today.

Slowdive’s official website is here.

As always, the mp3s will be up for one week only. If you like what you hear, please go and buy the music, be it from Amazon, or your local indpendent retailer.

In the morning

Finally!

After a few days of what seems like rains of Biblical proportions in Scotland over the last few days, the soon to be Mrs.17 Seconds and I woke up to find the sun shining.

How else to mark it, but…these:

Junior Boys-’In The Morning.’ mp3

My Bloody Valentine-’Paint a Rainbow.’ mp3

More about Matthew Wratten

It’s always nice to get feedback on this blog, and it’s also always nice when you get a lot of feedback, particularly about something you might not expect to.

So, cheers for all those who wrote in about the Trembling Blue Stars post. And here, a humble offering. I only own two tracks from Matthew Wratten’s previous band, the Field Mice, but I thought I would share these with you, as well as a Saint Etienne cover.

The Field Mice -’Landmark.’ mp3

The Field Mice-’Let’s Kiss And Make Up.’ mp3

Saint Etienne-’Let’s Kiss And make Up.’ mp3

Buy Field Mice records here

Buy Trembling Blue Stars records here

Buy Saint Etienne records here

Have a good weekend, Ed