Apologies (well, of sorts)

Although clearly a lot of people cannot be bothered to leave comments, music is being sampled from this blog at a very fast rate and my bandwith has been reached, and is due to be refurbished in ten days.

I will try and sort this out tomorrow, but am off ot bed now.

However, I have just come back from watching King Creosote and Emma Pollock, and have an interview with King Creosote which I will post here asap.

plenty of great blogs listed on the right hand side if you are looking to sample more great music.

Ed

Some Covers For Friday Part III

Hey, it’s Friday, it’s been a good week, and I’m in the mood for sharing so here are some fantastic covers for you all.

First up, I heard Camera Obscura doing this live earlier this year, and it blew me away. They really DO make this their own song.

Camera Obscura -’Super Trooper (Abba cover).’ mp3

Electric Light Orchestra are one of those bands that seem to be considered beyond naff, and yet…there’s something quite nice about their songs in small doses. Or in this case, in the hands of the much-missed Delgados (RIP).

The Delgados -’Mr. Blue Sky (ELO cover).’ mp3

I know very little about this cover, exvcept that The archies were a TV show before I was born, and this was no.1 back in about 1969 -but it’s kinda cool, and I’d love to know where I can hear Mary Lou Lord’s cover of the Bevis Frond’s Lights Are Changing, too.

Mary Lou Lord -’Sugar Sugar [from the Archies].’ mp3

You get to hear a lot of music when you write a blog. You also get the chance to hear a lot of stuff that you’ve been searching for for ages. These two songs were things I had put out pleas for-and ended up in my inbox extremely quickly. Thanks. These were originally recorded for an album for Northern Ireland called ‘Peace Together’ when the province was a lot more troubled. I love the Peter Gabriel original and also really like Pop Will Eat Itself’s take on it (Gabriel’s stuff with Genesis was mince though). While I quite like a lot of the Police’s stuff (though their solo stuff leaves much to be desired in a certain case, Mr. Sumner) I was never a big fan of this song, until I heard Therapy? do it.

Pop Will Eat Itself -’Games Without Frontiers (Peter Gabriel cover).’ mp3

Therapy? -’Invisible Sun (The Police cover).’ mp3

There are some great Arcade Fire covers dowing the rounds, I posted their version of Guns Of Brixton earlier this year. This is their take on Bowie’s Five Years.

Arcade Fire -’Five Years (David Bowie cover).’ mp3

Morrissey was quite passionate about many bands over the years, and famously covered Suede’s early b-side ‘My Insatiable One’ (again, if you know where I can get hold of this, please get in touch) before most people had even heard of Suede. He also bigged up James years before they broke big (although it’s long been rumoured that ‘We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful’ was a dig at them). This song -the b-sde to his ‘Pregnant For The Last Time’ single -was a cover of a Bradford song.

Morrissey -’Skin Storm (Bradford cover).’ mp3

Speaking of seeking out covers…I’d made a plea for this earlier this week and got this, plus another Tori cover into the bargain..

Tori Amos -’Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana cover).’ mp3

Tori Amos -’Happpiness Is A Warm Gun (The Beatles cover).’ mp3

Finally. This song (and if I really, really need to spell it out it’s ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’) is possibly my very favourite cover version ever. I’ve no idea what Morrissey -or indeed any of The Smiths think of it – but it’s fab in my eyes (or should that be ears?)

Schneider TM -’The Light 3000.’ mp3

As always, if you like what you hear, please go and seek it out (it should go without saying that I do not hold the copyright and these are here for sampling only) by supporting the artists involved, preferably through your local record shop!

Interview: Penny Century

The best bands feel and look like a gang.

Think about it: Dexy’s Midnight Runners in their Mean Streets clobber. The Clash in that shot outside the army barracks in Northern Ireland. The Ramones looking like they had just come from a night hustling on the corner of 53rd and 3rd (which if the rumours are true, some of them actually had).

Penny Century look and feel like a gang too, but in their own, sweet way. They formed in a town called Ostersund, in the north of Sweden. And now, before they go on to play a storming gig at the tiny Henry’s Cellar Bar in Edinburgh, I’m outside with my iPod and mike, chatting to them.

When I say a gang in their own sweet way, that’s exactly what I mean. They are very much together as a group of friends, but they’re warm and friendly with it, genuinely grateful for what I’ve written about them before, and enjoying the brief tour of the UK of which this will be the final gig.

So, yes, I wrote a four and a half star review of Penny Century’s debut album, Between A Hundred Lies, but that’s because to these ears, it’s an album that is up there with the best of the year; Malcolm Middleton, Emma Pollock, Arcade Fire, Wiley, M.I.A, LCD Soundsystem.

Yes. That good. This ain’t no hyperbole.

So let’s introduce the band: Julia Hanberg is the lead vocalist, Kim Fastesson and Erik Persson on guitars, vocals & lyrics, Pontus Sillren on bass & lyrics, Martin Soderin on drums, and Markus Eriksson on piano and organ.

Their MySpace site has this to say:

‘ Originally playing in different punk, rock or indie-groups the six soon-to-be creators of the most beautiful northern popmusic imaginable met each other in their mid-teens. Since there isn´t much to do in this corner of the world you could by that age either pick up heavy drinking or start writing songs. Penny Century chose booth. It was actually on strangers balconies, in snowstorms on their way to parties or just during friendly afternoon drinking they really learned to know one another.

The songs often revisit this time of coming of age, a time of getting to know yourself and the best of friends at the same time. Other reacurring subjects of the lyrics is family, guilt and love- lost or longed for.
The tunes is the yellowed pictures of a family photoalbum, loveletters that never were sent or just damn good popsongs with great vocals, jangly guitars, soaring melodies and catchy choruses.’

Now, the longer I write about music, the more I find press releases are just so FULL OF IT, rubbish that means absolutely nothing,(other than a press officer who has failed to write in anything but clichés to try and sell an artist, giving me a cynical little laugh in the process).

But this time, it just feels so spot on.

This has been a short tour of one and a half weeks, their first time in the UK. A few days previously they had played Dundee. It had not been a roaring success, ‘the news papers had said a couple of days ago that the venue was closed, ‘ Julia says. ‘Not just closed, shut down!’ the others add, understandably a little frustrated a few days later. But they just put it down to bad luck. They had played a gig in Gosforth in a beer garden, which they liken to playing in Midsommer Murders. ‘He’s a suspect, she’s a suspect!’ they chuckle.

Of course, Penny Century are familiar with small towns, growing up away from the big metropolises that are in the south of Sweden. Hell, anyone who’s lived in a smalltown anywhere in the world knows that a survival instinct of sorts has to kick in, somehow. And it’s not about dealing with a dog-eat-dog world of the big city, but more about the fight for the right to dare to be an individual, in an insular world where being different can be all the excuse some meatheads need. I ask them about where they grew up. Was it a case of Alcoholism or music, and you chose music, with a little bit of alcohol on the side? ‘You could say that!’ They all went to the same school, and had played in various bands together, apart from Julia who says this is her first band.

Sweden has of course, produced a lot of great music over the years. The mighty Abba (and if you think I’m being ironic about that, I’ll come round and get you), The Wannadies, The Cardigans being some of the more high profile acts (let’s forget about the purveyors of ‘It Must Have Been Love’ and er, ‘The Final Countdown.’ God knows I’m still trying to). Do they see themselves as being part of a Swedish scene?

‘No, we are totally unique. We feel more Swedish than other bands when we are here.’

Do they feel compared to the Cardigans? ‘Yes, just because it’s a girl,’ says Julia, clearly a little weary of this. Perhaps understandably. By way of justification, the band point out that the Cardigans and Abba sound quite slick. This might come as a surprise to those people who have only heard their album – but it’s quite clear that Penny Century see themselves as being a punk band almost, and that’s the goal for their next record. Seeing them live, they do rock far more than the gentle pastoral indie pop of

Although they have put out four EPS in Sweden, they now find themselves in the ironic position that their album actually has to be imported into Sweden. The EPs they now tend to view as demos. I ask if they plan to release them in the UK, but it’s clear that it’s not high on their list of priorities right now.

This leads me to ask about one of the songs that is downloadable from their website ‘Summer Outside.’ It features the somewhat disturbing line ‘If I’m gonna suffocate, please let me see my strangler’s face.’ Is this dealing with domestic violence?

‘It’s more about your own ghosts, the ones you can’t see. The things that always scare you, that you can’t always control.’

We talk about the scene in Sweden. Whilst this may not get much coverage in the British media, there are certainly parallels, in that while bands may form in small, out of the way places where it can be quite hard to get a gig, they often end up gravitating to the big cities, like Malmo, Gothenburg, and of course, the capital Stockholm. Would they consider moving to Stockholm, to advance their career?

‘Been there, done that,’ chuckles Pontus. ‘We were in Stockholm for a year, then we lost the apartment and had to move back.’ But they indicate that they probably will move back there when they return to Sweden. But they hope to return to the UK, they’ve had a great response. And they deserve it!

‘You’re in for a real treat!’ they say before they go on stage, and indeed I am.

Both on album and live, Penny Century fulfil my expectations and more. Make a little room in your heart for them.

Penny Century -’Nothing Burns Like Bridges.’ mp3

Penny Century -’What I Never Learned To Say.’ mp3

Penny Century -’Tangled Up In My Sheets.’ mp3

Penny Century -’Summer Outside.’ mp3

Penny Century’s album Between A Hundred Lies is out now on Letterbox Records.

It can be ordered here

Penny Century’s MySpace is here

Tom Waits… For Everyone!

Just a quick post tonight, as I have spent the evening with Mrs. 17 Seconds clothes shopping and trying to organise stuff for my students tomorrow.

Needless to say, when out shopping I couldn’t resist a quick look round a record shop, and Mrs. 17 Seconds bought me a CD, Mule Variations by Tom Waits.

I have long enjoyed Tom Waits’ fantastic music, but he’s produced a lot of albums. Quite why I haven’t bought this I have no idea. I actually prefer the later Waits stuff to the early: the voice is gruffer, the music is rawer, and quite often more experimental, and sadness or happiness, he just makes it sound like no-one else. So many white men try to sing the blues (don’t get me started on Eric Clapton’s oeuvre post about 1970, to say nothing of some of his dodgy political remarks), Waits doesn’t need to try.

If you have heard this album before, I’m preaching to the converted. But if you haven’t, go buy this album tomorrow (or maybe your loved one will buy it for you!)

Tom Waits -’Big In Japan.’ mp3

Tom Waits -’Hold On.’ mp3

Tom Waits -’House Where Nobody Lives.’ mp3

For more on Tom Waits, including more mp3s, go here

Make sure you buy the album if you like these tracks, preferably from an independent record shop!

From the Swans…to Angels Of Light

Of all the late seventies-early eighties No Wave bands, the toughest and most uncompromising of the lot were held to be The Swans. Notorious for shows and music that were confrontational, and songs like ‘Raping A Slave’ (yes, you did read that right), Michael Gira and his not so merry men (and one woman, Jarboe) were one of those bands whose reputation is still infamous years later.

So it might come as a shock for those who haven’t followed Gira’s post-Swans career particularly closely (and I have to admit, I am no authority) but having read a review in The Wire, I had to get the latest album.

And I’m kinda smitten with his work. He now writes his songs on the acoustic guitar, as well as running his seminal Young Gods label in New York. These songs are well-worth hearing and have quite lush arrangements, without giving you the feeling that he’s got soft in his old age.

From the latest album We Are Him

Angels Of Light -’Black River Song.’ mp3

Angels Of Light -’The Man We Left Behind.’ mp3

Angels Of Light -’Not Here Not Now.’ mp3

And two older tracks:

Angels Of Light -’Praise Your Name.’ mp3 from New Mother

Angels Of Light -’My True Body.’ mp3 (from How I Loved You)

and a Swans track too…

Swans -’Sex God Sex.’ mp3

Young God Records are here

An Apology

You never know quite whose reading a blog.

Sure, you know from the people that leave comments and there are various things you can do to track readers, but sometimes you don’t know who’s reading, until some follow-up happens.

This morning Mrs 17 Seconds and I came in from doing our weekly food shop, to find a phone message from Mother Seconds, asking if I was ok, as she had just been reading 17 Seconds, and I had said I was stressed, and was I OK?

Well, I was touched she had rung to ask. I’d managed to unwind slightly over the weekend.

And then embarassed that I had forgotten her and Father seconds’ wedding anniversary a few days ago.

So folks, these are few you. lots of love, a lot of apologies and hopefully we will have spoken by the time you read this. Hell, I’ve dedicated several posts to Mrs 17 Seconds and Brother Seconds, it’s time you had one too.

The Beatles -’A Hard day’s Night.’ mp3

Abba -’The Winner Takes It All.’ mp3

Bob Dylan -’Like A Rolling Stone.’ mp3

And our family favourite…Tom Lehrer:

Tom Lehrer -’Poisoning Pigeons In The Park.’ mp3

Album Review: P J Harvey

Album Review: PJ Harvey ‘White Chalk’ (Universal Island)

More than fifteen years into her career, each new PJ Harvey album is rightly greeted with interest and expectation. She intrigued us all from the moment she arrived -even as a fifteen year old male, there was something that seemed more feminist than titillation about ‘that’ naked picture in NME, and songs like ‘Sheela-Na-Gig’ (‘You EXHIBITIONIST!) and ‘Water’ showed someone whose music was intriguing, raw and honest, yet still unsettling. And then came the second album Rid Of Me.

Each of her albums genuinely stands alone and on it’s own merits. 1995′s To Bring You My Love took Beefheart’s mould and made her own, 2000′s Stories From the City, Stories From The Sea seemed almost commercial but distinctively her again.

And so here we have Polly Jean in 2007. Although produced with long-term collaborators Flood and John Parrish, this is yet again, a PJ Harvey record like none we have heard before. This is still striking music, but this time the rock, groove and electronics have all disappeared. This album has far more in common with early twentieth century classical music than anything she has done before. This time, the record is largely dominated by piano and her voice.

This record, at 34 minutes, is shorter than others she has produced, but there is something warm lurking underneath the initially stark audio. This will perhaps come as a shock to those most familiar with singles like ‘Good Fortune’ or ‘Down By The Water’ but this record continues the trajectory of a performer and songwriter who is much less bothered about pigeonholes, genres and categorisation than parts of her audience might be. There is a mystery and beauty about this record, and I think further, repeated listens will perhaps coax a few of its’ secrets out.

****

White Chalk is released on Monday September 24 in the UK on Universal Island.

PJ Harvey -’The Devil.’ mp3

PJ Harvey -’Grow Grow Grow.’ mp3

PJ Harvey -’White Chalk.’ mp3

Love Is In The Air

Awww…

Seriously, do not worry, 17 Seconds is not going all Hello/OK/Heat magazine or whatever on you, but the news that Simon Taylor from The Klaxons is to marry his girlfriend, Lovefoxxx from CSS meant an opportunity to post a few tracks here:

Klaxons -’Atlantis To Interzone.’ mp3

CSS -’Let’s Make Love And Listen To Death From Above.’ mp3

CSS -’Alala.’ mp3

And perhaps a cover version apiece, eh?

Klaxons -’Not Over Yet (Grace cover).’ mp3

CSS -’One Way Or Another (Blondie cover).’ mp3

The Klaxons and CSS debuts are out now (have been for ages). If you like what you hear here, please support them through your local independent record shop, tours, t-shirts etc..

Where have I been?

Where have I been? How come Bat For Lashes have barely registered on my radar until the last few days? God knows. Anyway…these are beautiful gorgeous songs that I am happy to welcome into my life.

Very brief post today as am stresses up to the eyeballs with way, way to much to do, and in desperate need of sleep. But I think these songs will be trying to keep me sane.

Enjoy…

Bat For Lashes – ‘What’s a Girl To Do?’ mp3

Bat For Lashes – ‘Prescilla.’ mp3

Bat For Lashes – ‘Sarah.’ mp3

Please to hear before the hits

Like a lot of people, for years my main inpression of Steeleye Span was hits like ‘Gaudete’ (one of only two songs ever sung in Latin to make the UK Top 50, the other being Sadness Pt.1 by Enigma) and ‘All Around My Hat.’

But like so many bands before and after, this was only part of the story. The band’s second album Please To See The King, released in 1971, featured not only ex-Fairport Convention member Ashley Hutchings and Maddy Prior’s dulcet tones and Tin Hart, but also new recruits Peter Knight on mandolin and folk legend Martin Carthy on guitar. There were no drums on the album but there was invention aplenty. The Wire 282 highlights this as one of the great English psychedelic folk albums, as folk’s main players proved they were as capable of being forward-thinking as Miles Davis or The Beatles.

Hear these and enjoy:

Steeleye Span -’The Blacksmith.’ mp3

Steeleye Span -’Cold, Haily, Windy Night.’ mp3

Steeleye Span -’Prince Charlie Stuart.’ mp3

Go buy it, dammit!