It was pretty damn great watching Withered Hand headlining the Queen’s Hall during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Not least because I saw him play on a bill with Jesus H. Foxx and Broken Records headlining at Edinburgh’s Cabaret Voltaire in late 2009.
I was blown away by Dan Willson’s performance that night – and spent the next age trying to get hold of his album. Eventually Ed at SL Records obliged -and it’s always pained me that I heard it after I had done my best albums for the year list.
Oh well…this was a free track that Dan gave away at the end of 2009. Not a year I would want to live through again, but this is an excellent song, which has another version on his latest EP Inbetweens (order here
I’ve posted the 12″ version before, which I think is superior to the version that seems to crop up on all the Christmas comps, so here it is again.
Waitresses -‘Christmas Wrapping (12″ version).’ mp3 This has been removed. For the last time, I don’t post these files to stop people buying music but to encourage them! Copyright agencies do not understand the internet.
…and two cover versions that have been doing the while for a while now:
I can honestly claim to have supported Idlewild from their first release, the 7″ ‘Queen Of The Troubled Teens.’ I picked it up out of curiosity in the record shop in Canterbury, Richard’s Records, where I spent much of my time (not to mention money) as a student when I was there. It was a sound so raucous that the NME famously declared it ‘the sound of a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs.’ Fast forward five years, the band were on their third album, signed to EMI (or a subsidiary thereof), having massive hits, making videos with Wim Wenders. And me? Well, I was working in a bookshop in Edinburgh, with none other than lead singer Roddy Woomble’s sister, as featured (uncredited) on the cover of that debut single.
This cover of Cliff Richard’s ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ is noisy by comparison to their later efforts and no doubt offensive to some. To me, it sounds bloody awesome!
Yup, it’s the return of the annual 17 Seconds Christmas posts!
First up, a song that Blur recorded for a free single 20 years ago. It’s a traditional English carol called the ‘Wassailing Song.’ I posted this last year -and it’s great to look back and see that Blur did come back this year with a new single ‘Under The Westway.’ If it is their last release, it is a mighty fine way to bow out, with dignity and a mighty fine tune. I only ever saw Blur once -around the time of Think Tank but it was a great night. Even if Graham Coxon had left the band by that point…
I have written about Spook School on several occasions (do keep up), it is is great to be able to report that following on from their 7″ single on Cloudberry last month, they are to release a five-track EP on Scotland’s Soft Power label next month. Soft Power have given us some awesome releases (including Aggi Doom, Hollows and The Tambourines, amongst others), so it is the combination of an excellent band and an excellent label.
The new EP is called I Don’t Know, You Don’t Know, We All Don’t Know The Spook School (I am assuming in reference to ‘I scream, you scream, we all scream for Ice cream’ -though I could be wrong). It is another wee gem in their release schedule so far, and you can stream it ahead of the December 17 release right now, just below. Oh, and it is coming out on cassette single (if you threw your tape player away, more fool you. Serves you right.) limited to 100 copies! It’s wonderfully twee and lo-fi, and my favourite track is the closing ‘Can You Ever Trust A Man Who Think’s Matt Damon’s Really Cool?’
Back in 1987, The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl on vocals released what many believe to be the greatest Christmas single of all time, ‘Fairytale Of New York.’ A bittersweet tale, it tells of an Irish couple in New York.
Mostly told from the husband’s point of view, Shane MacGowan’s Christmas Eve reverie thinks about holidays past while sleeping off a binge in a New York City drunk tank.
When an old man in the same cell sings a passage from the Irish ballad “The Rare Old Mountain Dew”, the MacGowan begins to dream about the song’s female character. The remainder of the song takes the form of a call and response between the couple, their youthful hopes crushed by alcoholism and drug addiction, as they reminisce and bicker on Christmas Eve. MacColl’s putdown of ‘You scumbag, you maggot you cheap lousy faggot/happy Christmas? Your arse!/I pray God it’s our last’ amazingly got past the censors at the BBC (who had baulked at George Michael’s ‘I Want Your Sex’ a mere matter of months earlier. Then again, fifteen years previously Lou Reed’s pretty bleedin’ obvious ‘But she never lost her head/even when she was giving head’ showed that it wasn’t always black and white). It remains one of the most vitriolic put-downs on record.
According to Wikipedia ‘In his Christmas podcast, musical comedian Mitch Benn commented that “faggot” was Irish and Liverpudlian slang for a lazy person, and was unrelated to the derogatory term for homosexuals.’
Though it’s hard to imagine the song without Kirsty MacColl singing the female line, it wasn’t intended that way. Originally the part was to have been sung by the Pogues’ original bassist Cait O’Riordan, who had previously taken lead vocals on ‘A Man You Don’t Meet Everyday’ and ‘Haunted.’ O’Riordan left the band in 1986, having married the band’s producer Elvis Costello, who had worked with the band on their sophomore album Rum, Sodomy And The Lash.
Funnily enough, it was the band’s next producer Steve Lillywhite’s wife, Kirsty MacColl who sung the lead, but she had only been asked to provide the guide vocal. The band liked her contribution so much, they asked her to record it for the real thing…and the rest, as they say, is history.
Kirsty MacColl died, tragically, in December 2000 , whilst Scuba Diving in Mexico with her two sons (see here for details about the Justice For Kirsty campaign, which has now been stood down). She is probably best known for her part in this song, but if you haven’t heard any of her other albums, may I recommend that you check out the Electric Landlady and Tropical Brainstorm albums, just for starters.
The song has been a hit many times since, and has made the charts in 1991, 2005-2011, this year it has already re-charted. It’s been 25 years -wouldn’t it be great if it finally reached the position it deserved?
The 1987 Top Of The Pops performance, introduced by Mike Read
Just Shane and Kirsty for Top Of The Pops in 1992…
Steve Adey -‘The Tower Of Silence’ (Grand Harmonium)
Following on from last year’s rather fine These Resurrections EP, Edinburgh-based Steve Adey delivers his sophomore album. Six years since his debut All Things Real, this beautiful collection of work has been worth the wait.
The outstanding cut from the EP ‘Just Wait Til I Get You Home’ reappears here, but there’s an entire album of beautiful songs, like his cover of Alasdair Roberts’ ‘Farewell Sorrow’ and ‘Laughing’ which hang together most perfectly. What Steve plugs into is a particuarly scottish sense of melancholia (see also: eagleowl, Mogwai and The Blue Nile, amongst others) that – to paraphrase Wilco -is trying to break your heart, and does it in the most beautiful way.
While some records can be overwhelming and ultimately isolating in their melancholy (see the most recent album from Breathless) this is one that connects with the listener right from the off. Yes, you may want to cry on hearing this (and if it doesn’t have that effect, your humanity should surely be called into question), but you’ll find it a beautiful experience.
The Tower Of Silence is released on November 26 on Grand Harmonium.
NOTE: an interview with Steve Adey will appear on 17 Seconds very shortly.
Dominic Appleton, Breathless’ lead vocalist has been described as Ivo Watts-Russell (4AD supremo and the man behind the utterly fabulous This Mortal Coil albums) as being his favourite living vocalist. Though the record isn’t on 4AD, there is definitely something of the 4AD aesthetic about this album.
It’s a beautiful record, melancholic and awash with love and loss. The thing is, despite many plus points, overall this album (even split into two CDs) is a bit much too take in one sitting. It shimmers, it’s stylish-and yet it somehow feels more like an album to be admired than one I can really fall in love with, and believe me I have tried.
There are some great tracks here – ‘Please Be Happy’ and ‘Rain Down Now’ – for example, but on far too many tracks I had to fight the urge to forward it on.
Green To Blue is released on November 26 on Tenor Vossa.
There’s plenty of bands that mix indie and folk, but there’s something refreshing about the approach of Glasgow’s The Deadline Shakes to the way they do it.
They sound nothing like M*mf*rd *nd S*ns, but I hear hints of Belle and Sebastian and The Beach Boys here. The band are Greg Dingwall (vocals and guitar), Iain McKinstry (guitar), Martin McLeod (bass) and Tom Booth (drums). Having released their debut single ‘Sweeten The Deal’ earlier this month, this very day (November 23, 2012, fact fans!) they have released a free single via bandcamp: