Many moons ago, NME (back when it was better than the sadly-depleted freebie it is now) ran a feature on the most rock’n’roll films. A Clockwork Orange came out top.
Anthony Burgess may not have liked Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his novel, but it seeped deeply into popular culture. Even though it was banned in the UK for the best part of thirty years (Kubrick withdrew it), it informed so much of popular music. Blur’s video for ‘The Universal’ is an obvious reference point, but an entire book could be written about how it informed youth culture in Britain for decades afterwards (there probably has already been a book or two on this). As a teenager growing up in the early 90s it had a whole mystique attached that’s harder for a younger generation to figure out now, much of it in the fact it was so hard to see legally in the UK.
I mention this because a video popped into my inbox that’s very much informed by A Clockwork Orange. Not so much the ultraviolence, hanging out with droogs or even Beethoven but more the controversial ‘cure’ (if you have seen the film, you will understand the quotation marks). Jon Mills is the director and he has produced a great pop video.
My Pleasure is a Hull-based solo musician who has received acclaim from the likes of Steve Lamacq and Tom Robinson. This track ‘I Want To Keep This Feeling Going’ is a joy, like Momus covering XTC (and I mean that as a compliment). This is taken from the EP Party Popper which is available for free (sic), you pay only P&P (see here for details).
‘They’ may say not to judge a book by its cover, but the fog, rain and shadow on the cover of the Wedding Present’s ninth studio album certainly sets the tone in a most apt way…
In many ways, this might well be the Weddoes’ most ambitious album to date, and overall, this largely succeeds. The first quarter of the record has more in common with post-rock acts like Mogwai or Godspeed than it does with the band’s contemporaries on that legendary c-86 tape (now, of course, thirty years ago). The opening ‘Kittery’ is as atmospheric as the album cover, and hell, you don’t even hear David Gedge’s voice until the third track.
In their decades long career, the Weddoes have, of course, been here before. 1991’s Seamonsters album, produced by Steve Albini (who would go on to make records with the likes of PJ Harvey and Nirvana), was contrary to the expectations of those expecting more records like their first two more janglier records George Best and Bizarro.
Yet to paraphrase what John Peel (one of the band’s most vocal champions) used to say about The Fall, with the Weddoes they’re always different, always the same. The two singles (well, promotional tracks, whatever we want to call them in 2016) to do the rounds ‘Bear’ and ‘Rachel’ are perhaps more immediately accessible than some of the other tracks on the record, and might more immediately find a home next to the likes of classic tracks like ‘My Favourite Dress’ ‘Montreal’ or the great comeback that was ‘I’m From Further North Than You.’
How do they all fit together on one album? Well, at times it might seem a lot to take in – but remember, children, indie is shorthand for independent and not just white boys with guitars. That’s music that thinks outside of the box, and that’s what Mr. Gedge and his men and women over the years continue to do once again.
…and so the days get shorter, the weather gets colder and it just needs a soundtrack, right?
Stillehavet come from Bergen, Norway. They are a newly formed band consisting of Marit Elisabeth Svendsbøe and Gaute Stedje. There doesn’t seem to be much information about them, other than that they used to be part of a band called Funin.
‘Gola Malimbe’ is a beautiful, ethereal track that sounds wonderfully original. Over the course of the six and a half minutes running time it reference alt-folk, electronica, Radiohead, Sigur Ros and the Cocteau Twins. What more could you ask for?
As I have said many times over the last ten years, I get more submissions than I can possibly listen to. Sometimes it may be nothing more than pure chance that I get the chance to listen to something.
And once in a while, there’s an unsolicited submission that makes it all worthwhile. Toronto’s Troy Joe got in touch a couple of weeks ago with a track taken from his Rich Nobody EP, which he’s not long finished recording in Miami.
After my first listen to ‘Bounce’, it got put on repeat play. It’s that kind of track. So turn it up, enjoy the video, and some edgy loop going on in the background. One of the best tracks I have heard this year.
Utterly fabulous. And like a lot of great tracks it doesn’t hang about, clocking in at less than three minutes.
I’ve very much been enjoying the latest album from the Pictish Trail, Future Echoes. Check out the two videos for the singles from the album ‘Far Gone (Don’t Leave)’ and ‘Dead Connection’ below, as well as reading my review of the album over on God Is In The TV.
What’s that high-pitched sound? Signals from outer space? It’s the call to attention of the opening, title track for the fourth album since Bid reactivated them for a second time, and their thirteenth overall.
The Monochrome Set still sound like, well, the Monochrome Set. Sure, they might be vaguely ‘post-punk’/indie-pop (well, they’re certainly not acid jazz or psychedelic trance), and yet there’s still the sense that it’s hard to quite work out what exactly it is that makes them so unique.
There is a strange sense of humour at play on this record, with the second track ‘Suddenly, Last Autumn’ being a tale of cannibalism, complete with a woman’s voice advising how best to cook human flesh (as you do). Coming from this band it comes across as black humour and only a little unsettling, as opposed to being dedicated gross-out.
And that’s the thing with The Monochrome Set. Yes there are bands both past that they might sound like, or those who are indebted to them. I’d be willing to bet that Franz Ferdinand and Belle & Sebastian have been taking notice of ver set over the years (as well as being the only two other acts who would come up with a song title like ‘Put Your Hand Up If You’re Louche’). Several plays have started to open up the album, which is complex in its own way, without being self-indulgent.
The album may not win the band lots of new fans, but it is characteristic enough to please older fans, and given their prolific release schedule over the last few years (four albums in five years), no doubt there will be another new album along soon.
OK, I have to admit that THANKS may have a name that is frankly flippin’ daft in the age of the search engine. But never mind that.
The Danish duo, who were formally known as Alphabeat, have sampled Jill Scott’s ‘Golden’ and produced what will almost certainly become a dancefloor classic in ‘Livin’ My Life.’ Whilst the original Jill Scott track had a laid-back jazzy feel, this has a more uptempo feel. With each play it becomes more addictive. Like any great dancefloor track should, it makes you want to dance, or at the least, drive around in your car with the volume up, and the windows down. Sure there was quite a lot of acclaim for their previous single ‘Dizzy’ but this beats it hands down.
They’ve just unveiled the video which is gorgeous and summery, and feels a million miles away from Scotland, where autumn is trying to set in…
This is, of course, a slight joke. However, as I finally seem to have resolved technical difficulties with the blog, even if health problems still aren’t quite resolved, it feels like things are up and running again.
I’ve got numerous album reviews I want to write (including for New Model Army and the Wedding Present) and on a completely different sort of music tip again, I’ve also been enjoying a lot of Grime of late too, including albums from Giggs, Skepta and Kano. The latter has been responsible for my favourite track of late ‘T-shirt weather in the Manor’ from his brilliant album Made In The Manor.
It wasn’t my intention to stop writing the blog for 6 weeks, merely that a day or so after my last post I was taken ill with what turned out to be chronic pancreatitis and I’ve been frankly bloody exhausted. As I return to the blog, I find that updates seem to have made the blog harder to edit and I am trying to sort these out as well.
I have written a few articles for God Is In The TV in the meantime, and so I would like to point people towards my review for Michael Kiwanuka’s excellent sophomore album Love and Hate, and Frank Ocean’s utterly astonshing’s Blonde.
Kurt Cobain maintained that re-acquiring the Raincoats 1979 debut meant more to him than making his first million. Thirty years since the release of their sophomore album, Odyshape, in 2011 I got to interview The Raincoats about their legacy, working with Robert Wyatt and clear up about their involvement – or not -in Ten Things I Hate About You.
17 Seconds: You’re just about to re-issue your sophomore album Odyshape. What are your thoughts and memories of the album thirty years on?
Gina: What I do remember is Robert Wyatt coming to the studio and playing drums along to our very oddly timed playing of ‘And Then It’s OK’, which we had recorded drummerless, speeding up and slowing down as the mood took us. Robert slipped seamlessly into the plan, and played as if he knew exactly where it was going, where it had come from and tuning in totally to its intention. Amazingly he made it all sound so much more focused than it had been. We had played for a while with Ingrid Weiss, a drummer, who was a 17 year old girl. She was very musical. She played drums on Odyshape and came up with the origins of the music for Shouting Out Loud. Sadly it didn’t work out with her for reasons I can’t even remember. Ingrid now is in Daisy Kitty and Lewis (their Mum) playing a mean double bass, still fabulous, musical and beautiful as ever.
We were still rehearsing some of the time in the squat basement at the end of Monmouth Road, and then later in Vicky’s squat in Brixton. I had no hot running water at the time, and was at Hornsey art school in Alexandra Palace. I remember turning up to a rehearsal one day, to say I was leaving the band to concentrate on my studies at art school, then burst into tears and decided to I take time out of school to concentrate on The Raincoats. I did go back and finish my degree after two years out, and I made super 8 films and videos for my graduation.
Ana: When we did the first album, we just went into Berry St studios and recorded the songs live, as we had done them on the tour we had just finished, and only added the vocals afterwards, plus a couple of other bits. It was quite clear what was happening. (Also we knew Palmolive was leaving.)
When we did Odyshape, as we didn’t have a drummer in the band, everything seemed more vague and on the other hand more open to possibilities, so we asked different people to play drums according to what we thought was best for each particular song. Richard Dudanski had already played with us before Palmolive, so we asked him to contribute. We also asked Charles Hayward, whose rehearsal studio we had used for a while and who ended up playing with us after the release of Odyshape. He is a great and sensitive musician and contributed a lot to the sound we had at the time he played with us, between projects he had with This Heat.
It was very interesting to have other people come in and see how personal music really is.
17 Seconds: What does the album title mean? It comes from the song (track five on the album) but what was the concept behind the title?
Gina: The title was a pun on the odyssey of a body. The idea that a body could have an ideal shape and it if did, what happens when a body doesn’t live up to that ideal. it was at a time, when (as probably now) there seemed to be a body fascism. It was important for women to be this shape or that shape. Thanks to people like Beth Ditto, and hopefully The Raincoats, things have been broken down a little. Hair can be crazy, messy, outfits can be baggy or tight, inside out or upside down, we can be fat or thin, creative, playful, stylish and beautiful without having to subscribe to some fashion mag ideal.
17 Seconds: You’re going to be playing your debut album at All Tomorrow’s Parties this December. How did this come about -and was this something that you had to think about, given that you have done this before?
Gina: It seems a thing that bands are doing nowadays, playing whole albums, songs in the order of the album. We have performed The Raincoatsat the Scala once before and it was fun. Shirley walked across the stage with the vinyl album for side two and turned it over and then we played all the songs from the second side onwards.
Ana: This ATP is curated by Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel) and, apparently, he requested we play the first album. When we did this at the Scala, at the end we came back to do another set of songs. We’ll also do this at the festival.
We’ve done ATP twice before and I really enjoyed the experience. Thanks Jeff for having us.
17 Seconds: Who will the live band be? And who are the fulltime members of the Raincoats in 2011?
Gina: Ana and I will be there, along with Anne Wood who has played with us
for over a decade on violin and guitar and often we will play with Jean Marc Butty on drums, who has also played with us for many years. In the US we have sometimes had Vice Cooler playing drums with us, instead of JM Butty.
17 Seconds: It’s been mentioned numerous times how much the Raincoats meant to Kurt Cobain. Do you feel that this opened up an awareness of the band to people or have you felt frustrated that it took his enthusing to make many people aware of what you had achieved as a band?
Gina: We didn’t expect the kind of enthusiasm and praise that we have subsequently got for our work. We did it for ourselves to stretch ourselves, to make the best most creative music we could and then move on. That we are now revisiting that work is strange, but fun and exciting.
Ana: Having someone like Kurt Cobain and others of his generation praising our work definitely made a lot of people aware of it and therefore wanting to see those songs played live. We love playing live so, doing this is such a pleasure. We didn’t feel frustrated at all. We weren’t playing together anymore, so people were interested in other things, which is the natural way –new ideas, new challenges, new enthusiasms. But, in reality, some were actually interested without us knowing. This was a huge and rewarding surprise.
17 Seconds: You covered ‘Lola’ by the Kinks on your first album. Did Ray Davies ever get in touch to tell you what he thought, and to thank you? (It’s one of my favourite cover versions by the way!)
Gina: Ray is reported as saying that he likes people who take an album track and make it a hit, not those who take a hit and make it an album track. A joke I suppose, but I have never heard any reporting that he liked our version!! Perhaps you could ask him yourself!!
Ana: He made that comment when he had his eyes on Chrissie Hynde… she made the album track ’Stop your sobbing’ a hit.
Harry Rag, a German friend of ours who was doing some filming about Ray, was staying at my place and, coming back from meeting him, brought an Italian sweet he had sent. I think that was a nice gesture…
17 Seconds: As well as the Raincoats, what other projects have the members got on the go (musical, or otherwise)?
Gina: Too many to mention. Ana is doing a new solo album and making drawings. I am painting, knitting/felting, filming, editing, writing recording. The Raincoats documentary is coming on and most recently, managed to get an interview with John Lydon which is the last one I really wanted to get, apart from needing to rerecord the one with Beth Ditto as the tape screwed up.
Ana: Yes, I’ve got an album in a very advanced state, but that last leap is taking a while. Maybe I’ll finish it during grim winter. Good time to work, isn’t it? I’ve been also making paintings and lots of drawings, which I’ll be showing together with Shirley’s photographs and Gina’s videos in an exhibition, which is part of Pop Montreal music and arts festival, where we’ll also be playing in September 2011. We’ll be doing a tour in the USA and Canada – New York, Washington, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto and finish in Montreal.
17 Seconds: Interviewing Viv Albertine last year, it’s clear that there was a link between The Slits and The Raincoats. Which other bands (if any!) did The Raincoats feel a kinship with?
Gina: I think we felt a kind of kinship with many of the bands in and around Rough Trade, Swell Maps, Scritti Politti, Young Marble Giants. But we were very shy and didn’t really commune with other bands too much. I was a huge fan of The Slits, because it was them that made it seem possible to pick up a guitar and make a noise, as a girl. People love to go on about how terrible they were, (because on the whole, boys (oh.. vast generalization, I’m sorry!) tend to sit in their bedrooms perfecting their guitar skills till they are ready to ‘go public’) but The Slits were just amazing, brilliant because they were totally in the spirit of punk, fresh, unschooled, and without the preconceptions and boundaries of many bands. They were so feisty, creative, emotional, boisterous and that was such a treat to witness.
Ana: We definitely felt part of something and Rough Trade bands were the ones we felt closest to, partly because we met there but also because we did gigs together. The reason for this was not because we were on the same label but because there was a lot of mutual respect based on the wonderful music they created, and because they were great people too.
We also felt a certain kinship with other female bands, probably because there weren’t that many around and we were all fighting for a bigger female presence. There still aren’t as many as there should be.
17 Seconds: At the end of the nineties, The Raincoats appeared in Ten Things I Hate About You. How did this come about and how was the experience?
Gina: The script writer I think was more ‘indie’ and ‘radical’ than the film turned out to be. We are not actually featured in anyway in the film, except for the namecheck. it would have been brilliant if they had used a Raincoats track on the soundtrack. Shucks!!! Maybe in the indie remake!!
Ana: There was no experience to speak of. The boy mentioned us to the girl so he would appear cool and when the film came out someone told us there was this mention.
17 Seconds: As well as Nirvana and Sonic Youth, who else do you see as being indebted to the Raincoats?
Gina: I have no idea!!!!
Ana: Lots of people say that, especially female bands, but I think they would have done it anyway. You don’t only get inspiration from one thing or person.
But if we have inspired anyone to do anything, then that is one mission accomplished.
17 Seconds: You make reference in the sleevenotes to friends using their vinyl copies of Odyshape to make fruit bowls out of. This is just as joke, right…?
Gina: In some ways yes it is a joke, but I think Odyshape was a bit out on a
limb for some of my friends and they just didn’t get it. I don’t think Ana or I ever envisaged ourselves having a group, playing live or making records and when we got the opportunity we took the bull by the horns and stretched ourselves creatively as much as we could. Historically this has proved to be a good thing, but some of the time I felt quite vulnerable and was unsure that what we were doing was of any value. I am proud that we stuck to our guns and did not try to please others, just ourselves. There are obviously moments on all our records I think could be better or different, but they are a testament to where we were at the time.
Ana: My experience is different from Gina’s. I think a lot of people, specially in other European countries, appreciated the quirkiness, guts, risk, variety and challenge of that album. We were in a different place as people and musicians and we let the new music reflect that. The first album is more punky but punk was all about challenge and thinking for yourself, about looking around and to yourself, about feeling free to find your own path, and Odyshape was as part of our path as the first album.
17 Seconds: As this is for a Scots-based blog, Is there ANY chance of Scottish dates any time in the future?
Gina: Invite us, (and if it makes sense financially!!) Ana and I will be there, bearing in mind our drummer comes from France and Anne from tippy top of Scotland!!
Ana: Anne wouldn’t be that far then!
I remember one of the times we played in Scotland, it was Summer and we came back after the gig in a van, late, and soon after it got dark, it got light again. I’d never experience such a short night before the day broke.