Christmas Posts 2016 part 3

yoko-ono-010

So, today’s post (on the first Sunday of Advent) is dedicated to Yoko Ono’s song ‘Listen, The Snow Is Falling.’

Yoko’s version can be found on re-issues of The Wedding Album, which she made with John Lennon. While some of her recorded work can be very hard to listen to, this is really rather beautiful. Interestingly, there is no wiki page for this song.

Perhaps the best-known cover version is by Galaxie 500, who featured it in their third album This Is Our Music, released in 1990.

Another version of the song, which I hadn’t heard until recently is by Thea Gilmore, taken from her 2009 album Strange Communion.

Christmas Posts 2016 part 2

tom-lehrer-1

I have my Parents to thank for introducing me to Tom Lehrer, at the impressionable age of 7. I’m sure some people think that 7 is too young to understand satire, and they’re probably right, but this helped shape into the man I am today, so thanks Mum and Dad.

There are people better qualified than I to lead a discussion on who is the greatest American satirist…let’s just say Lehrer is one of them.

There’s a number of well-known Lehrer songs, I’ve always loved this.

Christmas Posts 2016 part 1

Housewives on Prozac

So…there’s just one month to go until Christmas, and with my partner as an American having celebrated Thanksgiving (yes, she still celebrates it in Scotland), so it’s time to start the annual Christmas posts on the blog.

As is my (self-imposed) tradition, I will start with Housewives on Prozac and the evergreen ‘ I Broke My Arm Christmas Shopping At The Mall.’

Led by the legendary Martha Joy Rose -‘Woman, Mother, Human, Rocker, Educator, and Activist’, you can find out more about her and the band here.

Not to be confused with the band Housewives, obviously, you can buy the album I Broke My Arm Christmas Shopping At The Mall on iTunes, which is also worth it for the funny, if too true ‘Eat Your Damn Spaghetti.’

Album Review – BODY/HEAD

body-head

BODY/HEAD (yes, those capital letters are intentional) are a duo consisting of Bill Nace (whose previous acts include X.O.4, Vampire Belt, and Ceylon Mange), and the legendary Kim Gordon (of Free Kitten and Sonic Youth). This album is a live record which documents a single show in 2014 at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Those familiar with Kim Gordon’s work as bassist and singer in Sonic Youth for nearly thirty years will know that she has managed to keep a foot in two camps simultaneously, that of leftfield rock and improvisation. Those only familiar with her work on the more mainstream album releases she has been involved may find this release confusing, but it makes sense within the work she has produced over more than thirty years.

While this is a live album of only three tracks, this is neither a quick cash-in nor a conventional live album. It features 2014 single ‘The Show Is Over’ and three tracks from their 2013 debut as BODY/HEAD Coming Apart, with ‘Abstract’ and ‘Actress’ now being presented as a medley. In the spirit of their work, this is not simply a live recording of their recorded work, but rather, that the songs that have been recorded here are the basis for further improvisation.

So, the crowd sound appreciative, but how does it work for the casual listener? I’m not sure that improvised music is much for the casual listener by definition, but it is an intriguing proposition. Like much music that may be considered avant garde or experimental, it does have to be given time and attention to listen to what is at work here. Sure there are moments of what may be noise and feedback, yet there are moments of real beauty, too. These aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, either. It makes for an atmospheric document, which it must be said was well recorded and without overdubs.

On their aforementioned debut, BODY/HEAD covered two Nina Simone songs in a style which not only turned the originals on their head, but almost inside out as well. Their live dates have been fairly limited so far, but on the basis of this, there’s a sense that this is a pairing that does not intend to repeat itself. While No Waves may not find a huge audience, there’s more than enough to keep those interested listening and examining here.

***

No Waves is out now on Matador

 

Don’t panic!

For those of you still reading, honestly, I am still here. It has been an exhausting few months, hence the not a lot of posts on the blog. Coupled with being ill, work and studying for a MSc, turning forty and other stuff… I have done a few reviews for God Is In The TV, including the rather awesome Wave Pictures album.

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That can be read by clicking this link here and you should get a wee taster for the album from these two videos here:

More to follow tomorrow. Honestly

Album Review – Kristin Hersh

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Kristin Hersh – Wyatt At The Coyote Palace. (Omnibus Press)
This year marks thirty years since Kristin Hersh made her debut, leading her band Throwing Muses on their self-titled debut. Thirty years on, she remains a truly unique artist, a reminder that the word ‘indie’ is short for independent, as in thinking and working apart from the crowd, as opposed to just guitar-lead music.Her first solo album was 1994’s Hips and Makers, which led by the Michael Stipe featuring ‘Your Ghost’ single remains the most successful record of her career. There may not be anything quite as immediate here – but nor should we expect there to be: Hersh has never been about catering to expectations.  This, her ninth album is a double, twenty-four tracks over two CDs (though us reviewers sadly don’t get a book. For the record, I have now purchased it). For those who have followed her career – and shame on those who haven’t! – the music runs the spectrum from folky to discordant rock and in the case of ‘Some Dumb Runaway’ and ”Detox’ chopping and changing between the two. It’s largely an acoustic album, on the whole, and as is her style, she keeps the listener guessing as to what might happen next.

The title references one of her four sons, Wyatt, who for a time spent time at an abandoned apartment building near her Rhode Island studio that had been taken over by coyotes. As ever, there’s a confessional tone to proceedings, but this is never a wallowing record. There’s a number of excellent songs within – ‘Bright’ ‘Day 3’ and ‘Bubblenet’, though for my money ‘In Stitches’ is the standout track here. Sure it may not be the easiest of albums to digest in one sitting, or indeed the first couple of listens.

Be prepared to be bewildered and to spend time with the record to get to grips with it. Certainly there are more immediate albums in her back catalogue- but that doesn’t mean it’s any less worthy of your ears. Definitely worth spending time with.

***1/2

Wyatt At The Coyote Palace is out now on Omnibus Press
 http://youtu.be/93jt-HPATGQ

Presenting…Vukovar

vukovar

Every so often, a submission in my email reminds exactly why I write the blog. To champion music that I feel deserves to be heard by a wider audience. Tonight, an email from one Marilyn Roxie, a synth musician who runs a label called Vulpiano Records made me feel I had to write before sleeping.

The band in question are a three-piece called Vukovar. They are Rick Clarke, Dan Shea, and Buddy Preston. They claim to come from the Brutalist wastelands in the North of England. Amongst their interests and influences appear to be ‘Ultra-Realism. Depravity. Monotony. Concrete. Hedonism. Silence’. Vukovar describe themselves as idealists, voyeurs and totalitarians. Whether any of this is true or not doesn’t really matter. (It’s a hundred times more interesting than a band who claim that their main influences are Oasis and the Beatles and that they just make music for themselves and if anyone else likes it, that’s a bonus.’) They produce music that sounds like the meeting point of post-punk with post-rock. I have played their new single ‘The Three Shades’ incessantly tonight.

The video for the single can be seen here:

The single and b-side can be downloaded legally for free at the Vulpiano bandcamp page here .

Additionally you can check out more music from Vukovar’s bandcamp page here.

A song for today #36: My Pleasure

my-pleasure

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).

 

Album Review – Wedding Present

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Wedding Present  -‘Going, Going…’ (Scopitones)

‘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.

Long may their chimneys smoke.

****

Going, Going is out now on Scopitones