Underrated albums #9: fischerspooner " #1" (2000, reissued 2002, and 2005)

Fischerspooner are the best thing to happen to music since electricity’ gushed NME, upon the re-issue of this album in 2002. Whilist ‘Emerge’ did become a minor chart hit, the duo of Casey Spooner and Warren Fischer (hence the name, yes?) never quite got the acclaim they deserved. Maybe it was because of the fawning critical praise that turned to embarassment rather quickly, with Casey’s larger than life comments (He famously was quoted as asking who he would need to offer, er, sexual favours to to get on the cover of the aforementioned magazine. The act were seen as being part of ‘Electroclash’ , that much maligned elctronic sub-genre, still sneered at by certain people, not impressed by the massive deal with Ministry of Sound for a record deal.

It seems that people let the image get in the way of the music. Certainly, it was the sheer joy of hearing this album that opened me up to more ‘electronica’ type sounds, and 12″s by the likes of Felix Da Housecat, Playgroup and Tok Tok Vs Soffy O started appearing in my record collection not long afterwards. Listening to this album in its entirety reminded me, not only of how good it is, but how it belongs to a line of great Electronic albums that would include Kraftwerk’s Trans Europe Express, New Order’s Power, Corruption and Lies and the Chemical Brothers’ Surrender. Records you can dance to, with a darkness there, and a punk energy that the band were briefly praised for, though then sneered at. the prevailing mood in music at the time was the so-called ‘New rock’ revolution, and back in 2002, the likelihood of either ‘New Rave’ or even that a Post-Punk revival could be commercially successful seemed unlikely. This album has dated well, and like many albums may have suffered from being in the wrong release date. Ah well.

They are still going and their second album Odyssey was released in 2005. The album is still available (a vinyl version is going for £30, so someone out there must like it apart from me), and their official website is here.

Give these mp3s a try, and see what you think…

Fischerspooner-‘The 15th.’ mp3

Fischerspooner-‘Emerge.’ mp3

Fischerspooner-‘Natural Disaster.’ mp3

If you like what you hear, go and buy the album, preferably from your local independent record store. These links will be up for one week only.

Some Covers For Sunday II

Finally, here are the promised covers for today.

Brakes-‘Sometimes Always (Jesus and Mary Chain cover).’ mp3

Echo and the Bunnymen-‘Run Run Run (Velvet Underground cover).’ mp3

James-‘China Girl (Iggy pop cover).’ mp3

Manic Street Preachers-‘Theme From MASH (Suicide Is Painless).’ mp3

Morrissey-‘Moon River (Henry Mancini cover).’ mp3

The Fall-‘Lost In Music (Sister Sledge cover).’ mp3

Dandy Warhols-‘Call me (Blondie cover).’ mp3

Crash Test Dummies -‘The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead (XTC cover).’ mp3

John Cale -‘Hallelujah (Live) (Leonard Cohen cover).’ mp3

As always, these will be up for one week only. If you like what you hear, support the artists involved, preferably through your local independent record shop!

Some Covers For Saturday Part II

Hi again

well, well and truly back in Scotland, it’s the weekend…so how about a few covers?

(And yes, that is Mrs 17 Seconds and I)

Pixies-‘Head On.’ mp3 (Jesus and Mary Chain)

X-‘Crystal Ship.’ mp3 (The Doors)

Sisters Of Mercy-‘Gimme Shelter.’ mp3 (Rolling Stones)

Residents-‘Satisfaction.’ mp3 (Rolling Stones)

Therapy?-‘Isolation.’ mp3 (Joy Division)

The The-‘I Saw The Light.’ mp3 (Hank Williams)

Marianne Faithfull-‘Working Class Hero.’ mp3 (John Lennon)

Ramones-‘Baby I Love You.’ mp3 (Ronettes)

REM-‘Toys In The Attic.’ mp3 (Aerosmith).

Veruca Salt -‘Somebody.’ mp3(Depeche Mode)

There is no theme here, just a selection of ten cover versions, only one of which (Sisters) I think I have posted here before. All being well, there should be another ten covers here on Sunday.

As always, these will be up for a week. If you like what you here, please go and investigate the bands and original artists themselves, perferably at your local indpendent record shop.

A Great, Lost Single #5

The Streets -‘Has It Come To This?’ (2001)

Back in 2001, before ‘Dry Your Eyes’, when Mike Skinner wasn’t famous, The Streets put out a fantastic single. It sounded a bit UK garage -and believe me, that was a genre I didn’t get into – but it was the way the words summed up life in London that was less ‘bling bling, look at my me with money, cars and guns’ and more ‘this is the day in the life of an ordinary London bloke’- and was all the better for it. The phrase ‘Urban’ was rarely more appropriate than with this single.

The single turned up on the debut album ‘Original Pirate Material’, as did one of the b-sides, ‘Geezers need excitement.’ It was songs like this that led very quickly to Mike Skinner being talked about as a new poet Laureate. Then, on the second album, he showed you could do a concept album that could a) not be about Goblins or Wizards and b)Actually be good, you know, with proper songs and stuff.

Here, from CD1 are the three tracks that announced a major new talent had arrived:

The Streets-‘Has It Come To This?’ mp3

The Streets-‘Geezers Need Excitement.’ mp3

The Streets-‘Streets Score (Instrumental).’ mp3

These links will be up for one week only. If you like what you hear, go and buy the debut album ‘Original Pirate Material’ ideally from your local independent shop. The single can still be picked up at Amazon pretty cheaply, too.

For more Streets mp3s and videos check here and to read the roiginal NME review of the single check here

A few songs for the soon to be Mrs. 17 Seconds

Well, in two days time we’ll be getting married. The future in-laws have arrived in Edinburgh, my folks are arriving later and we’re both excited and nervous.

Anyway, this post is dedicated to the soon to be Mrs. 17 Seconds.

Ash-‘Does Your Mother Know?’ mp3

Cooper Temple Clause-‘Let’s Kill Music.’ mp3

Cure-‘Close To me.’ mp3

Low-‘California.’ mp3

Rob Dougan -‘Clubbed To Death.’ mp3

Scritti Politti-‘The ‘Sweetest Girl’.’ mp3

As always, if you liek what you hear, support the artists involved. And a hello to Robin, who I went record shopiing with yesterday and said he was still waiting for a shoutout on this blog!

Mad, Bad and…interesting to hear #2

A few years back, when still working in a record shop, I was asked by one of the bosses if I could pick up a record on Sub Pop for him when I went to New York. Sure, I said. ‘You won’t forget this one,’ he said, ‘It’s Called ‘Stabbed in the face.” Well, no, I couldn’t forget a record title like that, nor could I ever forget it once I had heard it.

Wolf Eyes sound like the most terrifying thing you can imagine. They make Slayer sound like the Cocteau Twins, and yet…I find myself absolutely mesmerised by the noise they make.

Wolf Eyes-‘Stabbed In the Face.’ mp3

Wolf Eyes-‘The Driller.’ mp3

SunnO))) are another band that look terrifying, and sound terrifying…and yet, oddly beautiful. Their biggest inspiration is Earth, who I would desperately love to hear some stuff by (recently went into a record shop, they had an immaculately packaged album that was £30). Here are two tracks, one that is just them, another from their collaboration with Japanese band Boris, that I heard originally over at AmpCamp.

SunnO)))-‘It Took The Night To Believe.’ mp3

SunnO))) and Boris-‘The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep).’ mp3

Here is a track from legendary noise band lead by Michael Gira, the Swans. Oddly, it was their cover of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ that led to me aged eleven, startiong to find out about Joy Division. I don;t knwo much about them, but it kinds went with the post…

Swans-‘Sex God Sex.’ mp3

…as did this track from seminal post-punkers This Heat.

This Heat-’24 Track Loop.’

As before, if you like what you hear, check it out. You will almost definitely have to go to an independent record shop.

Two Great, Lost Singles #3 and #4

OK, I know a few people are bound to end up splitting hairs over this, given that you can get the tracks on iTunes (certainly iTunes UK, I know, cos I’ve just been there to check), and that maybe these should be for ‘covers’ posts, but anyway…

I’ve put these in together, because they do belong together, sort of.

Lost Single #3:
Mogwai and Magoo…Do the Rock Boogaloo (1998)

Back in 1998, Mogwai and Magoo were two of the brightest stars of the Chemikal Underground stable. At the time, London indie Fierce Panda were given to putting out fantastic split singles. They got the two bands together to record a cover apiece of a Black Sabbath song. Magoo did ‘Black Sabbath’ and Mogwai did ‘Sweet Leaf.’ And here they are:

Magoo -‘Black Sabbath.’ mp3

Mogwai -‘Sweet Leaf.’ mp3

Lost Single #4:

Mogwai -‘My Father My King.’ (2001)

Mogwai are frankly one of the most brilliant bands ever. They know their influences and yet there is no-one like them. And if they decide that they are going to do a single that is the cover of a jewish prayer, and it is over twenty minutes long…well, who’s going to stop ’em? Inevitably ineligible for the charts, it was still one of the most brilliant singles of that year, up there with ‘Get Ur Freak On’ and ‘Can’t Get you Out Of My Head.’

Mogwai -‘My Father My King.’ mp3

Like I say, if you like these, then buy them. The links will be up for two weeks, due to the aforementioned honeymoon.

Interview: Swimmer One

It’s heartening to see in an age when so much stuff brands itself independent, be it in sound or attitude, that the spirit of that much (ab)used adjective lives on. One band who truly exemplify the independent ethos, in a very twenty-first century way are Swimmer One. Not in a pathetic, snobby way, but independent in that not only do they run their own label, Biphonic, but they play live when they want to, and all on their own terms. Andrew Eaton and Hamish Brown still hold day jobs, Hamish as a writer for a scottish newspaper. After years of rock-stars who are so up their own backsides, who ooze fake modesty and arrogance out of every pore, and think ‘meaning it, maaan!’ is ripping off Johnny Rotten circa 1977, Swimmer One in the own words of their debut release ‘we just make music for Ourselves.’ And they really do mean it.

Four years have passed since they put out the aforementioned single, and it’s equally brilliant follow-up ‘Come on, let’s go!’. In that time they have also put out a digital-only single ‘Largs Hum/Cloudbusting’ the latter a cover of the Kate Bush song, and featuring guest vocals from Cora Bissett. This September will see the release of their debut album The Regional Variations.

Utterly wowed by all I had heard of the music, I had arranged to call Andrew at home. To his credit, not only was he in, but he chatted for half an hour about the band, scottish conspiracy theories, Orchestral Manouevres In The Dark, and much more besides…

I ask how come The Regional Variations has taken so long. He groans, politely, and I feel bad for asking. ‘It takes time to get things right,’ he points out. With both him and Hamish having full-time jobs and living in different cities it’s clear that this is not a band like The Beatles in Help! ‘ If you add up all the time [that they have spent making the album], it’s probably only a few months.’ He is at pains to point out that it’s not like The Stone Roses’ Second Coming, which was years in the making with the band working flat-out on it, or Chinese Democracy, the Guns’n’ Roses album, first scheduled for release over a decade ago.

Being on your own record label minimises, or rather, removes entirely, annoying A&R types and others, hanging around the stuio moaning that they ‘Can’t hear a single.’ How does running Biphonic affect them making music? ‘It’s a very small concern. It was set up originally just to put our first single.’ In turn though, this lead to then putting out the debut album by Perth’s Luxury Car. ‘What time we have spare tends to go into our own music or helping Luxury Car.’

One of the many things about Swimmer One that I love is their website, which is fantastic, not only just for finding out about their music and biography, but also for Andrew and Hamish’s writing. ‘Largs Hum’ which works it’s way around Scotland, is described as an attempt to create a Scottish conspiracy theory (see more here). I can’t resist asking him whether he thinks that Scotland needs more conspiracy theories.

‘I said it in a slightly throwaway way!’ he says, slightly bemused. But he goes on to explain what the Largs Hum is. ‘It’s low Frequency Noise which gives people headaches. It’s a metaphor for people feeling that they’re going mad, and people not believing them. It’s one variety of the ‘hum’ which happens in various places around the world.’ ‘Conspiracy theories always have holes in their theories that they fill with paranoia,’ he observes.

Talking about Scotland leads me to jump a few questions ahead of what I had planned to ask: Does he think that Scotland is essential to the sound of Swimmer One?
‘I like Scotland and I call it my home,’ he says, though he points out that he’s orginally from Carlisle, which is England (give or take about ten miles). ‘[The sound] is drawn from being on the edge of things. You often feel that you’re on the edge-hence Regional Variations.’ I say that it reminds me of the work of Alan Warner, who wrote Morvern Cellar. But he’s not snide about other places, he just knows where he’s most comfortable. ‘I like London more, because I live here.’

Scotland has always had a very fertile music scene, removed from London, which has been much highlighted over the last decade, particularly due to Belle and Sebastian and Franz Ferdinand. Does he see Swimmer One as being part of a scottish scene? ‘Not really! We just sit in our cupboard and make music.’ Andrew adds that when people talk about the scottish scene, they are usually talking about Glasgow, rather than Edinburgh. ‘There’s a sense of community in Glasgow.’ He mentions the Reindeer Section, the Glasgow indie supergroup helmed by Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody, until Snow Patrol went massive, and he doesn’t see Swimmer One as part of this.

Unlike many bands, who gig as often as they can, Swimmer One’s live appearances have tended to be sporadic. I ask him why this is. ‘A lot of things…part of it is due to the kind of fan we have…it doesn’t work well in a little venue with a little PA.’ He says that with all the computers and electronics involved in Swimmer One’s music there is not going to be a Swimmer One Unplugged set. ‘We enjoy being in the studio most. It’s something that we have to do. The gigs we’ve enjoyed most were gigs that weren’t really gigs.’ He mentions an appearance as part of a theatre show at the Arches in Glasgow that he really enjoyed. Modest to the last, he adds ‘We’re not that good, really, live…only in particular circumstances.’

On the band’s website, he talks about a dream he had about Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. Does he worry about how success might affect Swimmer One? ‘We’re a long way from having that kind of success! The bands we admire are pop bands doing it on their own terms.’ He cites Roxy Music and Pulp as examples of this. ‘They did it on their own terms. Everybody else came to them. OMD did dilute what they did. They made the decision to sell lots of records. After Dazzleships [OMD’S fourth album), they seemed to lose their way.’ My anxiety [in the dream] was that I was too hard on them. I had this picture of them being quite frustrated artistically. Maybe they really like those records,’ he says thoughtfully.

As a journalist, he interviewed Pete Waterman. His comment on this shows Andrew as the thinker he is, rather than as a jaded, cynical hack, or snobby musician. ‘He loves music, he just has very conservative taste.’ We talk about how Stock, Aitken and Waterman, who are still viewed as pariahs, were responsible for some fantastic singles, Bananarama’s ‘Venus’ and Dead Or Alive’s ‘You Spin Me Round (Like A Record).’ Great Pop Songs, that didn’t need to be cool, they just were.

Andrew says that there probably won’t be any physical singles off The Regional Variations, though he mentions that he has a great idea for ‘Balance Company’ one of the tracks on their MySpace page. The ‘short films’ made for their first two singles were brilliant, and I can’t wait.

Swimmer One. Independent in the truest sense of the world. Making Music For Themselves (but we’re privileged to hear it). Refreshingly anti-snob. This is how music in the twenty-first century should be.

Swimmer One’s website is here and their MySpace is here. To hear four tracls off their album go here and to download the ‘Largs Hum/Cloudbusting’ single for free from Dogbox records, go here.

Mad, Bad and…interesting to hear #1

(san Francisco’s Matmos)

This is going to be a fairly short post, with quite a lot of music. I’ve been trying to expand my listening habits of late, which is always fun, and have been checking out The Wire, which is fantastic both on and off-line, and two other blogs which are also very good for challenging and experimental are An Idiot’s Guide To Dreaming and 20 Jazz Funk Greats (eagle-eyed readers will spot that the title of the latter blog is, of course, a reference to a Throbbing Gristle album, rather than a compilation of slap-bass monstrosities). If you like what you’re about to hear, then they should be your next port of call, along with Epitonic and Insound

For your aural pleasure, two tracks apiece from five acts.

WARNING: This music is not for those who cannot deal with being challenged!

Black Dice-‘Endless Happiness.’ mp3

Black Dice-‘Roll Up.’ mp3

Current 93 -‘Then Kill Caesar.’ mp3

Current 93 -‘VauVauVau(Black Ships In Their Harbour).’ mp3

Matmos -‘The Struggle Against Unreality Begins.’ mp3

Matmos-‘Roses And Teeth For Ludwig Wittgenstein.’ mp3

Mono -‘The Flames.’ mp3

Mono -‘Halcyon Beautiful Days.’ mp3

Yellow Swans -‘Untitled.’ mp3

Yellow Swans -‘I Woke Up.’ mp3

As always, if you like what you hear, please support the artists involved by buying music, going to see shows etc.

Due to going on honeymoon, these links will be up for two weeks.

Seven Covers For Sunday

Here, rather like it suggests on the tin, are seven covers for Sunday. I am now only six days away from my wedding to the wonderful soon to be Mrs. 17 Seconds, so there may not be as many posts as I run around trying to sort out yet another thing.

One thing there will be is the very first 17 Seconds interview, with Swimmer One. Hopefully up here tomorrow…

Hell Is For Heroes-‘Boys Don’t Cry (Cure cover).’ mp3

Idlewild-‘Everything Flows (Teenage Fanclub cover).’ mp3

Placebo-‘Bigmouth Strikes Again (Smiths cover).’ mp3

Katzenjammers-‘Cars (Gary numan cover).’ mp3

Flying Saucer Attack-‘Outdoor Miner (Wire cover).’ mp3

Sonic Youth-‘Into The Groove(y)(Madonna cover).’ mp3

Nirvana-‘Molly’s Lips (Vaselines cover).’ mp3

OK, you know the drill…these mp3s will be up for one week only. If you like what you hear, support the artists involved, preferably through an independent record shop.