The Battle for the Christmas Number one is Go!

OK, folks, listen up.

Yesterday evening, I received an email from Mike at Manic Pop Thrills. Mike is getting a campaign going to get Malcolm Middleton’s third release from the A Brighter Beat album to no.1. Most importantly, the Christmas no.1.

The single will be released on December 17, and available as a digital download -which means it can be bought from iTunes for 79p.

Oh yes…did I mention the single’s name? it’s called ‘We’re All Going To Die.’

Before anyone starts on the ‘But people won’t buy a sad record at Christmas, let alone get it to No.1’ I would like to point out that in 1995, the Christmas no.1 was ‘Earth Song’ by Michael Jackson, and in 2003 it was ‘Mad World’ from Gary Jules. Neither of which were very upbeat, were they? And the Malcolm Middleton song is at least jaunty and upbeat (musically!), and a great song.

Also important is the fact that the song will be up against X-Factor winners, whoever they will be, and so this is also about the battle for good against evil, socialism versus capitalism, the scottish cult indie musician versus a global terror perpetuated by Louis Walsh and Simon Cowell.

Apparently it may also be up against a release by Led Zeppelin. Now, Zep were great, but, let’s face it, if the Wedding Present still refuse to do encores in 2007, then Page and Plant and Jones should still be refusing to do singles in 2007. No sell out!

The odds at the bookies are 1000-1 on ‘We’re All Going To Die’ getting to no.1 for Christmas. So let’s mess with a few heads…
To paraphrase Bill Nighy’s character in Love, Actually: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if this year the Christmas no.1 wasn’t some muppets that have won a TV ‘Talent’ show or some aging rockers on their comeback, but a guy from Falkirk who deserves far more recognition than from just bloggers and indie kids?’

And spread the word. Today is November 8, so we have about five weeks.

Let’s get going.

To whet your appetite, here are some Malcolm Middleton tracks:

From A Brighter Beat

Malcolm Middleton -‘A Brighter Beat.’ mp3 (via Yousendit)

Malcolm Middleton -‘Fuck it, I Love You.’ mp3 (via Yousendit)

Malcolm Middleton -‘Beep Beep, Love You.’ mp3 (via Yousendit) (for people not grown up enough to cope with swearing)

From Into The Woods

Malcolm Middleton -‘Beak My Heart.’ mp3 (via Yousendit)

From 5:14 Fluoxytine Seagull Alcohol John Nicotine

Malcolm Middleton -‘Devil and the Angel.’ mp3 (Via Yousendit)

Malcolm Middleton’s site is here and his Myspace is here, you can hear the single at the latter.


I received a communique from a reader called Laura earlier today asking if I could repost Placebo’s cover of ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again.’

Well, I thought, why not, and then I thought -make a post of it!

So, ALL VIA YOUSENDIT, here are some Placebo covers:

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

Placebo -‘Holocaust.’ mp3 (Big Star cover)

Placebo -‘Johnny and Mary.’ mp3 (Robert Plamer cover)

Placebo -‘Running Up That Hill.’ mp3 (Kate Bush cover)

Placebo -’20th Century Boy.’ mp3 (T.Rex cover)

and for a wee bonus…

Plaecbo -‘Slave To The Wage (Les Rhythmes Digitales New Wave mix).’ mp3

Placebo’s website is here

BTW, am planning on doing a post on cover versions The Fall have done. Watch this space…

Gig review: Idlewild/Twilight Sad/Broken Records

Gig review: Idlewild/Twilight Sad/Broken Records

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, November 3, 2007

Great scottish acts I have seen on the bill together: Franz Ferdinand, Dogs Die In Hot Cars and Sons & Daughters at York Fibbers in October 2003. Fire Engines, Sons & Daughters and Aberfeldy at Edinburgh Liquid Rooms in December 2004. Aberfeldy, King Creosote and My Latest Novel at Edinburgh St. Bride’s Centre in April 2005…amongst many…and now this.

My first reaction, when Mrs. 17 Seconds and I arrive at Edinburgh’s Queen Hall, is ‘does no-one tell me anything? I knew that the Twilight Sad were supporting (hotly-tipped, mentioned on this blog, but as yet, unseen by me) but Broken Records, last seen supporting Emma Pollock at Edinburgh’s Cabaret Voltaire are here too? Just as well I rushed my long-suffering wife out of the house in time for the doors to open.

Seven piece Broken Records modestly describe themselves as ‘just a local, edinburgh band’ (just?! what do they think idlewild are, then?) but if they aren’t signed soon then something is wrong with this picture. Songs like ‘If the News Makes You Sad, Don’t Watch It’ and set closer ‘Slow Parade’ are songs that need to be heard. They take the passion of the Waterboys, and by mixing drones and good knows what else into it, make folk music for the 21st century. Despite seeming a little shy after their set when I approach them, this is serious music alchemy at work here. They are happy for me to post their songs on here and Mrs. 17 Seconds is already saying she wants to see them again. So do I. the singer’s voice is comparable to Jeff Buckley, not just in tone and quality, but in range, too. They deservedly win the audience over by the end of their all-too-brief set.

Glasgow’s Twilight Sad have set ears, minds and pulses racing with their debut album Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters. This album should do well in the end of year polls, and not just in Scotland either. Live they make a glorious wave of noise to lose yourself in, and if titles like second song ‘That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy’ might seem unwieldy on paper, they are a joy live and I am not disappointed. looking at my notes, I appear to have put down the comment ‘like mogwai, if singing were involved.’ * Joined by Alan and Rod from idlewild for the last couple of songs, the coverage that has been awarded them is deserved, and should continue to grow.

It’s now over ten years since I picked up Idlewild’s debut single ‘Queen Of the Troubled Teens.’ Now going for a fortune on 7″ (well, about £50/$100) the band have developed and grown over the years, even with a few line-up changes along the way. By the time they go into ‘You Held The World In Your Arms’ -as their second song-the crowd is going mental. Mrs. 17 Seconds has long held the gig that I took her to for her birthday in 2005 as one of her favourites (supported by Sons & Daughters and Foxface -another great scottish lineup. This is closely followed by ‘When I Argue I See Shapes’ and ‘No Emotion’ from their most recent album, Make Another World. This might not have been the commercial success that The Remote Part was, but this is no reflection on Idlewild themselves. And as Roddy notes, ‘It sold a lot of copies in Edinburgh.’ ‘Course it did, boys, we still see you as one of ours.

Although this is Idlewild’s greatest hits tour, it should be no surprise to anyone just how many hits they have had over the last ten years, which also took them onto TOTP (how long til that returns?). ‘Little discourage’ (still my favourite)’American English’ ‘Love Speeds Us From Loneliness’ ‘I am a message’ ‘Everyone Thinks That You’re So Fragile.’ all of them still magical. They bring on close friend of the band Gavin Fox for vocals on ‘El Capitan.’

Alas, this song is not completed as the venue is evacuated due to a fire alarm. all credit to Idlewild, though; as soon as the fire brigade have given the all-clear, they’re back on stage, and the magic means that the pace is not spoiled at all and the magic is recaptured (apart from the two ______s who then sat next to Mrs. 17 Seconds and talked throughout the rest of the gig. Guys, that’s what the pub’s for). ‘Roseability’ and ‘A Modern Way Of Letting Go’ remind us just how diverse the singles were in musical styles, not just the albums. They don’t go off for the encore, but stay on, playing ‘Quee Of the Troubled Teens’ (the only time I’ve ever heard them do it), bringing the Twilight Sad back for a gloriously ramshackle version of The ramones’ ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ and finish with ‘The Remote Part.’Even without Edwyn Morgan’s lines, this still gives you a shiver just thinking about it.

So another classic scots indie night out. A band still at the height of their creative powers, with two great acts following in their wake supporting. I was there, were you?

Idlewild -‘No Emotion.’ mp3 (from Make Another World, 2007) (via Yousendit)

Idlewild -‘El Capitan.’ mp3 (from Warnings/Promises, 2005) (Via Yousendit)

Idlewild -‘Satan Polaroid.’ mp3 (from Captain, mini-album, 1998) (Via Yousendit)

Idlewild’s official site is here

* yes, I am aware that there are human voices on Mogwai songs like ‘Dial:Revenge’ and ‘A Cheery Wave To Stranded Youngsters.’ You are very clever. Well done. They are largely instrumental, aren’t they, though? yes??

A sort of promo…

(More idlewild coming this way very soon i promise...)

I am still about to post my review of idlewild in Edinburgh the other night, which was great, but life has been kinda insanely busy here (just for a change).

Anyway, they had two fantastic support acts, so in anticipation of my review, a sampling of them both: The Twilight Sad and Broken Records.

Some excellent mp3s

Twilight Sad

Twilight Sad -‘Walking For Two Hours.’ mp3 (via Yousendit)

Twilight Sad -‘And She Would Darken The Memory.’ mp3 (via Yousendit)

Twilight Sad -‘That Summer At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy.’ mp3 (Via Yousendit)

Broken Records

Broken Records -‘Kathy.’ mp3 (via Yousendit)

Broken Records -‘Out On The Water.’ mp3 (Via Yousendit)

Broken Records -‘The Russian Song.’ mp3 (Via Yousendit)

And…I also interviewed Riley Briggs from Aberfeldy yesterday, who played me half a dozen new songs and told me what the band are up to, so watch this space…

Public Enemy: How one band changed how I listen to music

(with apologies to The Wire‘s epiphany section, from which I stole this from).

There hasn’t been a great deal of Hip-Hop featured on the (electronic) pages of 17 Seconds so far, but that shouldn’t be taken as a sign that I don’t like it. Far from it. It’s far more an indication that it’s not a genre that I feel I can write with much authority on, and there are many more out there who can do so.

However, there have been many Hip-Hop singles and albums that have done a lot for me. I was ecstatic when I eventually managed to track down a 12″ of KRS-One’s ‘Sound Of Da Police’ (might post that here soon), and albums like Jay-Z’s The Blueprint, Mos Def’s Black On Both Sides and Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the 36 Chambers have opened my ears a lot. And not forgetting Grandmaster Flash, Sugarhill Gang, RUN DMC, Missy Elliott, Kelis, Jurassic 5…

But if I had to pick one Hip-Hop album that’s had the most lasting effect on me, it has to be Public Enemy’s 1988 album It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. The reasons for this are not just to do with the music and songs, which are pretty amazing, but the way the album is put together and how it sounds. I’d been aware of Public Enemy for most of my music listening life, but I first heard this album when I was twenty in 1997.

The effect on me was quite considerable. The anger was righteous and infectious, articulate and appealing. I understood, perhaps for the first time, just how effectively samples could be used (DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing… had been released not long before, but I was starting to expand my palate from the almost incessant indie and britpop that had dominated it for several years at this point). lent to me by a friend at uni, it changed how I listened to music. Not just in terms of the lyrics or the melody, but about the completeness of recorded music. The track ‘Security Of the First World’ certainly sounds like it might have been sampled by Madonna on the ‘Justify My Love’ single in 1990. The beats and manipulation of sound by DJ Terminator X are still a revelation, nearly twenty years after the album was released. And it’s good to note that three of the album’s tracks were Top Forty Hits in the UK, the album made the Top 10 and was the NME writer’s album of the year. Not only an underground act, but a successful commercial act.

It was a result of listening to this album that made me appreciate other records for what they were. Working in London in the summer of 1999, I had my headphones on a lot of the time, listening, to amongst other things Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation, Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy and the Beatles’ Revolver. The latter is my favourite album of all time, but it was listening to Public Enemy that helped me to appreciate all the sonic tricks that went on, that help me to listen to it carefully, and invariably hear something new every time I listen to it, no matter how many times I’ve played it.

Public Enemy’s influence went beyond just US Hip-Hop too. In 1991, Chuck D collaborated with Anthrax for a version of ‘Bring The Noise.’ Meanwhile, in 1995, Tricky and his then collaborator Martina Topley-Bird had a hit with their cover of ‘Black Steel In the Hour Of Chaos’ released as ‘Black Steel.’ It’s a measure of the UK that these records were both Top thirty Hits, even if in an alternate world they should have been no. 1s. Ah well…

Public Enemy -She Watch Channel Zero?!’ mp3 (Via Yousendit)

Public Enemy -‘Don’t Believe the Hype.’ mp3 (via Yousendit)

Public Enemy -‘Bring the Noise.’ mp3 (via Yousendit)

And two bonus tracks…
Anthrax and Chuck D -‘Bring The Noise.’ mp3 (via YouSendit)

Tricky -‘Black Steel (Public Enemy cover).’ mp3 (via Yousendit)

Public Enemy’s offical site is here

Oh, roll on the summer

(MIA -a likely candidate for 17 Seconds’ Top Fifty Albums of 2007)

It’s November in Edinburgh, the shops are already getting Christmasy, and I’m very envious of any animal that gets to hibernate. Hey ho…

Anyway, how about some sounds for you? I’m trying to work out what my end of year best of list will include. It’s likely to be as last year with a festive fifty of tracks and this year more than just a top ten of albums. And then, of course, how do you decide how 43 is better than 44? The list -which is my personal list, rather than any fashionistas’, is likely to include Liars, Rihanna, Malcolm Middleton, PJ Harvey, Emma Pollock, The Shins, and Battles, amongst many others. It is probably unlikely to feature the latest albums by Hard-Fi or Low (which I looked forward to, then couldn’t get into).

These have also cheered up 17 Seconds Towers of late:

Bricolage -‘The Waltzers.’ mp3

Maximo Park -‘Girls Who Play Guitars.’ mp3

Sister Vanilla -‘Can’t Stop The Rock.’ mp3

The Wombats -‘Let’s Dance To Joy Division.’ mp3

It may be worth letting any newcomers know that it certainly isn’t just indieindieindie round these parts though:

Wiley -‘5050.’ mp3

MIA -‘Pickle Down The River.’ mp3

As always, these will be up for a week only (less if my bandwith gets exceeded). If you like the artists involved, please support them by buying their music, going to gigs and helping spread the word.

Some Covers For Saturday Part III

Well, I’ve got my USB turntable on the go again (not that it stopped working but it can be a time-consuming process) so here are a few goodies from the record collection.

The Swans were responsible for leading me to Joy Division. Aged eleven, I saw the video for their cover of Love Will Tear Us Apart on The Chart Show, a long-running UK TV show that every three weeks would do the Top Ten indie charts (the other two weeks being dance and Heavy Metal). Now the version I heard then had Michael Gira on vocals (anyone who has this please let me know etc..) but this version has the legendary Jarboe singing.

Swans -‘Love Will Tear Us Apart (Jarboe vocal).’ mp3

I said I would post it, and I have! A couple of years back, Franz Ferdinand and the Fire Engines issued a limited split 7″ (I love these! There is nothing more indie (in the old sense of the word) than a split 7″) of them covering one of the other’s songs.

Franz Ferdinand -‘Get Up And Use Me (Fire Engines cover).’ mp3

Fire Engines -‘Jacqueline (Franz Ferdinand cover).’ mp3

As a huge Cure fan, I was determined to track down a copy of this for years. A few times I thought I’d got it, only to wonder why every version seemed to cut off before the end. So when I found the 12″, I got it home to discover that…it’s how it’s meant to sound.

Dinosaur Jr -‘Just Like Heaven (The Cure cover).’ mp3

I thought this was a Nancy Griffith song -obviously without the swearing -but it was written by John Prine. Anyway, this is Alabama 3’s take on it.

Alabama 3 -‘Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness (John Prine cover).’ mp3

Finally, another record I spent years searching for (before it was eventually available on the B-sides and rarities triple CD compilation that came out in 2004). This single had Nick and Shane singing on the A-side together, before covering one of the other’s songs on the b-side.

Nick Cave and Shane MacGowan -‘What A Wondeful World (Louis Armstrong cover).’ mp3

Nick Cave -‘Rainy Night In Soho (Pogues cover).’ mp3

Shane MacGowan -‘Lucy (Nick Cave cover).’ mp3

These will be up for one week only. Enjoy!

Scots indie! Part 2

The Vaselines

Just a quick post, but felt like posting some classic eighties scottish indie.

From Perhaps, which may be the most underrated scottish record of the eighties.

Associates -‘Breakfast 12″.’ mp3

The Fire Engines were a big influence on many scots bands, perhaps most notably Franz Ferdinand. I will post the split single that both bands did here at some point…

Fire Engines -‘Candyskin.’ mp3

OK so Psychocandy is the definitive scottish record of the eighties, but let’s not forget that there were some fantastic records afterwards too.

Jesus and Mary Chain -‘April Skies.’ mp3

I’ve posted this before, but it had to be part of this post. Just sheer class. Post-punk meets indie. Oh yes, oh yay…

Josef K -‘Sorry For Laughing.’ mp3

Their second single on the legendary Postcard label, and my favourite song of Edwyn Collins’ ultra-cool scottish heroes.

Orange Juice -‘Blue Boy.’ mp3

Later covered by Teenage Fanclub, the Pastels, still going in 2007, are fantastic. I met Stephen Pastel earlier this year, the most down to earth and shy musician I have ever met.

The Pastels -‘Nothing To Be Done.’ mp3

A huge influence on Nirvana, who covered this and two of their other songs, the Vaselines might well be Scotland’s answer to the Velvet Underground.
The Vaselines -‘Son Of A Gun.’ mp3

If you like these tracks, seek ’em out, goddamit!

Album Review: To Rococo Rot

Album Review: To Rococo Rot -‘ABC123’ (Domino)

I’m not an authority on To Rococo Rot, but I’ve enjoyed the bits that I have heard previously in the past. I have to say my worst fears were aroused when I read the accompanying press release that said this mini-album had arisen out of a commission relating to the 50th anniversary of the Helvetica typeface (I understand this is a big deal in design circles, and there’s an exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art). The potential for this to be horrendously pretentious sounds high on paper.

But on putting it into the CD player, it’s quickly clear that it actually is great electronica. Whereas previously To Rococo Rot have specialised in more analogue sounding electronica, they have here worked only on acomputer and keyboards. The bass sounds that emerge are still fantastically pleasing and have managed to balance that difficult relationship between experimental and listenability.

At only twenty monutes long, it doesn’t hang about, but it’s a rewarding listen. Much of the best electronica comes out of Germany (think Kraftwerk, and the enduring influence of the so-called ‘Krautrock’ bands) and this is certainly a very Eurpoean record. For my money, ‘lvx 4’ is the best track here. If you want to hear what this band are about, this is an excellent place to start. Don’t let the thought of the inspiration put you off…

ABC123 is out now on Domino

From ABC123:

To Rococo Rot -‘Freitag.’ mp3

To Rococo Rot -‘lvx 4.’ mp3

Two older tracks from To Rococo Rot:

To Rococo Rot -‘Rock On, Lovers.’ mp3

To Rococo Rot -‘Cars (Variant).’ mp3

To Rococo Rot’s Myspace