Album Review: The Smiths

The Smiths -‘The Sound Of The Smiths’ (Warners)

Another year, another Smiths compilation? Well, of course, that does depend on which edition of this album you get. The selling point of this album, and surely the attraction to many of us is Disc 2, with many rarities (though still no ‘Work Is A Four Letter Word’).

Rather than dwelling on yet another Smiths compilation, let us focus on the music instead. For a band that were together for five years, with a recording career of four, The Smiths had a highly productive work-rate where the bar was set almost impossibly high for anyone to follow. Morrissey and Marr surely rate up there with Lennon and McCartney or Jagger and Richards as a songwriting team. They recorded so many classic songs that it’s hard just to focus on one or two…but if you’re a certain age and you haven’t heard these songs, what the hell have you been doing? ‘How Soon Is Now?’ remains my favourite. With its’ middle-eight:

‘There’s a club if you’d like to go,
You could meet somebody who really loves you
So you go and you dance on your own
And you leave on your own
And you go home, and you cry,
And You Want To Die.’

‘Songs That Saved Your Life (referencing a track ‘Rubber Ring’, which is not included here) was the name of a book about the Smiths’ music, and the reality is that their music did just that. As a miserable teenager, wondering if I’d ever get a girlfriend, this song spoke volumes to me. Years later, it soundtracked the mid-twenties slump as my relationships soured badly, and it still soundtracked break-up misery. ‘Meat Is Murder’ was definitely a factor in me becoming vegetarian, and apparently one of the most influential things on many people becoming vegetarian over the last twenty-five years. I was marginally displeased when one school friend wrote ‘Sixteen, clumsy and shy’ inside my Christmas card one year, though it was probably very accurate. The night I freaked out listening to ‘Suffer Little Chidlren’ and that image of Myra Hindley (shudder) filled my head. The girl I fancied who I got into The Smiths, if even just a little bit (we’re still very good friends).

…and these are just my own stories. How many other people spent their teenage years clutching their Smiths records, living through them? Even repeated readings of Adrian Mole hadn’t prepared us for how sodding awful teenage life would be. Marr made it seem like you could be a guitar hero without being a prat, Morrissey that beiong a rock god was not all about being full of testosterone. The fact is, it’s not just about adolescence remembered, these songs are classic from any era. And yes there was misery (sometimes too much, ‘That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore’ is the sort of thing that gave The Smiths’ detractors everything they needed on one seven inch single). But there was humour, dry observation, wit, and that music. When I heard The Queen Is Dead aged fourteen, it was pretty much a road to damascus moment. It wasn’t always easy getting hold of The Smiths’ music in the early nineties, with the collapse of Rough Trade; the studio albums were only avilable on expensive import from the US. Quite how four studio albums as strong as theirs were allowed to go unavailable is a mystery.

The music remains timeless. The second disc reminds us of tracks that perhaps fell a little down the list of how good they were – but I’ve loved listening to ‘Jeane’ ‘Please Please Please Let me Get What I Want’ and ‘Oscillate Wildly’ again.

So, we’ve heard these songs before. But why not once again?


Listening posts:




Is it time to rethink my views on prog?

Soft Machine, above.

For many years, I’ve been fairly opposed to the whole concept, never mind the music, of progressive rock. Many years ago, a friend’s dad played me Pictures At An Exhibition by Emerson Lake and Palmer, and it put me right off. (And I do like classical music).

Added to which, as someone who felt that punk was what had led to his beloved indie scene, it was a feeling that progressive rock’s sole function was to be so damn hideous that punk had to happen. With the exception of Pink Floyd -‘ They’re not prog, they’re good!’ I snapped at someone one time – I saw the early seventies as a wasteland, with a few notable exceptions -Bowie, Roxy, Nico, Reed etc.. and American soul and funk. I bought a Yes best of a few months ago, it ended up being returned fairly quickly. I love much of Peter Gabriel’s solo stuff, yet find much of the Genesis stuff hideously self-indulgent. I have of course since discovered Richard Thompson and John Martyn. I don’t see them as prog, but they have helped me realise that there was great music there in the first part of the seventies. I’d always loved Kraftwerk; in the last few months Can, Faust, Neu, Amon Duul II and Harmonia have shown that Germany was producing weird and wonderful stuff, and in the case of these, it influenced some of the more open-minded punks. (See here for more about that Johnny Rotten show on Capital Radio. Not a Stooges or Dolls track in sight).

Perhaps it’s time to be a little less blinkered. I suppose Steve at Teenage Kicks must take the credit for pointing me in the direction of both of these tracks, they are fabulous. I’ve posted them before but I figure these are definitely worth hearing again.

Matching Mole -‘O Caroline.’ mp3

Roy Harper -‘When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease.’ mp3 (both cropped up here, no less!)

And these two tracks are pretty cool, too:

Soft Machine -‘I Should Have Known.’ mp3

Kevin Ayers -‘Oh! Wot A Dream.’ mp3

Sad songs say so much…2

Haven’t posted much here this week. It’s been kinda busy, and isn’t showing sign of letting up. How the heck did Tony Wilson manage to run a label and work in TV? No marking, I suppose.

Anyway, some songs for a cold winter’s day…

Johnny Cash -‘Hurt.’ (No there’s nothing wrong with me, just something in my eye…)

afterword: Johnny Cash’s wife June Carter Cash, seen here in the video, died shortly before him in 2003. Someone said that ‘she’d gone to get the house ready for him.’ I’m sure some would criticise that statement as sexism, but to me it makes my eyes almost as misty as watching the video.

The Cure -‘Charlotte Sometimes.’

Who would have thought a pop video could be so sad and creepy? I remember watching that video with my dad and the hairs on his arm literally standing on end. Also worth reading Penelope Farmer’s book Charlotte Sometimes which inspired the song. Charlotte Sometimes is my favourite song by my favourite ever band, and second only to this…

Joy Division -‘Atmosphere.’

My favourite ever song. Apparently the surviving members of the band hated this video but I love it. The bit when the synths ocme in sounds like the sound water would make if you could tape it forming on water (actually, I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what Martin Hannett would have recorded). The bit where this is played in 24 Hour Party People is a misty-eyed moment as well…

David Bowie -‘Life On Mars?’

For many years, this was my favourite song and it’s still up there as one of my favourites. I’m sure I heard Flaming Lips do a cover of that on John Peel’s show in about 1993. If anyone can help, please let me know…

Billie Holiday -‘Strange Fruit.’

I was amazed but delighted to find footage for Strange Fruit. It’s a beautiful but harrowing song. Covered by many people including Robert Wyatt, Tori Amos, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and also by Nina Simone, who had to give up performing it as everytime she did, she broke down. There’s ingenious (IMHO) use of this in Ae Fond Kiss, a film that looks at sectarianism in Glasgow in the twenty-first century.

So…I’ll finish with a clip of Nina Simone, talking about how important it is to her as an artist to reflect the times. I found myself thinking it was a shame she hadn’t lived to see Barack Obama elected to be President of the US, but there’s millions of Americans who would have loved to have seen that.

Aberfeldy return to the live arena!

Guess who’s back? Back again?

Na na na na na…sorry, lost myself a bit there.

Aberfeldy have just announced that they will play two very special dates this Christmas. They will headline at the ABC2 in Glasgow on December 22 and the next night at the Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh on December 23. Their manager told me that tickets should be on sale from tomorrow, priced around £10.

I have also been told that the test pressings for the new single ‘Claire’ on 7″ should be ready next week. So if you live in Scotland you might even be able to snap up a copy at the gigs! You should certainly be trying Avalanche and Fopp.

So go and snap up those tickets fast! This is a regular music presentation.

Aberfeldy -‘ Come On Claire (demo).’ mp3

Aberfeldy’s myspace

Reminding youse all…

OK, I know I have blogged about Pearl and the Puppets before, including when she was gigging as Katie Sutherland:

Anyway, this morning I got another email requesting I post ‘Because I Do’ again.

Very happy to oblige. It’s a great song, still my favourite of hers and one I never tire of hearing.

Sorry it’s been a bit quiet round here of late,it’s just been kinda busy…
Katie Sutherland -‘Because I Do.’ mp3< Then go and make friends with Pearl and the Puppets on myspace…

Presenting…Mr. Beasley

I’d had this in my inbox for blooming ages…and I’m kicking myself.

This week with Aberfeldy’s single ‘Claire’ getting play from NME Radio (did I mention this?!), I’ve heard this loads and can’t get it out of my head. This has also been played on Iain Baker’s show and it’s bloody fabulous. Expect to see this in the 17 Seconds Festive Fifty at the end of the year.

Mr. Beasley -‘Right As Rain.’ mp3

Now, it goes without saying, if you like the song GO AND BUY IT!

Oh, and for those people who ask me when they can buy the Aberfeldy Claire 7″,
follow this link to pre-order on vinyl from the Rough Trade Record Shops. My first co-release as a record label runner, available from Rough Trade, my favourite record shop. It’s the best almost birthday present I could have hoped for…

Album Review: Ry Cooder

Ry Cooder -‘The UFO Has Landed -The Ry Cooder Anthology.’ (Rhino)

An excellent compilation that does exactly what it says on the tin! Right from the weird and wonderful artwork (Ry says that he was given the artwork years ago, and he would love to find out who from), to the rich and diverse music contained inside, this is a treat.

I have to put my hand up here and say that I am not an authority on Ry Cooder‘s music. According to legend, Bob Dylan once went to him at 3am to learn to play guitar like Sleepy John Estes. So if he’s good enough for Dylan, who are the hell are the rest of us to argue?

Cooder’s career strectches back nearly forty years. This compilation includes his covers of ‘Dark End Of The Street’ which is heartbreaking, and is totally instrumental. Its’ emotional strength is solely down to the playing. He also covered Johnny Cash’s ‘Get Rhythm’ in the late eighties, which was the first time I ever heard his music, aged eleven.

Cooder has been described as one of the top ten guitarists of all time, and listening to this compilation, you’d be seriously pushed to argue with that. Whereas some have pilfered roots music and claimed it as their own, Cooder has always respectfully acknowledged the music that has influenced him, be it rock, blues, country, tex-mex, to name just a few of the styles on here.

He is also an accomplished soundtrack composer, perhaps most famously for Wim Wenders’ masterful Paris, Texas. This is amongst another twenty soundtracks he has done.

If you’ve never heard Ry Cooder’s music before, this is an excellent place not just to get an introduction, but also to get an education. It was assembled with his son, Joachim, who surely didn’t find his father an embarassing Dad!


The UFO Has Landed -The Ry Cooder Anthology is out now.

US readers can hear much of stuff released on the album here and UK readers here

A video clip for Paris, Texas on You Tube:

Oh, and was sent these links by the PR company to help promote it:




Brothers, Sisters…We don’t need this fascist, sexist, homophobic groove thang

Hello folks.

A somewhat disturbing story that I read on NME which can be read in a little more detail over at AllHipHop.

The man in the picture at the top is called Trick Trick. Trick Trick is a collaborator of Eminem, and Trick Trick has some serious issues. The man is homophobic to his core. I am not going to reprint what he said here -with freedom of speech comes responsibility, and his views on homosexuality are just offensive, not just to those who define themselves as non-heterosexual but any right thinking person. He has said, quite bluntly, that he doens’t want homosexuals buying his album. Don’t worry, I don’t think many people will, hater, bigotry has to stop somewhere.

I’m encouraged by most of the comments on the NME and AllHipHop posts that I read, it’s clear that the majority of people think he’s a sick, sick man in a very bad way. It’s time that society confronted this sort of hatred full on. There is no excuse. Period.

Oh, and anyone who tries to excuse themselves by quoting this passage from the Bible can go away. Stop hiding your prejudice behind religious teachings that you have distorted to promote your hatred.

Society is changing, and hopefully, not just with Barack Obama’s election as President, but people do seem to be realising that standing out against sexism, racism and homophobia isn’t about political correctness, it’s to do with human respect. Mrs. 17 Seconds and I have quite a few gay and lesbian friends; in fact, some of them – gosh! shock! HORROR! -are Christians as well. It is, as they say, not about where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.

As a teacher, I find many young people are becoming more enlightened. The school where I teach does deal with homophobic incidents, though in the previous school there was amazement that I’d reported one girl for making homophobic remarks about another girl. There has been the somewhat disquieting rise in the use of the word gay meaning ‘stupid.’ As a fellow teacher said to one child: ‘What do you mean, that chair’s gay? Are you saying it wants to have sex with other chairs?!’ tee hee…

There’s an interesting list here about songs that speak out about homophobia.

Bronski Beat -‘Smalltown Boy.’ mp3

…and that video

Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy – ‘ The Language Of Violence.’ mp3 [BTW excellent piece on this band over at Teenage Kicks

…and that video

Senseless Things -‘Homophobic Asshole.’ mp3

Chumbawumba -‘Homophobia.’ mp3

…and yes, the video for this too

‘All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.’ Edmund Burke.

Album Review: Escape Act

Escape Act -‘Loosely Based On Fiction (Volte Face Records)

Escape Act’s debut LP Loosely Based On Fiction follows on from the June release of the rather fine ‘God Says’ single Having been impressed by that single the album does not disappoint either. Ten tracks long, and barely 35 minutes long, it comes in and does its’ job extremely effectively.

The Belfast trio recorded this album at the legendary Chem 19 studio in Glasgow with Andy Miller. Not that they needed any more Celtic magic, but the producer (Fratellis, Mogwai, Sons & Daughters) has helped them deliver a debut that any band would be proud of. Whilst it seems a bit obvious to draw comparisons with the Undertones and Ash, there’s defintely hints of those bands with both a bit of nosie and a lot of a tune. In this case, ten of them.

This is just hugely enjoyable, a fresh and exciting listen that continues to delight on every successive listen. Rather like the Strokes, here is a band who have realised that less is definitely more. Pure punky joy.


Loosely Based On Fiction is out now on Volte-face Records

Escape Act -‘Broken Chin.’ mp3

…and the video for ‘God Says.’

Escape Act Website/Escape Act myspace

Oh, and a piece on them at The Devil Has The Best Tuna.