Yup, just a couple of years after the rather great actually Modern Times, Bob Dylan has made the opening track on his new album Together Through Life available for just twenty-four hours. It’s called
So, what does it sound like? Well, I rate Dylan and if he dipped in the eighties (an accusation that was also levelled at Neil Young and David Bowie, amongst others), he’s certainly still continued to produce great stuff as the years have gone by. He may be of pensionable age, but his talent sure as heck isn’t.
A friend said they thought this sounded like ‘Black Magic Woman’ by Santana, but ‘in a good way.’ I hear an element of this. It’s certainly got quite…well, not a European feel per se , but certainly not just American. According to Uncut’s Allan Jones, “Dylan had been asked by the French film director Olivier Dahan, who made the Edith Piaf biopic, La Vie En Rose…to write some songs for his new movie, My Own Love Song. Dylan duly came up with a ballad called “Life Is Hard”, and was so inspired the next thing anyone knew he’d written nine more new songs and not long after that – bingo! – here’s Together Through Life in all its rowdy glory.”
Ah…1991. School was rubbish, the UK got involved in a war in Iraq (plus ca change la meme chose etc..) and the UK recession bit. How times change. Bryan Adams was no.1 for sixteen weeks with the theme for a film about Robin Hood that showed Kevin Costner doing an appalling English accent -‘Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves.’ Music, yet again, would save us. Depending on what got through, of course. Bizarrely, songs not played during the time of the Gulf War were ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’ by Elton John, the Bangles ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ and Lulu’s ‘Boom-bang-a-bang.’ The Cure’s ‘Killing An Arab’ didn’t make the blacklist though. In the middle of all this, there was the incongruous sight of the Clash getting a no.1 with the re-issued ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’
I have to admit, this track didn’t do much for me in 1991, but over the course of the decade, it and parent album Blue Lines grew on me. It was actually credited to Massive, rather than Massive Attack, being as the name was considered inappropriate at the time of the Gulf War. This track is without a doubt my favourite track of the last twenty years.
Massive -‘ Unfinished Sympathy.’
A few weeks ago, a twelve year old started trying to tell me abuot when Nirvana first appeared on Top of the Pops. ‘You don’t have to tell me,’ I explained ‘I was watching it, I know!’ But that’s the thing: for my generation he was the one who pushed open the door for alternative music into the mainstream; for another generation after us, he’s an icon of doomed youth. Perhaps it’s how people in their fourties feel when i ask them about their experiences of the punk days. Ah well…
Nirvana -‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’
Hello to shoegazing (part 1). Curve were one of those names I would gaze it in the indie chart each week, wondering how I could even get to hear their music -the likelihood of hearing it on daytime Radio 1 was slim, and I had no access to MTV, and filesharing meant something different in 1991. Eventually I heard them – bought a cassette single of ‘Coast Is Clear’ and was not disappointed. This was the debut single though, featuring the man who held the record for many years for being the world’s fastest rapper – ‘JC 001.’
Curve -‘Ten Little Girls’
In which the world of shoegazing meets goth (see also the Cocteau Twins). By 1991, Siouxsie and the Banshees were pretty much the elder statesmenandwoman of the ‘indie-alternative’ spectrum, but I still carried a torch for them that I had done since I saw ‘Candyman’ as a nineyear old on Top of the Pops. This song was prime Banshees, even if parent album Superstition wasn’t. As shoegazing and baggy battled it out (well, sorta), the instrumental break seemed to bear more than a passing resemblance to Chapterhouse’s single of the same time ‘Pearl.’
Siouxsie and the Banshees -‘Kiss Them For Me.’
It’s a truth not generally acknowledged that there was a successful pre-Britpop indie scene, that dind’t involve Shoegazing necessarily, but did make it onto Top Of The Pops, Smash Hits and quite often daytime Radio 1. The Wonderstuff were one of those bands, along with Pop Will Eat Itself, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Jesus Jones, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine who often did rather well. This was their biggest hit as band (not involving covers and Vic Reeves).
Wonderstuff -‘Size Of A Cow.’
This song got me from the off: ‘Says she won;t be forced against her will/says she don’t do drugs but she does the pill.’ sufficiently parent-baiting, I hoped. I still have a spot for the Fanclub but I kinda preferred them when they were mashing up Big Star and Dinsoaur Jr, rather than the Neil Young of the scottish west coast which started setting in about 1997.
Teenage Fanclub -‘The Concept.’
It has been said about many of the pre-britpop bands that they made more money selling T-shirts than records, but they did have hits too. This song got Carter onto the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party in October 1991. The show might have passed off without incident had host Philip Schofield then muttred an insensitive gag about thier haircuts…see “>here. heh heh…My little brother and I were there, having won tickets, and we sorta saw it, but it was only completely clear when we got home and wathced the video afterwards…
Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine -‘After The watershed (Early Learning The Hard Way).
*Would be here also: REM -‘Losing My Religion’; Billy Bragg ‘Sexuality.’ Problems with what is available on YouTube at the moment.
I’d idly flicked through my 7digital mailing to discover three tracks that they were giving away. I rather like these three and wondered what you thought…
First up, I Monster. I always associate these guys with that rather wonderful ‘Daydream In Blue’ which is now eight years ago. This sounds like Blur jamming with Beck in the late sixties…
I Monster -‘She’s Giving Me the Eye.’ mp3 (from their new album A Dense Swarm Of Ancient Stars.
Next, Black Lips are one of those blogger-appropved bands 9as opposed to Blogger-approved bands) that I always feel like I should be more into. This is endearingly shambolic…like the Vaselines jamming with the Motown house band.
Black Lips -‘I’ll Be With You.’ mp3(from their new album 200 Million Thousand)
I know next to nothing about the Coronas, and guiltily, I assumed they were going to sound like another indie-by-numbers band. Actually, on the evidence of this track at any rate, there’s a little more to them…
The nineties revival looks like it’s set to be upon us any day soon.
So let’s hope that ‘they’ (i.e. the tastemakers that tell us what, apparently, we were doing in the nineties) focus on the good stuff.
I reached my fourteenth birthday in November. The previous year I’d got the latest Kylie album for my birthday, this year I asked for and got albums by the Rolling Stones, the Sex Pistols and the Clash. I moved school, it was rubbish, but it’s a long time ago. I should probably also be honest and admit I wasn’t listening to all of these bands at the time. I started covering my pencil case with tippexed on band names, and as I became more and more into ‘indie/alternative’ embraced the world that was out there, somewhere, away from a drab East Midlands town, reachable only by dipping into the NME…
This I was listening to. The Mondays were getting on Top Of the Pops, and coverage in Smash Hits. I didn’t realise it was a cover but it was a good ‘un. I was aware of Madchester, and aware of raves taking place around the M25, but this wasn’t happening to me.
Happy Mondays -‘Step On.’
This was a cover too, but Sinead made it her own. I remember watching the video for this on the Chart Show, and thinking it was great. I’d heard her a couple of years previously with a song called ‘Mandinka’ but this was a bona fide number one ‘on both sides of the pond’ (as they say).
Sinead O’Connor -‘Nothing Compares 2 U.’
In 1990, the Stone Roses were the next big thing, and they were happening. Like me they were looking forward to a bright future, then after this single, they were banned from recording by their label of the time, Silvertone, and this would be the last new track from them until November 1994 (unless you include the remixes, and I’m not). My bright future disappeared when I hit adolescense and realised that Adrian Mole had only told me part of it.
Stone Roses -‘One Love.’
I didn’t know much about the goth scene, but this was another track that made it onto Top Of the Pops. I think this band have been somewhat derided over the years, but in my head they still rule…
The Mission -‘Butterfly On A Wheel.’
I saw a clip of this video on the Chart Show and was more fascinated by the video than the song. Could you get away with just doing this in a music video?! I read an interview with them in a copy of Q. They said that they’d put ‘No Timewasters’ on the add that had formed the band. So a couple of years later I decided that was extremely cool and had to do the same thing. ‘You can’t do that!’ said my horrified Father. ‘That’s what prostitutes say!’ Ah well…
The Pixies -‘Velouria.’
There’s many songs that came out in 1990 that should be on here*, but aren’t, due to current problems with YouTube. This is on there…no I wasn’t listening to them much at the time, though I knew of them, but three years later I got Extricate, the parent album, and became smitten…
The Fall – ‘Telephone Thing.’
* A list of songs that I can’t post in the UK so far includes:
Madonna -‘Vogue;’ B-52s ‘Love shack’ and ‘Roam’; Pet Shop Boys -‘Being Boring’ this is why it’s only six videos…
There are still some people in the twenty-first century who will try and tell you that being able to download music for free over the internet is killing musicians’ ability to make a living.
I still maintain this is crap. And this is a case in point:
On Sunday, having been reading in The Wire about Susanna, I decided that I had to investigate. I had heard one or two tracks on compilations, and used the Hype machine to find out some more. I downloaded a couple of tracks, and then went and downloaded two albums this evening – her 2004 album Melody Mountain (credited to Susanna and the Magical orchestra) and 2008’s Flower Of Evil. And that’s downloaded as in PAID FOR THEM.
Susanna has done a number of her own compositions but what the Oslo-based singer specialises in is haunting covers of other people’s songs. And if you think that songs like ‘Enjoy the Silence’ by Depeche Mode or Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ are pretty haunting anyway, hearing her cover songs like Abba’s ‘Lay All your Love On Me’ or Thin Lizzy’s ‘Jailbreak’ is a wildly different proposition…
See what you think. If you like them, then go and buy the albums!
Susanna and the Magical Orchestra -‘Enjoy the Silence.’ mp3
Susanna and the Magical Orchestra -‘Love Will Tear Us Apart.’ mp3
I’ve said it before…I’ll no doubt say it again: thank God for The Wire magazine. Whilst some people hit their thirties and go down the route of monthly glossies that focus on stuff that’s already happened before, The Wire is constantly investigating new boundaries. Whilst I would love NME to be giving covers to stuff like Antony and the Johnsons, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Sunn o))), they don’t seem to, at least not as much as I think they should.
And it’s thanks to them that I’ve discovered a fantastic Chinese band called White who hail from Beijing. The two piece are Shou Wang (guitar, organ, theremin, analogue pedals, drums, vocals, toys, effects) and Shenggy (analogue synthesizers, samplers, tape manipulation, drums, percussion, vocals, effects). Their self-titled debut LP will be released in May on OpenNote, the label set up by Einsturzende Neubaten mainman Blixa Bargeld. The album was recorded at Neubaten’s Berlin studio with Bargeld as producer.
Einsturzende Neubauten are certainly an influence, and they also cite the likes of Throbbing Gristle, Glenn Branca, The Boredoms,Steve Reich, and The Residents ‘and a million others.’ They’ve taken perhaps self-consciously ‘weirder strands of western music, and produced something fantastic. They are the perfect meeting point for the likes of minimalists like Terry Riley and classic German ‘Krautrock’ like Can and Neu!
The Wire are giving away an mp3 called ‘Build A Link.’ It and other tracks can also be streamed at White’s MySpace site.
The 39 Steps is the latest project from producer, musician and DJ Kato.
Now, while I have to say I hadn’t heard his music before, not knowingly, anyway, I am really blown away by the debut album Coming Clean. Released on May 4 on Bad Sneakers Records (also home to Mr. Beasley, The Lodger and the Rosie Taylor Project) this album manages to mix hip hop, electronica, jazz and film scores in a way that genuinely reminds me of Portishead, Moloko’s first LP and David Holmes at their best (and Lord knows, we’ve been waiting a decade to be able to say that). This is not to say this is backward looking, on the contrary, this feels and sounds fresh to these ears. And as someone who’s always rated bands who aren’t concerned with fitting in, that’s a very good thing. A few people have compared this to Tricky and Massive Attack, but I can’t say I hear it, much as I love those artists. And the 39 Steps is an excellent Hitchcock film…
To hell with people who always assume ‘coffee table’ whenever people put electronica and hiphop in a sentence together (I don’t own a coffee table, it would be covered in aesthetic debris), this is music that has to be heard.
This track is the album’s title track and it’s very, very good:
The 39 Steps -‘Coming Clean.’
Meanwhile, the track has been made available for free download: