Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best Of 2009

I was planning a list of my favourite albums of the year, as I never normally do that, and there were at least a couple of new records in 2009 that I'm positive I will still love in 2019, 2029 and then from beyond the grave.

However, I started seeing other peoples lists and got a bit disheartened. How can anyone have a list of 20 albums of the year, let alone 50? Maybe I'm just too fussy? I love music but 90% of the new records I hear bore me rigid, so when I do find something I like, I REALLY like it. Who am I to judge, but my suspicions are that the longer the "best of" list - the bigger the twat. ..or at least the bigger the list of people someone is trying to impress.

I dunno. I don't care but I know it's nice to see yourself in an end of year poll, so here goes. Hopefully the bands in question will appreciate it. Let's keep this short. I liked THREE new albums this year..

Acoustic Ladyland - Living With A Tiger

Beyond their jazz beginnings - the addition of the guitar and hooks made this a pop punk jazz revelation to me. I can't quite put into words how great this record is. Play it loud and often.
Listen here
Free download

The Mummers - Tale To Tell

Saw them on Jools Holland and loved her voice, the tunes and the orchestral ambitions. The album is beautiful and I can't find anything not to like about it. So why aren't they better known?
Listen here

Malcolm Middleton - Waxing Gibbous

My favourite of his since the first solo record. Just when I thought he had lost the plot (I started to hear a worrying Big Country influence in the last album), and resigned himself to a novelty failure after his attempt to get the Xmas 2008 number 1, Malcolm came back with a set of his best songs yet. No wonder he is contemplating calling time on the solo career. I think I'd be scared of trying to better this.

Listen here
Free download (via Sterogum)

Another list? Some albums that disappointed me

PJ Harvey & John Parish - A Woman A Man Walked By
I had high hopes for this but not a patch on Dance At Louse Hall Point - which is probably my favourite Polly Harvey album

The Lemonheads - Varshons
Jesus Evan Dando you can do better than this.

Elvis Costello - Secret Profane & Sugarcane
I make it now 15 years since a decent Costello record

Echo & The Bunnymen - The Fountain
Great single but some of the songs wouldn't have even made it onto Slideling.

Sparklehorse & Danger Mouse - Dark Night Of The Soul
I was genuinely excited by the prospect of this record but it never quite seemed to add up to the sum of its parts.

Bad Lieutenant - Never Cry Another Tear
I reckon if they put some high end bass guitar with a smidgeon of chorus pedal then this might have been a the worst New Order album since the last one. Without that it's the worst Electronic album since the last one.

Morrissey - Years Of Refusal
Morrissey for Celebrity Death Pool 2010?

And finally a special mention for Vic Chesnutt and Rowland S. Howard, who both died this week (which probably accounts for my end-of-year bad mood.)

Both had great albums out this year, which sound even better now they are being assessed posthumously. They shouldn't do, but that's just the way it works isn't it?

Rowland S. Howard - Pop Crimes

One of my favourite guitar players of all time, I didn't even know he was ill, so it was a total shock to me that he had passed away. What he did with The Birthday Party was stunning and I wish bands these days who name-drop them as an influence would take a bit more of his guitar style and a bit less of the tune-avoidance and shouting about vague religious imagery and sex.

It seems apt to end this post with the cover version on the record - a vicious 6½ minute assault on Talk Talk's "Life's What You Make It" - sung like he's really trying to tell us something. Listen up and have a good 2010.

Rowland S. Howard - Life's What You Make It

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Frankosonic Christmas Compilation 2009

Isn't Christmas great? Those who know me best know how much I love Christmas..particularly the way it dovetails so neatly and conveniently with my birthday..

So here is my christmas gift to you all - the best festive album in the world ever, containing some of the less frequently heard Yuletide hits

Just over an hour and 15 songs to play on Christmas morning when you're opening the presents. Your Nan will love it.

01 The Kinks - Father Christmas

02 MC Chris - Fuckin' Up My Christmas

03 The Maytals - Happy Christmas

04 The Research - For Christmas I Got Pityriasis Rosea

05 King Missile-Jesus Was Way Cool

06 AC-DC - Mistress for Christmas

07 Edward Schreiber - It's the Most Jesusful Time of the Year

08 Cristina - Things Fall Apart

09 Basement Five - Last White Christmas

10 Ted Chippington - Tesco Christmas

11 The Fall - (We Wish You) A Protein Christmas

12 Run D.M.C. - Christmas In Hollis

13 Ed's Redeeming Qualities - Christmas In Vermont

14 Can - Little Star Of Bethlehem

15 Stina Nordenstam - Soon After Christmas

Download a tidy zip file here

Monday, November 16, 2009

Medalark Eleven

One more request - this time as a thank you to the Madchester Rave-On blog which I've been following for a while and has given me hours of nostalgic pleasure, listening to obscure old stuff that I've not heard in nearly 20 years.

Madchester was one of those genres, invented I'm sure by the NME, that was huge for a short time before it quickly out-grew itself and dissolved in a sea of grunge.

What was really funny was watching C86-era bands jump desperatly onto the bandwagon (and there were A LOT of them..Soup Dragons, Primal Scream, The Beloved etc) with some very mixed results.

Glossop's The Bodines had released the jangle-pop classic "Played" back in 1987 and it's still one of my favourite albums of all-time. They had a particularly ill-fated attempt at "going baggy" - probably a year too late, on Creation Records under the guise of Medalark Eleven.

They released a couple of singles and an album (some of the better tracks were re-worked from The Bodines era) but suffered nothing by the way of popularity.

Their last single is here - see what you think. It hasn't aged too well but they still managed to retain a lot of their jangly charm. Pece wanted to hear it.

Medalark Eleven - Smoke EP (1993)

1) Smoke (taken from the album "Shaped Up, Shipped Out")
2) Big Sharp Knife (Alternate Mix to the album version)
3) Smoked (Dad's Army Remix)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

John Lurie

Having the new Acoustic Ladyland album on repeat (punk-jazz album of the year so far?) has reminded me of my very great affection for the work of John Lurie and I realised that I've been meaning to post something on here since the very beginning of time itself.

My first visit to Derby's (now defunct) art house cinema was circa 1986/87 to see Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise. Not that I knew the first thing about it, I was told by my friend John Pyle that we should go because it was meant to be good and there might be girls there who would be impressed by our apparent intellect.

I don't think there were girls but it was great (one of those US indie films where nothing much monochrome..for ninety minutes) and not only did Lurie play the leading man, but he also scored the haunting string quartet soundtrack.

I picked up a copy of the soundtrack CD in Way Ahead a couple of years later and thus my love affair with Lurie's music officially began.

John Lurie - A Woman Can Take You To Another Universe; Sometimes She Just Leaves You There (from the Stranger Than Paradise soundtrack)

Although that first CD was mainly strings, there was a second piece on the end of the CD called "The Resurrection Of Albert Ayler" which, as you'd imagine, was a more honking jazz-based concoction.

From there I picked up a few more of his soundtracks and also delved into his earlier work with the Lounge Lizards (the original punk jazz group).

The Lounge Lizards - Big Heart (from the LP Big Heart - Live In Tokyo)

Of his film work, the score to "Mystery Train" is a particular favourite, it also veers from the jazz format (this time towards a sort of desolate closing-time minor key blues) and includes some choice tracks from other artists too.

John Lurie - Tuesday Night In Memphis (from the Mystery Train soundtrack)

Lurie's profile seemed to peak in the early 1990's with his own TV Show, the brilliant "Fishing With John" a sort of travelog, celebrity fishing documentary series where John travelled the with people like Dennis Hopper and Tom Waits. Definitely pick up a copy on DVD should you come across one. From there he continued to perform and release records with the Lounge Lizards and most notably provided the soundtrack to the mainstream John Travolta flick Get Shorty in 1995.

John Lurie - Nose Punch (from the Get Shorty soundtrack)

His last original music project was the spoof blues album "The Legendary Marvin Pontiac". Not my favourite by a long stretch but it did raise a smile to see it being taken seriously by some areas of the media, apparently unaware that Marvin Pontiac was a fictional creation.

And then it all went quiet on the music front. I knew from Lurie's own website that he was doing a lot more painting (see it here) but it wasn't until I started researching stuff for this blog that I discovered two things

1) His painting "Bear Surprise" (see above) is at the centre of some bizarre Russian-speaking viral internet phenomenon called "Preved" which I can't even begin to explain. Luckily this page does it for me.

2) He has effectively retired from music due to ill health (Advanced Lyme Disease). The saddest part of the story is that he says even if his health permitted him he would be unlikely to consider making music again due to a life-time of bad experiences with the business side of things that I'm sure plenty of people can sympathise with. I suspect that when his memoir "What Do You Know About Music, You're Not a Lawyer" is eventually published, it will be a fascinating read.

There is an excellent (reasonably recent) two part interview here and here, which is essential reading if you've got this far.

I'll leave the last word to Mr Lurie himself. I think there is a case for this being written into some people's record contracts...

To make it make any sense the music has to be breath taking. It doesn't make sense otherwise. The world needs so much, but the last thing it needs is another record or concert, unless it is stunning and moving.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Head! - Tiger, Tiger

This is a song I've known since the 1995 version by Paul Quinn & The Nectarine No. 9 but I didn't even know who the original was performed by until recently.

Head! were one of those late 80's bands that passed me by completely. A non-descript name, not championed by Peel, not even an *Evening Session* band..but weirdly they were signed to Virgin so the one place you DID see their records was in the racks. Unsold at a guess.

The sleeve was certainly very familiar to me, and even now I picked up a copy of their "Tales Of Ordinary Madness" for a couple of quid from GEMM - specifically to hear the original version. The rest of the album is in a similar vein with a couple of the songs verging on the plain daft, but this is definitely the best track by a long way.

Head! - Tiger, Tiger

The Paul Quinn & The Nectarine No. 9 version can be heard over at The Vinyl Villain

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Close Lobsters Peel Session

I used to have this Peel Session on cassette - recorded one evening in 1988 when the reception was particularly bad (at the time my parents lived next door to a morse-code hobbyist who had some sort of Jodrell Bank going on in his garden that used to mess with my stereo in a big way), and it's upset me for 20 years that I never had a decent copy of it.

Forever linked with the C86 movement their debut album "Foxheads Stalk This Land" was a fine collection of songs but suffered from some failry horrendous 80's production values - particularly the drums.

This session featured three songs from the follow-up EP - "What Is There To Smile About" (probably my favourite Lobsters record) and a cover of "Mirror Breaks" by The Mob (about whom I know nothing but they have a Wikipedia page if you're interested.)

I was happy to see that 6music were re-broadcasting the session in its entirety last week so I dutifully grabbed the audio and here it is:

Close Lobsters - John Peel Session BBC Radio 1 (4th Jan 1988)

Session Details here

The following year they released their final album "Headache Rhetoric" and we saw them play a fantastic typically shambolic gig at Trent Polytechic. Talking to the band afterwards it was clear that they were all absolutely pissed beyond words and having a great time. They remain heroes in my house.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bobby Womack

Sometimes when you see an artist you really love mention a song in an interview, you can't help but want to go straight out and find a copy. Back in the day this was obviously a real treasure hunt, but now it's little more than a couple of minutes tickling Lord Google and gently rubbing Lady Soulseek's milky white feet...nowhere near as much fun but when the song at the end of the digital rainbow is as nuts as this then it still makes it just as worthwhile.

I don't know any more about Bobby Womack than that which you can read at Wikipedia. Lots of typical music biz weirdness...he married Sam Cooke's widow 3 months after he died, on the premise that he was worried she might top herself(yeah right we've ALL used that one..), and then his younger brother married Sam Cooke's daughter. Keeping it in the family and all that.

So the song in question dates from 1976, when Bobby was not generally thought to be at the top of his game, but initially the title intrigued me - "Just A Little Bit Salty".

If I wondered what it was about then...well I'm still not entirely sure but despite my confusion it definitely sounds like good advice, and probably one of those lyrics you can interpret at will, just to fit the metaphor you're searching for. I'd be interested to hear what other people make of it..

Itt starts out brilliantly with an apology, Bobby basically admitting that they knocked this one off at the end of a recording session. A brave intro and one that makes it even more poignant.

Bobby Womack - Just A Little Bit Salty

"Things got to get just a little bit salty to let you know what's going down..."

I hear you Bobby...

Friday, June 12, 2009

The BNP Can Suck My Fat One

Strange times in the wake of last week's elections. I never thought I'd see far-right parties winning seats in my lifetime, and that xenophobia was the hallmark of my grandparents generation.

People talk about the 1970's as being the decade of casual racism (Alf Garnett, Black & White Minstrels, It Ain't Half Hot Mum & Mind Your Language - can anyone look back at those without feeling a twinge of embarassment?) and I remembered listening to one of my parents records when I was a little kid...

On the face of it - a story about a lady complaining to her Indian Doctor that she couldn't work out why her heart was fluttering and her pulse was racing. Of course it turns out that her secret love for the Doctor in question is the CAUSE of her heart problems...beautiful and funny. Except I didn't realise at the time that the Doctor wasn't really Indian...the ten year old me just thought it was a touching story of inter-racial love. And CHRIST Sophia Loren sounded sexy...

Peter Sellers & Sophia Loren - Goodness Gracious Me

Then bizarrely another record that I thought was about inter-racial love actually wasn't. I thought he was in love with a "little white girl" - turns out that he was singing "Little White Dove" and she was just from another tribe, so I suppose I wasn't a million miles away.

Did I really grow up in such a cauldron of multi-culturalism and tolerance? Maybe I did..I certainly never understood why my Grandma would grip her handbag like vice whenever she saw anyone even vaguely afro-carribbean in the street (which wasn't often in Matlock)

Anyway this one was a favourite of my Dad's Running Bear by Johnny Preston. I absolutely loved it - although I don't think I ever quite got the whole death pact thing at the end. I probably imagined that when he sang "Now they'll always be together.." that they swam off into the sunset. My favourite bit though was always the tempo-changes on the chorus that still see me bobbing my head 30 years later..

Johnny Preston - Running Bear

So yeah - let's just embrace our differences and love each other because...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Guest Post

My long-promised guest posting of the Bourgie Bourgie Peel Session on The Vinyl Villain blog is finally upon us

The Vinyl Villain

Please check it out and bookmark Jim's blog if you haven't already as it's always top notch

I've a few more new posts in the pipeline here too, so watch this space

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Fall - Masquerade remixes

I swore I'd never be a Fall completist - if only for the sake of my bank balance, but it kind of happened by stealth. One day I was happy with just the studio albums and then the next day, the Postman called, and I found myself buried under a pile of "Live From The Vaults" live CDs Volumes 1 through to whoops there goes my overdraft.

Yet despite this manic obsession with the world's greatest ever band (really) this was one record I'd never heard until today. Hidden away on the 10" vinyl edition of the Masquerade single from 1998 were two obscure remixes, unavailable elsewhere.

I'd be surprised if any serious Fall fan listed Levitate as their favourite album by the band, but Masquerade was certainly the stand-out track for me and as it looks like the one album that ISN'T going to get re-issued any time soon (complete with this sort of contemporary ephemera) I splashed out on the record and here are the results.

If nothing else, 10" vinyl is ALWAYS cool, but these are actually pretty a late 90's kind of way. Whilst the original album version of Masquerade is hardly lacking in electronica (certainly a million miles from the garage punk that MES deals almost exclusively in at the moment) these mixes just pile on the beats. The Mr Natural Mix in particular has a great out of tune slap bass riff running all the way through it that serves to irritate and amuse.

There's not much info as to who the remixes were done by but they were recorded at Edwyn Collin's West Heath studio in London and Pete "The Hit Man (and her)" Waterman's PWL studio in Manchester. I'm sure someone can correct me.

The Fall - Masquerade (Mr Natural Mix)
The Fall - Masquerade (PWL Mix)

As ever, enjoy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bourgie Bourgie

It's a while off yet, but I've got a guest spot coming up on The Vinyl Villain blog, currently scheduled for Sunday June 7th where I'll be liberating a rare and seldom heard John Peel session from Bourgie Bourgie.

Seems like Paul Quinn and Bourgie Bourgie get blanket coverage in the blogs I frequent and quite right too! As a teaser, here is the one Bourgie Bourgie track that I've never seen bloggerised.

Featured on the NME's "Department Of Enjoyment" cassette in 1984 (more widely known for the rare Smiths live version of "Girl Afraid") this is their somewhat unexpected cover of the blues standard "Little Red Rooster". Not a patch on their two sublime singles but with a voice like his, this proves that Quinn could make anything sound good..

Bourgie Bourgie - Little Red Rooster

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Nico 1974 Peel Session

I seem to only do requests these days, and here's another. The first Nico Peel Session was released on Strange Fruit in the late 1980's and was the first time I heard any of her solo stuff. Astonishingly dark with wheezing harmonium and elongated vowels. I probably heard the word "teutonic" for the first time when I saw it reviewed. Or maybe that was a Michael Schenker Group review in Kerrang circa 1984?

Her second session was never released, so here it is. I remember reading on Henry Rollins blog that he wanted to hear a copy so I emailed him but he never replied. I guess he was probably busy lifting weights or frowning.

Three of the tracks came from the 1974 album "The End" but are just performed by just Nico, none of the Eno / Cale mucking about over the top. The 9 minute version of The Doors song is a masterclass in bleakness.

This is for Starman015

1. We've Got The Gold
2. Janitor Of Lunacy
3. The End
4. You Forgot To Answer

Recorded 3rd December 1974