Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Tate Modern needs you!

This missive has just winged its way over to the FET inbox:

Hi Fire Escape Talking

Here at Tate Modern we've just launched an initiative called Your Tate Track. The initiative is aimed at unsigned bands and musicians aged between 16 – 24. Given that your site attracts musicians, DJs, unsigned acts and music fans [that's YOU she's talking about; I thought the demographic was more ageing Go-Betweens fans, crazed record collectors and adults who think the hairslide and stripy t-shirt represents the apex of fashion/sexual hotttness], we would appreciate it if you would help us spread the word about the project.

Your Tate Track asks unsigned musicians to choose a work of art from a selection on display at Tate Modern and then to write a track in response to it. The public will vote on submitted tracks and the 20 most popular will go before a judging panel which will include, among others, Graham Coxon, Roll Deep, Basement Jaxx and Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens.

The winning track will be installed in the gallery through headphones next to the work which inspired it and will be streamed on Tate's website. Tracks can be submitted until the 31 August.

We think this is a great opportunity for budding musicians and would really appreciate your help in telling people about Your Tate Track. You can get more information from Tate Modern.

You know, I hope, that the real measurements by which you will be judged are Vincent Van Gogh (Jonathan Richman), Frans Hals (McCarthy) and Bridget Riley (TVPs).

The New Pornographers

A press release has been issued. It may have things of importance or interest. You the jury.

The New Pornographers have announced details of the release of a new single, Myriad Harbour, which is set for release through Matador on October 1st 2007. The single, available on 2 track 7” and download only, features extra tracks Fugue State and Silent Systems (download only).

The single is the first to be taken from the band’s forthcoming album, Challengers, which is due for release on August 20th.

The band are also set to play a show at London’s Koko on October 4th. Tickets for the show are priced at £12.50 and will be available via www.seetickets.com.

Further UK dates will be shortly announced.

The New Pornographers formed in Vancouver, Canada in 1997, almost immediately recorded the classic Letter From An Occupant. The band released their first long-player, Mass Romantic in 2000 and was followed by Electric Version in 2003 and Twin Cinema in 2005. Their three full-lengths (as well as Newman's 2004 solo debut The Slow Wonder) received wild critical and public acclaim, and they continue to enjoy bigger (and taller and smarter) audiences.

Challengers continues the New Pornographer’s signature multi-layered sound with greater epic sweep and wider sonic diversity. Less frenetically jaunty than its predecessors but still encapsulating pure summer joy, this album will impress the existing fans and convert the uninitiated.

Recorded for the first time largely outside bassist John Collins' Vancouver JC/DC Studio, Challengers is their most organic-sounding record, reflecting a conscious decision to use less "beepy synth" and almost entirely "real" instruments (in addition to those listed above, they recruited an entire string section – who have played with Sufjan Stevens - plus harp, flute, and more).

The New Pornographers are:

A.C. Newman: Vocals, Guitars, Piano, Wurlitzer, Casio, Mandolin,
Percussion, Bass, Melodion
John Collins: Bass, Baritone Guitar, Glockenspiel, Mandolin, Guitars,
Casio, Tambourine
Blaine Thurier: Fender Rhodes, Sampler
Dan Bejar: Vocals, Shakers, Guitars, Piano
Kathryn Calder: Vocals, Piano, Wurlitzer
Kurt Dahle: Drums, Vocals, Percussion
Neko Case: Vocals
Todd Fancey: Guitars, Banjo, Mandolin

Monday, July 30, 2007

Sexual politics

Have sexual politics left you all of a muddle? Fret not, because today we’re going back to simpler times when a girl’s place was to make a boy happy.

Yes, the 1960s. Theresa Lindsey can start things with this cracking Philly dancer, Gotta Find A Way. They really don’t come much better than this.

The proof that The Chiffons were not just another girl group comes in many forms. There are two of them right here. Firstly, their overlooked (non-hit) single, Keep The Boy Happy is at least as strong as any of the greats they’re remembered for.

Secondly, When The Boy’s Happy (The Girl’s Happy Too) by Four Pennies (not to be confused with The Four Pennies, a male English group) which was The Chiffons by another name. They recorded two singles, of which this Greenwich/Barry peach was the second.

If any of you are having relationship troubles, perhaps playing these songs will help. Perhaps they will restore what you feel is the natural order. Maybe you will get up and dance your cares away. Or – it could happen – your loved one will drop an anvil on your head for being such a sexist pig (just don’t blame me).

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Jonathan Richman

The world – or the UK at least – seems intent on revelling in a song about umbrellas, but here we like to pretend at least once a week that it’s summertime. This week I offer – and you’d be a fool to refuse – The Beach by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, the opening track from Rockin’ and Romance, which would obviously be his best album were it not for the inclusion of Walter Johnson and the fact that Modern Lovers is one of the five greatest albums ever made.

There was an article in The Guardian last week about Jojo’s debut single, Roadrunner. It didn’t start very well, with the standfirst calling it “a hymn to a suburban ringroad” when it’s really a hymn to listening to AM radio when driving and the power of rock’n’roll.

Of course, the sub who wrote that was writing in response to the rather overlong article, which seems to think Roadrunner is about driving the Route 128, when the heart and thrust of the song – and part of what makes it so great – is that it’s a celebration of music and how it “helps me from being lonely late at night” and the way it fires the adrenalin: “I'm in love with rock & roll and I'll be out all night”.

Roadrunner isn’t a song about a road. It’s a brilliant case of rock’n’roll’s extreme preoccupation and indulgence of nihilistic desires and how driving on the road – any road, it’s a trope, just being on the road – and the attendant freedom is what matters:
“Me in love with modern rock & roll
Modern girls and modern rock & roll
Don't feel so alone, got the radio on
Like the roadrunner.”

Then, quite brilliantly:
“O.K., now you sing Modern Lovers”.

Here, after creating one of the most persuasive, energetic and irresistible cases for rock’n’roll, Jojo introduces the Modern Lovers into the equation. His band is now part of that alchemy. They are the band you hear on the radio, the band who make you feel less lonely, who make you feel you’re going “faster miles an hour” when you hear them on the AM while driving; the band and the song inspire you, and the power and ownership of the modern world – which is driven by music, not cars - is yours when you’re a Modern Lover or, as the subtext suggests, just listening to the Modern Lovers (that is, Roadrunner):
"Radio On!)
I got the AM
(Radio On!)
Got the car, got the AM
(Radio On!)
Got the AM sound, got the
(Radio On!)
Got the rockin' modern neon sound
(Radio On!)
I got the car from Massachusetts, got the
(Radio On!)
I got the power of Massachusetts when it's late at night
(Radio On!)
I got the modern sounds of modern Massachusetts
I've got the world, got the turnpike, got the
I've got the, got the power of the AM".

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sparring Partners Vol 2

The calls went out for music and I answered. Eventually.
Tom from indiemp3 wanted The Fizzbombs flexi, You Worry Me. I told him I had it and would copy it. That was bloody ages ago. I didn't realise it would take me so long to find, but once a record's lost - if you have a rather shaky grasp of the alphabet or a habit of putting records in the wrong place when drunk - it can take months, even years, to find (if anyone's seen my copy of If Love Was Money by Dan Penn, please say, as it's bugging the crap out of me).
The other track on the flexi is Hank Williams Is Dead by Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes.

Nancy was after a Mousefolk ep, Hazy Tambourine Days. As always, I'm happy to help. My feeling is that this band haven't aged well; I have other thoughts on bands such as this and the period for indiepop 89-91, but I will perhaps share them another day when I have time to devote to another chapter in the rise and fall of indiepop.
Devil In The Deep Blue Sea


Monday, July 23, 2007

Culture "Two Sevens Clash" + Peel Session

It's easy to say that Culture's Two Sevens Clash is the greatest reggae album of all time. It's even easier - and just as accurate - to say that Two Sevens Clash is one of the greatest albums of any genre, any time. It really is that simple.

To mark its 30th anniversary, it's re-released today in remastered form with a few extra tracks:
"One of the masterpieces of the roots era, no album better defines its time and place than Two Sevens Clash, which encompasses both the religious fervor of its day and the rich sounds of contemporary Jamaica.

Avowed Rastafarians, Culture had formed in 1976, and cut two singles before beginning work on their debut album with producers the Mighty Two (aka Joe Gibbs and Errol Thompson). Their second single, "Two Sevens Clash," would title the album and provide its focal point. The song swept across the island like a wildfire, its power fed by the apocalyptic fever that held the island in its clutches throughout late 1976 and into 1977. (Rastafarians believed the apocalypse would begin when the two sevens clashed, with July 7, 1977, when the four sevens clashed, the most fearsome date of concern.)

However, the song itself was fearless, celebrating the impending apocalypse, while simultaneously reminding listeners of a series of prophesies by Marcus Garvey and twinning them to the island's current state. For those of true faith, the end of the world did not spell doom, but release from the misery of life into the eternal and heavenly arms of Jah. Thus, Clash is filled with a sense of joy mixed with deep spirituality, and a belief that historical injustice was soon to be righted.

The music, provided by the Revolutionaries, perfectly complements the lyrics' ultimate optimism, and is quite distinct from most dread albums of the period. Although definitely rootsy, Culture had a lighter sound than most of their contemporaries. Not for them the radical anger of Black Uhuru, the fire of Burning Spear (although Hill's singsong delivery was obviously influenced by Winston Rodney), nor even the hymnal devotion of the Abyssinians. In fact, Clash is one of the most eclectic albums of the day, a wondrous blend of styles and sounds.

Often the vocal trio works in a totally different style from the band, as on "Calling Rasta Far I," where the close harmonies, dread-based but African-tinged, entwine around a straight reggae backing. Several of the songs are rocksteady-esque with a rootsy rhythm, most notably the infectious "See Them Come"; others are performed in a rockers style, with "I'm Alone in the Wilderness" an exquisite blend of guitar and vocal harmonies. One of the best tracks, "Get Ready to Ride the Lion to Zion," is a superb hybrid of roots, rocksteady, and burbling electro wizardry; its roaring lion (created who knows how) is a brilliant piece of musical theater.

"Natty Dread Take Over" twines together roots rhythms, close harmonies, and big-band swing, while even funk and hints of calypso put in appearances elsewhere on the album. Inevitably, the roots genre was defined by its minor-key melodies, filled with a sense of melancholy, and emphasized by most groups' lyrics.

But for a brief moment, roots possibilities were endless."

As 2007 marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Culture's Peel Session, it would've been fitting, don't you think, to include that on the album reissue. But no. In the spirit of public service blogging that I am known for in at least 44 households, here is that long-deleted Peel Session:
Lion Rock

Too Long In Slavery
Two Sevens Clash

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Sound Of Summer Showers

This week’s summer song is, like its predecessors, an absolute corker. The Sound Of Summer Showers was recorded by Jerry Yester in 1966, the same year he contributed bass and vocals to The Monkees’ Headquarters and produced The Association’s Renaissance. What a year!

Jerry Yester first tasted success as part of The Modern Folk Quartet. They might have found greater fame had the one song they recorded with Phil Spector, This Could Be The Night, been released at the time. Brian Wilson was at the session and has called it his favourite song. (Yes, I know he’s a senile old git, but he knows a good tune when he hears one.)

Yester and bandmate Henry Diltz played on most of The Ronnettes’ recordings. Yester even played the piano on the Lovin’ Spoonful’s Do You Believe In Magic?. "There was an incredible camaraderie among musicians in those days," Jerry remembers. "It seemed like everyone helped everyone else make their records, and in this spirit I played piano on the first Lovin' Spoonful single 'Do You Believe In Magic?' in 1965." He joined the band two years later, and went on to produce Tom Waits, Tim Buckley and The Turtles, among others.

The Sound Of Summer Showers, a soft pop classic, remains, however, the pinnacle of a great recording and production career (apart from the piano in Do You Believe In Magic?, obviously).

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

King Creosote is back!

The King is back! Yes, there’s a new King Creosote album, Bombshell, due for release on September 10th. This is very exciting news, given that it’s been two whole years since KC Rules OK, which, as I’m sure you all know, was pretty fucking amazing.

The King knows we can’t wait that long, so has posted a taster, You’ve No Clue Do You, on his corner of myspace. What a gent! He’s also posted the lyrics on his blog, so everyone south of Fife can understand them or, even, sing along. Thoughtful!

You've no clue do you

As with all your rules of thumb
This one comes with an index
There's few good moves in there for some
That even you've avoided
With no small success
You've no clue do you
Library lead pipe p..p..professor plum
That's yet another wrong guess
Watch real close where others mark their cross
Might that peak the interest
Of a cheat, of a liar, of a scumbag
That's that off my chest
You've no clue do you
Take a test but you've ...
Hazard a guess but you've ...
Take a test but you've ...
Haphazard a guess but you've ...
Colonel mustard is a seed sower and a ham
Mrs peacock is a ready feather in his cap
Mrs white is doe-scared in his flower-like hands
Miss scarlet is embarrassed to have ruddy been had
Even queen reverend green is envious of this cad
Pro-plum pro-plus pro damson is distraught
Doctor black's dead pan humour is intact.

Finally, some words of wisdom from the man himself that he originally uttered to Channel 4.

Have you ever been scared and/or excited by a horse?
God I’m terrified of them. I tried to overcome my fear of horses on this farm, and this big bugger just came and stood on my foot. That was it. I won’t go near them now. Someone said: “They sense your fear, you know,” and I was just like, “So they’re taking the piss, aren’t they?” Don’t like them at all. Sarcastic bastards.

Which body part could you happily live without?
Actually, all those gangly bits down below, they’re a bit weird. Not yet, but once I get to a certain age and my mind’s given up on them, I reckon it’d be ok to just look like an Action Man down there. Not now, though.

You make lots of music don’t you?
I suppose so, but why not? I’ve done about thirty albums now. They’re not highly produced, they’re just done at home, but still they’re all songs I’ve written. People seem to think that’s mental, but sod it, I had a job for most of that time, it’s not like I was putting loads of effort in - it just happened that one night a week I’d sit down and write a song. Easy peasy. I don’t have a TV, see.

Too-Rye-Ay reissued

The press release says:

September 3rd 2007 sees the re-release of Dexys Midnight Runners second album, Too Rye Ay on Mercury / Universal.

The 2-CD package include a full re-mastered version of the original album, B sides from the album’s singles, a BBC live in concert recording from Newcastle on 26th June 1982 and a David Jensen BBC session from 4th July 1982.

Too Rye Ay was originally released in August 1982 and reached number two in the UK chart. It was the band’s second album following Searching For The Young Soul Rebels, which was released in the summer of 1980. Their debut had established them as one of the UK’s most passionate and exciting bands; a soul driven charge with a quintessentially English twist.

By 1981 the band had undergone a series of line-up changes, released three singles, Plan B, Show Me & Liars A To E (Plan B & Liars A To E would end up on Too Rye Ay in re-recorded forms) before further personnel changes.

Dexys re-emerging in 1982 with an expanded line up featuring fiddle players Helen O’Hara, Steve Brennan and Roger MacDuff (collectively known as The Emerald Express) and musical nods towards Rowland’s Irish heritage. The first single from the album, The Celtic Soul Brothers unveiled a new look and augmented sound and the album’s second single, Come On Eileen, released in July 1982, saw the band score a number one single on both sides of the Atlantic – the single became the biggest selling single of year in the UK.

The band released a further single from the album, Jackie Wilson Said, in October 1982. It would be a further 3 years before the band released their third album, Don’t Stand Me Down.

The band performed a number of ecstatically received shows in 2003; their first in almost 15 years. Kevin Rowland is currently in the studio writing and recording a new Dexys album.

The full tracklisting is as follows:

CD 1
1. The Celtic Soul Brothers
2. Let’s make This Precious
3. All In All
4. Jackie Wilson Said
5. Old
6. Plan B
7. I’ll Show You
8. Liars A To E
9. Until I Believe In My Soul
10. Come On Eileen

11. Love (Part 2)
12. Dubious
13. T.S.O.P.
14. Let’s Get This Straight From The Start
15. Old (Live – from Shaftsbury Ave)
16. Respect (Live – from Shaftsbury Ave)
17. Let’s Make This Precious (original version)

CD 2
1. T.S.O.P.
2. Burn It Down
3. Let’s Make This Precious
4. Jackie Wilson Said
5. Come On Eileen
6. Soon
7. Plan B
8. Geno
9. Respect
10. Old
11. The Celtic Soul Brothers
12. There There My Dear
13. Show Me
14. I’ll Show You

15. Let’s Make This Precious
16. Jackie Wilson Said
17. All In All
18. Old

19. Reminisce

Monday, July 16, 2007

Joe Pernice signs book deal

He has, you know. The press release is below. Before you read that, perhaps you would be amused by this anecdote. A friend of mine in Australia, in the first flush of love, went to see The Pernice Brothers. She approached Joe Pernice after the show and told him, "I came tonight because I've just found out about your music which I really love. You see, I recently fell in love with a Pernice Brothers fan..."
Not missing a beat, with weary resignation Joe said to her, "You're doomed." History proved Joe right.

Right, that press release, then:
Joe Pernice has signed a book deal with Megan Lynch of Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Books USA, for world rights. Joe will write a novel for them, which is about one-third done, but if you ask him when he'll finish his face turns all red, and he yells, "When I finish!" If we were betting people though, we'd bet that that the next U.S. President will be celebrating his or her first 100 days in office around the time it "streets," as they say in the music business. If you ask Joe what the book is about, he sticks his fingers in his ears and sings "la la la la la, etc."

Primarily known as a recording artist, Joe wrote the novella Meat is Murder for Continuum Books' 33 1/3 series in 2003. That book remains one of the bestselling pieces in that series, and Joe is working with Neal Huff, an actor who appears regularly on HBO's The Wire, on the Meat is Murder screenplay. Again, he is not forthcoming on when that project might see the light of day. He also previously published a volume of poetry called Two Blind Pigeons, on his own Ashmont Books imprint. That remains the bestselling (only) piece on Ashmont Books.

Said Joe, "I am really excited to join the Penguin family, where I get to be label mates with writers like Homer."

Joe Pernice began his recording career in the mid-90's with the Scud Mountain Boys, in Northampton , Massachusetts . They released two records before signing to Seattle 's Sub Pop in 1995 and releasing Massachusetts, along with The Early Year, a compilation of the two pre-Sub Pop recordings. In 1997, he disbanded the Scuds to form Pernice Brothers, whose debut Overcome By Happiness was released by Sub Pop, as was Chappaquiddick Skyline, more of a Joe Pernice side project in 2000. Big Tobacco, a Joe Pernice solo record was released in Europe in 2000 (and later in the US ). Later that year, Joe left Sub Pop and he and his longtime manager Joyce Linehan established Ashmont Records, based in Boston, where they have released several Pernice Brothers records: World Won't End (2001), Yours, Mine and Ours (2003), Nobody's Watching/Nobody's Listening live album and DVD (2004), Discover a Lovelier You (2005) and Live a Little (2006).

Joe Pernice's music has been featured on television shows The Gilmore Girls and Six Feet Under, the movies Fever Pitch, On Broadway and Slaughterhouse Rule and in commercials for Sears and Southern Comfort.

Joe is also an accomplished television star, having made a 45-second appearance as a troubadour-wannabe in a 2006 episode of The Gilmore Girls.

Pernice grew up in the Boston area, and attended UMass Amherst, where he received an MFA in Creative Writing. He currently lives in Toronto with his wife and young son

Thursday, July 12, 2007

NME Redesign

Changes are afoot at Britain’s second–biggest selling weekly music paper:
The NME, IPC’s weekly music title, is undergoing a redesign this week and introducing a host of new elements.

Before I saddle up the horse and gallop excitedly to the local newsstand, let’s look a little more closely at what they’re offering:
The changes are the result of “extensive reader research”.
Right. You know what this means, don’t you? Yep, they’ve read the comments on NME.com for a week or so. “Extensive reader research” can be undertaken to mean exactly what you want it to mean – social science is an imprecise science and can lack a certain rigour, if you like – and when the editor insists that he views the average reader as a 15-year-old in the provinces, I wouldn’t listen to a word those readers said, either, especially if an expensive re-design depended upon the results.

There will be “more humorous editorial”. Maybe they’re planning to reintroduce the Thrills page, a feature so often lacking in humour that in its death throes in 2000 the strap line “it’s meant to be funny” was added. Or that there will be longer (slightly longer, mind, I’m not calling for the return of review essays, but 200 words isn’t a chore for reader or writer) to develop gags? Or the singles will be reviewed by one person per week? Or – and this would really be something – that they get better writers? No, didn’t think so.

“Innovations include a “Your photos” section to run alongside the letters page”. What is this? A weekly freesheet's clubbing section (at least those rags are honest that you get what you pay for)? Maybe this is the NME’s response to our celebrity-saturated culture in which most people crave fame. Well, they should realise that their demographic is anti the mass hysteria of Pop Idol and its derivatives. “Indie” might not necessarily mean “independent” or “sells bugger all records” these days, but the spirit of the venture, the thrill of the chase, the belief in the outsider are all part of its demographics’ self-imposed underdog status.

We can expect “a Weekly Planner catering for younger readers.” This move strikes me as being for kids so young that the covermounts might as well be lollipops and felt tip pens.

“Stuff We Love that extends coverage to fashion, gadgets and brand merchandise”. That sound you hear is the death knell of the magazine. The further they get away from their subject – music – the less reliable they become. Covering fashion and gadgets is not an economic necessity for the NME in the way that footballers, and soap operas and its stars, for example, became necessary add-ons to the teen and pre-teen magazine market.

What they are doing with fashion in what is a magazine read predominantly by males who mainly dress according to the dictates of the band or scene they like (or – newsflash! – jeans and a t-shirt, probably a band t-shirt at that) only their “research” can tell us. The gadgets section, that male-magazine staple, makes more sense to its readers, perhaps, but ties in perfectly to what this whole redesign is all about: it’s moving the magazine closer to the website.

The readers' photos (it’s like a networking site!), the readers’ reviews (it’s like a blog!), the humourous editorial (it’s irreverent! like the world wide web!), the staff profiles (it’s interweb-tastic!): Nme.com has become the tail that wags the NME-magazine dog.

If I can give you one piece of advice, guys, is seeing as “Readers will also now have album reviews published” will you print them in the funny pages? I’d like to know which ones are which. Ta.

I'm With Stupid

I was particularly amused to see this picture of Neil Tennant at a 1982 wedding (it’s funny how fashions change, isn’t it? Or how they ever got like that in the first place. What were those guests thinking? Should they all in fact be wearing "I'm With Stupid" t-shirts?) on David Hepworth's blog.
Neil is easy to spot. He’s the one quaffing rock’n’roll mouthwash out of a china teacup

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

One-hit wonders

Recently an old pal of mine sparked a little chat in the comments about one-hit wonders. Among the names I nominated was Walter Johnson, whose southern soul powerhouse Not Now But Later would, I am quite certain, be described by southern soul aficionado Tim – for he was that old pal – as “deadly!” There is apparently no greater recommendation than that, so I can only concur that this song is indeed most deadly.

Tamala Lewis provides the northern soul one-hit wonder side of the coin, with You Won’t Say Nothing, a classy dancer full of punch co-written by – no kidding – George Clinton.
Clinton was a demo producer working for Jobete's New York office in the early 60s, alongside people such as George Kerr, JJ Jackson and Sidney Barnes. If the demo was rejected by Motown in Detroit, then the producer was allowed to release the song by their own New York artist on a different label.
You Won’t Say Nothing, then, was turned down by Motown…still, Berry Gordy did go on to swear that What’s Going On would flop, so his judgment wasn’t all that hot all of the time.

The Summer Sun

“'Summer Sun'…I had written with Alex Chilton, oh, I guess in about 1978 or '77, in New York.”
Chris Stamey

In the second of a series of summer songs set to become so legendary that future historians are already sharpening their pencils to write the full story of how the series came to pass, comes The Summer Sun by Chris Stamey (with a little help from Alex Chilton).

Outside, this July day is grey and foreboding, but with The Summer Sun the weather is always bright, the time is always 1967 and the place Carnaby Street or Haight-Ashbury.

Kind of like The Kinks’ knack for strident power pop with a sunny theme (Love Me Till The Sun Shines, Waterloo Sunset, Sunny Afternoon…) only a little more upbeat, The Summer Sun is officially summer.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Politicians featuring McKinley Jackson

Many of you will by now probably own a copy of The Go! Team’s new single, Grip Like A Vice. On the back of the sleeve it says “contains elements of Psycha-Soula-Funkadelic” by The Politicians; a bit like saying the b-side, a cover of Sonic Youth’s Bull In The Heather, contains elements of Sonic Youth’s Bull In The Heather.

The Politicians were the house band of Hot Wax, one of the two labels put together by the songwriting triumvirate of Holland, Dozier and Holland after their 1968 split with Motown, like the Funk Brothers were to Motown or the MGs were to Stax.

Their only album, 1972’s The Politicians featuring McKinley Jackson, opens with Psycha-Soula-Funkadelic. The next song on the album is The World We Live In, which you will notice bears more than a passing similarity to Primal Scream’s Loaded.

I asked Brian O’Shaughnessy, who produced Loaded, about this remarkable likeness some years ago at glamorous London indie venue, the Water Rats. He said that the young lady who played the horn riff was a classically trained session musician who made the riff up herself. There was absolutely no chance she’d ever even heard of The Politicians, let alone be familiar enough with them to rip off a song.

Still, alarmingly close, are they not?

The World We Live In was written by McKinley Jackson with the help of Hot Wax’s men with the magic touch (hear me out!), Dunbar/Wayne* (they wrote Band Of Gold! Give Me Just A Little More Time! (You’ve Got Me) Dangling On A String! Many, many, more!).

*Ronald Dunbar was a songwriter before his work with the Hot Wax and Invictus labels. Edith Wayne was a pseudonym for Eddie Holland (some say the entire songwriting team of Holland, Dozier, Holland). All the H-D-H boys were still under contract to Motown when they left, so for legal reasons couldn’t write for their new labels, hence the pseudonym (Eddie Holland’s contract had longer left to run than his colleagues’).

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Robert Forster interview

"I hear the melancholy in his songs more than I did when he was with us."

This interview first appeared on Teletext on 25th and 26th June 2007, reproduced on The Go-Betweens site.

Robert Forster's mission
By John Earls

Why did you compile Intermission now?
Grant and I had always planned to take last year off. Our last album Oceans Apart did so well, Intermission was intended to give new fans something to look into and to tide old fans over.

When Grant died, I froze. I didn't know what to do about music. Everyone left me alone to decide in my own time and, at the end of 2006, I felt the best thing to do was to carry on as we'd planned; finish sorting Intermission.

Intermission's packaging is gorgeous...
It had to be. It's the first release since Grant died, so I wanted it to be perfect - simple, but beautiful.

Rather than have separate CDs for you and Grant, was it tempting to alternate your songs like a Go-Betweens album?
Not at all. We enjoyed those years of exploring our songs apart, they helped us grow. They don't sound like The Go-Betweens, and to force them together retrospectively wouldn't be right.

What did you learn about your music in the '90s, not working with Grant?
How to play guitar better. Grant and I always wrote apart, so the craft of writing songs didn't change that much.

But before we went solo, I could take a song to Grant and know he'd come up with fantastic guitars for my songs. I could just let him run off that way. When The Go-Betweens returned, it was wonderful to have such an impeccable guitarist playing with me again.

How do you feel about your's and Grant's solo work, listening back now?
Very happy, apart from my covers album - I don't like that at all, it was made during a dark time for me. Music changes wherever you record, I like the changes from my Berlin to London songs.

Grant's music, I can't help but hear in a different context since he died - it goes for his Go-Betweens songs too. I hear the melancholy in his songs more than I did when he was with us.

Has your songwriting changed since Grant died?
It's hard to say. I don't know if it's changed because of not having Grant around, or because a year has gone by and I've changed naturally anyway.

I'm beginning to enjoy it again. I'm demoing songs with our bassist, Adele. I don't know which other musicians I'll work with, but it's a good feeling that songs are returning to me. They're coming slowly, but they always did.

How many songs have you written for a new album?
There are about eight songs in total. I was never as prolific as Grant. Some of the songs I'm making are the final ones Grant wrote before he died. One is called Let Your Light In, Babe.

How hard is it to finish making songs based on Grant's final demos?
Surprisingly easy. There are a couple I can't sing because my voice isn't right - one in particular is perfect for somebody - we'll try to get that done.

Grant never recorded song ideas on PCs. Like me, he'd do proper acoustic demos. I've got those, without lyrics - from his lyric book, he only had titles for them. But his melodies are so strong, ideas quickly suggest themselves.

Do you want a second solo career?
I'm not sure. The record I'm making now is one that I feel has to be done. I see it as making the album Grant and I had planned to make this year anyway.

But I want to write in other areas, as well as music. As Grant and I were taking last year off, I began writing for the Australian magazine The Monthly and that's been very worthwhile. It's a new discipline. It's good to start afresh with new ways of writing.

What's been the biggest benefit of becoming a rock critic for The Monthly?
Hearing contemporary music. I'm not a big White Stripes fan, but it's good to be sent their new record to get a feeling of it. Good albums, Fountains Of Wayne, find their way to me now.

One of the things I miss most about Grant is his knowledge of all areas of the arts. It was extraordinary, and we had that shortcut where we could say what we really thought of something.

Do you think you'll ever find someone to write songs with again after Grant?
Probably not. It's unlikely I'd find someone twice where we complemented one another so well. And it'd be hard on the other person. I'd have the Paul McCartney syndrome, where the other person is compared to John Lennon.

You turn 50 on Friday...
It'll be low-key. I'm not running from the idea of getting old, I'm just not big on being part of a large party.

How do you feel about playing live on your own again?
I've got four shows here in Brisbane in July, one for Go-Betweens songs and one for each solo record. It's a nice way to return to doing concerts again.

The Intermission compilation and the next new record were things Grant and I had already planned. These shows are the first music ideas that weren't part of what we'd already thought of. I've only just realised that, and it's nice.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Candees Hot Hits

Regular readers will remember a post about The Candees a while back; due to public demand I'm posting their two songs from the Hot Hits compilation album.
They're a little pacier, snappier and more pulsating than the songs on Candyfloss. If The Pipettes wrote 'em like this, they'd bag the number one slot, obviously.
Little Miss Rainbow (er, this 'fades in gently' due to 'technical difficulties' or I am just a cackhanded fool)
The Heart Parade

Summer Song

The first in what might become a series of summer songs may just as well start with Summer Song.

This overlooked nugget of pop perfection from 1988 manages to set a summery scene and take the piss out of overwrought psychedelic rockers The Electric Prunes right at the start:
“I’m gonna walk to the corner store,
Buy an ice-cream sandwich
I had too much to dream last night
And now I have brain damage.”

Written and produced by Jenny Joseph, this summertime celebration will sit perfectly between Jonathan Richman’s The Beach, The Springfields’ Sunflower and Love’s Orange Skies on any compilation made for hot days. It even has a flute solo.

This track is so good, in fact, that I can forgive the lead guitarist for trading under the name Plato Scampi and one of the backing singers being called Smelley Kelley.