Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Fischers gig

The Fischers launch their great - well, it is - debut single, Down The Days, this Friday at The George Tavern.

Lead Fischer Jamie Holman has asked me to mention it (come on, London-dwelllers, what else are you going to be doing?) and directed my attention to this youtube treat: Come The Early Hours live session

Youtube fans may also want to watch a video for Down The Days.

FRI 2ND NOV, 2007 8.00pm
The Loves + The Fischers + The School

Friday, October 26, 2007

Psychedelic Horseshit

Just when you thought America was about to spend the next decade staring at its shoes through lank hair and playing terrible dirges that go on for years without ever getting close to a tune, SHITGAZE is here to save us.

It’s not the most, uh, appetising genre name, I agree, but drastic times – people all over the USA are acting like shoegaze never happened! It did, and we in the UK lived through it so that others don’t have to again – call for drastic measures. You might prefer – as I do – the epithet Practice Rock, or even a description like Uneasy Listening; whichever way you put it, right now this is essential listening.

Psychedelic Horseshit – again, not the most appetising name – sound like those vital early post-punk releases from Flying Nun. Think of the barbaric, corrosive nihilism of The Gordons' Future Shock, and the jagged, penetrating, caustic tunes of The Clean’s Boodle, Boodle, Boodle ep and imagine them recorded on a primitive Dictaphone in a damp basement and you have the breathless invigoration of Psychedelic Horseshit's new album, Magic Flowers Droned.

Short songs played fast, great tunes fucked up – you just know how good Bad Vibrations with its Beach Boys influence is already, don’t you? Fuck yeah! This is the sound of the Jesus and Mary Chain playing Dylan rather than Spector, of My Bloody Valentine’s raw feedback and melodic impulse recorded quickly in one take, and of a world where The Blue Orchids mean more than The Fall (and that world is always a better place).

Psychedelic Horseshit’s hometown (Columbus, Ohio) sparring partners Times New Viking – not much effort, you suspect, was spent thinking up that name – have got the commercial end of the practice rock scene stitched up by signing a deal with Matador. If you want to hear early Pavement tunes fed through a two-dollar amp and beaten to a bloody pulp (and why wouldn’t you? It sounds, of course, fucking fantastic!) then make TNV your port of call. Round my way, though, it’s Psychedelic Horseshit every time. Hmm. Wonder if they do t-shirts? I’d like to impress friends and colleagues at all Christmas functions this year.

Robert Vickers on Grant McLennan

Even when it was snowing, he would wear a T-shirt and jeans jacket, the same thing he wore at the height of summer. He ate sparingly and consumed large amounts of alcohol. And he loved to talk.
Vickers on McLennan

Robert Vickers – what’s not to love? He always looked 14 years old, got his haircut and dressed like he was in The Beatles (not too far off, as it goes) and trained as a mystic after leaving The Go-Betweens.

Vickers wrote a lovely tribute to Grant McLennan last year, which I’ve only just seen:

For my friend Grant McLennan who died in his sleep
I played in a band called The Go-Betweens with Grant McLennan for five years (January '83 to December '87), but it was much earlier, before that time, when I really got to know him. We had met in Brisbane, Australia in the late Seventies. A cultural starved and politically repressive place where a corrupt government and a violent police force ruled. We were all turning twenty and desperate to 'do' something, and to get out of town. I managed to get out of town first, ending up in New York City, in a popular band managed by the owner of CBGB's and produced by a member of Blondie. It seemed like a dream. When Grant said he'd like to visit, I was happy to share that dream with him. For a month, he shared my tiny apartment and got a dose of the wild, early '80's New York. A bar tab at CB's, free entry into clubs like Danceteria, the art scene, the birth of hip hop and the kind of bohemian urban lifestyle we had only had fantasies about in Brisbane.
(full obituary here)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Verlaines

The Verlaines, whose first loves were punk’s desperate urgency and classical music’s high romanticism, released a series of increasingly poetic but always enthralling records between 1982-1996, mainly for Flying Nun, have been preparing a new album.

Anyone who heard Graeme Downes’ – the chief songwriter and the only constant in the band’s history – superlative solo album for Matador, 2001’s Hammers And Anvils, will know that new output from Downes is long overdue; anyone familiar with The Verlaines’ back catalogue will, like me, be rejoicing.

Although named after the French poet Paul Verlaine rather than Television’s Tom Verlaine – who himself, born Thomas Miller, adopted the poet’s name – The Verlaines shared the furious spirit and classic guitar rock played by firebrands that make Marquee Moon such essential listening. Or, as the line in The Verlaines’ masterful Pyromaniac goes, “Totally written off but there's laughter at chaos."

The Verlaines’ debut single, Death and the Maiden, with its "Verlaine" lyrical motif inspired Downes to later say, “I haven't read much Verlaine. I like Baudelaire, Yeats, Eliot." More tellingly, Downes explained that he found “the image to be an interesting one, the image of innocence, and not knowing how to handle it, and facing some of the hairier issues that come along with maturity.”

The ingredients of some great music are there, no? To keep up with progress of The Verlaines' comeback (and progress is slow) there’s a comprehensive site here; or see the Death and the Maiden video, along with other Verlaines songs, here.

On a related note, I was talking to Lawrence a few years ago and I asked him about Tom Verlaine being a Felt fan. It was true, he smiled, Tom Verlaine did go up to the stage right after a Felt gig and shake Lawrence’s hand. After the gig, Verlaine’s girlfriend was saying how odd it was as he didn’t do that sort of thing. In fact, it was the only time in his life he had ever done such a thing. Lawrence, understandably, was still rather proud.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The wisdom of the Irish

Thank you, Microdisney.

This post self-destructs in the good humour in which it's posted sometime around 9.40pm tomorrow.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Lost Side of Bobby Byrd

“Soul Brother No. One-And-A-Half”
(Fred Wesley)

Bobby Byrd, founder of the Famous Flames, co-writer of some of James Brown’s most enduring funk classics and the man who told the world to “get on up” millions of times thanks to his vocal in Sex Machine, died last month.

With a good claim to being one of the hardest working men in show business, Byrd also managed a decent solo career. His most famous song, I Know You Got Soul, owes its popularity to being one of hip hop’s staple samples, most famously in Eric B and Rakim’s – wait for it – I Know You Got Soul.

About two months after that 1987 sample (and before Public Enemy’s use of it for three different songs), Mr X and Mr Z used the same backing for Drink Old Gold. Old skool aficionados will be amused remembering the lines “It ain’t what you’re drinkin’/It’s where you drink at”.

The solo compilation from 1990 Finally Getting Paid hinted at Byrd’s frustration at losing royalties from both sampling culture and James Brown’s swindling him out of 40 co-writing credits (the claims didn’t stand up as they were deemed too old; however, Brown alluded to Byrd writing the songs in a number of interviews).

The b-side to 1971’s I Know You Got Soul, It's I Who Love You (Not Him Anymore), is my favourite Bobby Byrd song and one that is bafflingly omitted by ‘best of’ compilers. Ironically, given its – ahem – passing similarity to Dark End Of The Street, the songwriting credits should probably give a nod to Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn, but for Southern grit, gospel-infused soul and gut-wrenching emotion, they don’t come much better than this.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Candees Hot Hits (part two)

Right, viewers. Those of you who are interested in mid-80s mod pop girl group (non) sensations The Candees may remember that I wrote about them in April and offered to post their songs from the Hot Hits compilation if there was interest.
There was, and I posted them in August.
I still get people asking, so here they are again, only not ysi-format, so they'll stick around a bit longer.
The Heart Parade
Little Miss Rainbow

To the people who write in asking me to post the Episode Four songs, after I offered to post the ep one weekend in January(!), you are far, far too late (about ten months) for that one.

The good news is that other people got the songs from me and have posted them on the world wide web, so seek and ye shall find.

This case is closed!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Edwyn Collins rip off by the BBC

The BBC is very proud of itself that 'tickets for the Electric Proms are only £10'. Once you add on the booking fee, that's £12. Fair enough, the booking agency has got to pay its running costs which include bank charges and guaranteeing users a level of security.

But adding a £4.80 "transaction fee" is not just taking the piss, it's increasing the cover charge by nearly 50%. If £10 is too cheap a price for a ticket, then don't boast about "only" charging £10.

If I bought a sandwich this lunchtime and the baker said, "That'll be £2. Plus 20p handling. Oh, and don't forget my transaction fee of £1. £3.20 please, sir," I'd take my custom elsewhere.

But I can't take my custom elsewhere for the BBC Electric Proms because it's only selling tickets through one agency, seetickets, who are milking this cash cow as much as they can.

There's a maximum of 2 tickets per purchase for the Edwyn gig at Dingwalls, so that means a minimum of a £2.40 "transaction fee" per ticket on top of the booking fee. Let's not forget that a booking fee traditionally covers all costs associated with transactions, so seetickets are just profiteering by applying this grossly over-inflated charge.

The only two mates I know who are going have already bought their tickets together; other friends already have tickets for the Arts Theatre gig and have balked not so much at the overall cost of the Dingwalls gig, but at the overall greed of the mark-up, and have declined to go.

So, if I were to buy just one ticket (and I want to go, but I don't like being ripped off), the "transaction fee" charged by seetickets would represent a 48% charge. This doesn't compare favourably to other tickets sold by the agency. As an example:
Spice Girls: £2.25 is 3% "transaction fee" on a £75 ticket;
Amy Winehouse: £4.80 is 21.3% "transaction fee" on a £22.50 ticket (but you can buy up to 4 tickets per purchase, thus reducing the mark up to 5.3% per ticket);
Frank Skinner: £2 is 10% "transaction fee" on a £20 ticket.

What's clear is that seetickets' "transaction fee" is a way of charging your booking fee twice. What's more depressing is that the "transaction fee" on the Edwyn Collins tickets has a bigger mark up than all the other tickets they're selling.

Perhaps, though, seetickets are innocent. They rip off their customers ruthlessly as a general rule. The reason the rip-off's so exploitative for the BBC Electric Proms might be that the BBC is smarting over the hefty fines imposed by Ofcom for its phone-in scandals and needs some more cash.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

King Creosote and the death of the classic album

When King Creosote re-released KC Rules OK in a remastered version last year, just a year after it had been released originally, he willingly collaborated in the record industry farce of recycling product to resell it largely to the same market.

Whoever decided that KC Rules OK deserved the remastering treatment, that it was in effect an old classic dusted off the library shelves in need of a bit of jiggery-pokery so it could be repackaged and fans could be exploited?

Don’t get me wrong, I yield to no one in my love for KC Rules OK, but this remastering seems to contradict his guidelines just a little:

King Creosote maintains that the song is more important than the style, and that the performance outweighs recording quality. If a part can't be recorded in one take, scrap it for something simpler. No sample should be longer than four seconds, and although samples should be in tune or in time, not necessarily both. King Creosote detests noodling virtuoso, and thus has a go on whatever instrument is at hand. Anyway, duff tunes strengthen the songs on either side

Perhaps the King could concede some or all of these points:
a) he is a hypocrite;
b) KC Rules OK was his first album for Warners and he is now The Man’s bitch; and
c) he bowed to The Man’s pressure and in an attempt to emulate his former backing singer’s, KT Tunstall, success, he cleaned up his music to try to capture the James Morrisson/David Gray/James Blunt market.

It beggars belief that on his 29th album, King Creosote couldn’t maintain quality control. The song may be more important than the style, but nothing it would seem is as important as the money. So the remastered KC Rules OK got one new song and re-recordings of two, one of which was released as a single. Might it not have been better to release all three new/newly recorded songs as an ep? Yes, I say, but I’m not a fucking accountant.

This sad episode in the otherwise remarkable career of King Creosote has been in my mind since his new album Bombshell was released last month. You will know that it’s out on CD only. I haven’t bought it, as the clever money’s on it being issued on vinyl (180g, natch) in time for the Christmas market, to rake in some more money for Warners’ coffers.

The desperation in the dual release of Bombshell on CD and “limited edition” CD + DVD is a fairly common marketing ploy to get people to buy the CD/DVD at full price; the thinking is that anyone who would just buy the CD will download it for free. When the “limited edition” has sold out (don’t hold your breath) then the vinyl version, I reckon, will be released. I can wait, but I’m looking forward to it.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Old House - Weekend Driver

The call “gimme indie rock” went out and, rather belatedly but bloody joyously, the answer came in the form of Weekend Driver by The Old House, which gloriously revels in its hybrid of triumphant fist-pumping guitar rock and scuzzed-up crunchy American underground guitar noise.

Weekend Driver is propelled by the kind of joie de vivre that suggests it was written on a particularly good day in the history of Boston indie rock. It has the Boston hallmarks of the times when the Lemonheads got it right (more shouting than pouting, equal parts melody and maelstrom) and when Big Dipper first unleashed their savage beauty in 1987 (if you can find it, buy the All Going Out Together single; both that and the debut album Heavens aren’t difficult to find going cheap in second-hand shops…they really should have got the respect they deserve by now, but no one ever said pop music was fair).

Of course, calling your band The Old House and being on the Louder Than Bombs label invites Smiths comparisons, and while they do share some of that band’s classic pop nous, you’d be better served by looking closer to The Old House’s Wakefield home and listening to Leeds band The Edsel Auctioneer’s rambunctious debut from 1989, Our New Skin, to capture the raucous, boisterous pleasures of Weekend Driver.

Edwyn Collins tour (with Roddy Frame! and Vic Godard!)

Not strictly hot off the press, but:
Edwyn Collins
Announces details of live shows.
Edwyn Collins, who recently released his sixth solo-album, Home Again on Heavenly Recordings, has announced a number of live shows.

The shows will be his first since he suffered a serious illness in 2005. The full list of dates, including a slot on the BBC Electric Proms event, are as follows:

28th London Dingwalls (BBC Electric Proms)

19th London Great Newport St Arts Theatre
25th London Great Newport St Arts Theatre

Support for these two shows will be provided by Vic Godard & the Subway Sect.

The band for the shows will feature Dave Ruffy on drums, Carwyn Ellis on bass, Sean Read ..board and guitars from Andy Hackett, James Walbourne and Roddy Frame, a long time friend of Edwyn’s and fellow ex-Postcard records recording artist.