Friday, May 30, 2008

Lost Soul: Joe Buckman

The third in a series of soul classics that have fallen through the floorboards

The urgency and supplication in Right Now are so suggestive, so intimate, that you know when Buckman beseeches his muse to “not put off today what tomorrow may never bring” because “if we don’t find out now, we may never know” that only the most cold-blooded and passionless woman would deny him his dream.

Buckman’s steamy, torrid vocal is exquisitely paced; undoubtedly Funk Brother Jack Ashford’s arrangement helped pitch this romantic torment just-so. Other than the b-side, I know of no other Joe Buckman tracks. Maybe in a vault somewhere in Detroit there are some unreleased recordings. Given the strength of this single, they really would be worth excavating…

Where can you hear more of this fantastic music? Why, The Hangover Lounge. Yes, that's The Hangover Lounge on a Sunday at the Salmon + Compass.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Boy Genius

This impressive Brooklyn quartet is most often compared to REM and Pavement. On their debut album there’s plenty of the fire and frenzy of early REM and the unhinged, literate college rock of Pavement, but there’s much more.

There’s the buoyant romance and tender reflection of The Go-Betweens (especially the Bright Yellow Bright Orange album) on this debut; there’s the rich, reflective balladeering of the Butterflies of Love on the title track; and the passionate articulation of David Kilgour on No Beginning.

But for Anchorage’s raw bite and melodic charm, for its furious strumming and its jubilant trumpet, Boy Genius sound like they owe their greatest debt of gratitude to the June Brides. And that, as anyone who knows the June Brides, is a pretty good place to be coming from.

If you’re going to listen to them on myspace, I’d urge you to start at the bold harmonies and spiralling pop of Talk About Love (which, you know, might be a Raymond Carver reference, yet another point in their favour).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The School

If Grease 3 ever gets filmed, The School would do the soundtrack and it’d be a global success.

Their new ep, Let It Slip, is about crushes and kisses and recriminations, it smoulders as much as it struts, and it creates finger-snapping soulful grooves and sets them in endless summer days and nights.

I can hear Big Star’s melancholy and Camera Obscura’s soul-soaked pop and The Chiffons’ exhilaration and it sounds bloody great.

Their first single, All I Wanna Do, had many people excited a couple of months ago, but I got my pants in a wad over it. Not because I don’t need another song using the Be My Baby drumbeat (I don’t, but every girl group-influenced band starts there) but because I already own Tracey Ullman’s version of They Don’t Know and didn’t need another one.

Given the high quality of Let It Slip, I’ll put All I Wanna Do down as a false start and look forward to more of this top pop.

As an aside, 18 years ago there was a band called Love, who released a one-sided single, Welsh Girl, on Fierce. Bloody great it was. Rumour maintained it was really Hue Pooh Stick. Oddly enough, the sleeve to Welsh Girl features a girl with long blonde tresses surrounded by records. No, I don’t have a scanner or a camera, so you’ll have to take my word for its thematic similarity to the Let It Slip sleeve. But I do have a cd recorder, so here’s Welsh Girl by Love.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Lost Soul: Barbara Jean English

The second in a series of soul classics that have fallen through the floorboards

I’m betting most of you will know I’m Living A Lie, a cracking 100mph Northern floorfiller – if you don’t, it’s available on a number of compilations – but the b-side of the UK issue on Contempo, Key In The Mailbox, is equally worthy of your attention.

This piece of sweet despair from 1972, like much femme soul, is no advert for feminism – you know why her key’s in the mailbox? “In case he should come by and the door’s locked” – but in terms of quiet drama, blind devotion and despairing, string-swept heartbreak, Key In The Mailbox has all the passion, fervour and intensity you could ask for.

2 or 3 quid should see you secure this record. Amazing.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Wee Cherubs demos

Someone describing himself as oldcherub, who I suspect is Martin Cotter, emailed to say of The Wee Cherubs:
Even rarer demos DO exist and I have them. I will post them infrequently as videos on Youtube. Starting TODAY!

That start is Poor Little Lost Soul:
Recorded before the 'Dreaming' single, one of four tracks on the 'Rainforest' demo which was recorded in Park Lane Studios in Glasgow South Side. I have no idea what this song is about. The video is a collection of various free source materials to keep you entertained which you listen.

I hope you enjoy it. And is that a young Tommy Cherry on the merry go round at 0:58-0:59? Why, I think it is.

The same song uploaded by Oldfinger, comes with this explanation:
In the early 1980's I played in a non-influential Indie band in Glasgow, called Wee Cherubs. I was privileged to play alongside Christine Gibson (bass) and Graham Adam (drumbs). This is an unreleased demo which I think was one of the first songs we ever recorded (at Park Lane Studios, Glasgow). I have no idea what this song is about, which is surprising, since I wrote it. But then, the 1980's were my 1960's ;)...I put together a collage of various clips for your viewing enjoyment while you listen to this reverb-y thing.

I suspect that Oldcherub and Oldfinger have never been seen in the same photo together.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Bats: My Way

The request came from Kris:
hey! you wouldn't have the first bats ep? i'd like to hear "my way" which is the only track not on
Compiletely. unless it's a sinatra cover...
Photo credit

I do have it, it’s not a Sinatra cover and now, for The Bats completists, it’s right here.

I’ve said in the past that Sneaky Feelings are my favourite Flying Nun band. I think, more accurately, I like the idea of the Sneaky Feelings more than I like the idea of any other Flying Nun band. Their music is still fantastic, of course, but the one FN band I’ve played more than any other over the years is The Bats.

Their first ep, By Night, isn’t a great start – you’d have to wait until the next release, (And Here Is) Music For The Fireside! for a real classic – but subsequent releases, especially the Daddy’s Highway album and the North by North ep (particularly those three songs on the b-side), are among my most treasured records.

The Bats have a new album due out in the (northern) autumn (label to be confirmed, last I heard) and will be touring the UK with Minisnap.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Hangover Lounge

A brand new club for you all to recover from the excesses of the night before, The Hangover Lounge opens at 1pm on Sunday May 25 and every Sunday thereafter. Your hosts for this social are Tim Hopkins (he was in The Visitors! now he's in The First Division!), John Jervis (he runs the WIAIWYA label, featuring Sportique, Girlfrendo, Marine Research, Action Biker, Airport Girl and many, many more!) and me (fuck all!).

For the Sunday after a Saturday night’s drinking, The Hangover Lounge gives you a reason to get out of bed in the afternoon.

A soft comedown club for hard drinkers, The Hangover Lounge is the place to eat Sunday lunch, drink hair of the dog, meet like-minded souls, read the papers and make idle chit chat all to some soothing sounds. That might mean country rock or deep soul or psychedelia or soft pop or lovers rock, or anything else which sounds great and will make your head feel so much the better.

Guest DJs (all famous and legendary) are lined up in the coming weeks. If you fancy a turn DJing, email thehangoverlounge(whether or not you're famous or legendary) and we'll work something out. Marvellous.

WHERE: 58 Penton Street N1 9PZ (Corner of Chapel Market)
WHEN: SUNDAYS 1pm-7pm, starting May 25.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Lost soul: Please Mr Sun

The first in a series of soul classics that have fallen through the floorboards

The a-side, The World Is Coming To A Start, is a good song, but you only have to flip this over and hear the awkward little Hammond kick at the start to know that Please Mr Sun is truly something special.

The smoky organ, and the mixture of laidback summer soul and late-night urgency puts Please Mr Sun right up there with the best of Barbara Lewis (yes, put this song next to Hello Stranger and Someday We’re Gonna Love Again and Think A Little Sugar, and it’ll hold its own even in that prestigious company).

Jackie Jason appeals to all of the forces of nature (“whisper to her, Mr Wind”; “babble to her, Mr Brook”) to help persuade his lady to return to him. Towards the end of the song, he’s pleading, down on his knees (“please please please Mr Sun") in classic James Brown style.

There's no date on the label, but 1970 seems about right to me. And you know what? You can still find this record for a fiver.

Paul Chastain speaks

At no point does your host like to make capital of the fact that he has many Great Pop Mates (hello, Phil Wilson) but modesty will not prevent me from mentioning that PAUL CHASTAIN EMAILED:
Nines and Bag-O-Shells singles are available at parasol for your readers to whom you were offering the MP3s. I thought maybe you would pass the availability info along.

A Nines compilation is being figured out now and will hopefully come out soon.

Well, if you didn't download the Nines ep in March last year, here's your chance to own this rarity at the knock-down price of $20.50. There's also the second Bag-o-Shells ep, Pocketbook (by the way - and forgive me for namedropping - I asked rock legend Ian Cowen, Pocketbooks guitarist, if his band were named after this song; he looked at me blankly and asked if I could spare some money for a beer).

This Bag-O-Shells ep and the previous Markers single are the best things - and the competition is stiff - that Paul Chastain has done. Right. Go forth and purchase.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Very Most

The Very Most have the crisp, sweetly melodic guitar pop of Belle and Sebastian in 1996, the quirky keyboard stylings of Quasi, the anthemic, ringing jangle of Big Star and the knock-kneed, gauche 60s girls’n’guitars direction of The Aislers Set (I'm thinking of the straight-up pop greatness of The Last Match album).

Their second album – 4 years in the making! – Congratulations Forever, is out now. There’s a website all about it. The Very Most’s Jeremy Jensen emailed me some mp3s saying, “I think you’ll really dig it.” I second that emotion.

Good Fight Fighting

Spilt, Spilt Milk

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

This is your new number one

Wakey wakey everyone
Set the radio to stun
This is your new number one

I’ve had enough
I’m totally bored
Change the record
I can’t take anymore
I’ve resorted to listening to Radio 4

Change The Record - 4 0r 5 Magicians
How many of them are there?
4 or 5
Are they really magicians? Nope, but they do have a pretty special way with whooping great Pavement-pop-rock.
I fuckin’ love Pavement! You can also hear Built To Spill, Guided By Voices and the New Pornographers in there.
Are there any handclaps? Yes! There’s a glam band stomp replete with handclaps.
Is that all? No! The b-side “Ideal Man” has the rhymes “singer from Duran Duran” and “condoms in the garbage can”.

Strange Fruit For David - The Wave Pictures
Is this the best Wave Pictures single yet? Well spotted.
Does it sound like Jonathan Richman or The Go-Betweens? The Go-Betweens, particularly the maudlin strings of The Clarke Sisters, only put to the pure pop pace of Going Blind.
Is this Strange Fruit anything to do with racist lynchings in the Deep South? Not that I can tell.
So it's not a jazz song then? Of course not. It would be rubbish if that were the case.
Are there any handclaps? Of course there are. This is a great pop song.

Way Better Now - Speedmarket AvenueThey’re great live, aren’t they? Correct.
But not as good on record? Not until now. Way Better Now is exactly what it says it is. This power pop juggernaut wouldn’t have been out of place on a 1978 Blondie set list.
Tune!I’d love to hear an acoustic version sung on a boat. You're in luck. It just so happens there's one right here.
Are there any handclaps? No, but it’s still a great pop song.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Twee Handclaps

I was surprised and disappointed to read the phrase “twee handclaps” on indiemp3 recently. Surprised because there is nothing intrinsically twee about handclaps; disappointed because I thought indiemp3 might avoid the pejorative use of twee.

To be clear why “twee” is offensive, we have to go back to the mid-80s, when the traditional rock press started to describe the nascent indiepop scene as “twee”. This epithet ignored the fact that indiepop was the true inheritor of punk’s revolutionary zeal. The problem the mainstream press had with indiepop was that, more than any other popular musical subculture, it challenged and questioned rock’s hidebound hierarchy.

Indiepop took an oppositional stance to rock: women were asexual rather than sex objects; men were more likely to sing about failure (My Favourite Dress by The Wedding Present, for example) than triumph, or the excitement of falling in love (Sunny Sundae Smile by My Bloody Valentine, for example) than brag about conquests.

This stance was described by Edwyn Collins (surely the Godfather Of Indie) in an interview last week. Describing early Orange Juice gigs, he said: “People would shout, ‘Poofs! Poofs!’ and I took that as a seal of approval.”

I was talking to Greg Webster about this subject last weekend. Greg, like many people who made indiepop in the mid-80s, is completely bewildered that “twee” has been adopted as a badge of honour by contemporary bands and fans. Twee, like limp-wristed, was always used by rock fans and hacks as a slight against indiepop: the implication was that because indiepop wasn’t brash and vulgar and clich├ęd then it must be impotent and homosexual and worthless.

The spirit of the indiepop movement, Greg remembered, could be found in people like The Legend wearing flares and an anorak at The Living Room club in the early 80s, encapsulating Dexys’ war cry of “if you’re so anti-fashion, why not wear flares instead of dressing down all the time”. This same spirit is captured by Stuart Murdoch when he sings
I could dance all night like I'm a soul boy
But I know I'd rather drag myself across the dance floor
I feel like dancing on my own
Where no one knows me, and where I
Can cause offence just by the way I look

Twee came to be used by some indiepop fans as a positive description of their tastes following the establishment of the tweenet mailing list in 1994. According to the site’s founders:
It was used a lot in Britain in the late 80s, often derogatorily. It's used with irony here.

The irony didn’t work, though. What I understood was an attempt to replicate hip hop’s reclaiming of a racial slur, calling the indiepop mailing list “tweenet” sought to reclaim a term that insulted indiepop fans and bands.

While tongues may have been in cheeks at the naming of tweenet, it wasn’t an entirely inappropriate gesture: indiepop had been by that time slated and insulted for a decade as being twee because, as a non-traditional rock form, it was seen as a danger. The way rockists sought to suppress this danger was to emasculate it, to suggest it was homosexual and inconsequential and weak, when it was that very deliberate weakness that was its power.

However, what failed for hip hop also failed for indiepop. Twee is a hostile and unacceptable term to indiepop fans. I appreciate that there are fans of something that is deliberately twee for twee’s sake – rather than the reversion to childhood or campness that was indiepop’s original political statement – and these people (I won’t name bands or fans) can, quite simply, fuck off. I don’t wanna be friends with you.

Perhaps I should point out that I am no supporter of The Pipettes, who were slated for having “twee handclaps”. They do have 2 or 3 great pop songs, and they’re an incredibly entertaining live proposition, but I wouldn’t want to listen to their album at home (I made that mistake once and realised I’d wasted some money there).

Handclaps are a staple of gospel music and are one of the musical forms co-opted by the creators of rock’n’roll. Particularly popular in soul music, that very secularisation of gospel which reveres sex as the deity, handclaps are more than a rhythm instrument: they are part of the shared experience of pop music.

There’s nothing twee about Marvin Gaye’s I’ll Be Doggone ("Well, every woman should try to be/Whatever her man wants her to be") or those two glorious hymns to WANKING, The Undertones’ Teenage Kicks and Hefner’s Hello Kitten. It’s no coincidence that The Cure used handclaps regularly during their great pop phase (Close To Me and Let’s Go To Bed, for example); there can be no twee inference in The Who’s nihilistic My Generation or The Stooges’ feral 1969.

Nothing twee about handclaps at all, then. Oh, I get it. They’re twee if done by people who are limp-wristed…

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Robert Forster articles

There's a great piece written by Robert Forster, part making-of-The-Evangelist, part tribute to Grant McLennan here.
Grant’s ghost was there, but there weren’t too many sad moments. Process, and the day-to-day work that goes into making an album, robbed us of too much reflection. His amp was set up and a guitar of his stood on a stand. We all had to work a bit faster because Grant’s turn to sing or play never came around. Through it all, though, we knew we were honouring him by making a great record in a place that he knew.

And here's a very illuminating interview.
I didn’t want just one deep, dark tone. I’m sure he didn’t want me… Always at the back of my mind, was that Grant’s great love was pop music, so I wanted to keep the pop elements there. If anything gets poppy, go for it. Almost in some sort of tribute to him.

Edwyn Collins' biggest fan

It's exciting times. I used to analyse and reflect on my life. But dysphasia left me in a corner. So now I do everything with gay abandon.

Edwyn’s London gig this week was a rare treat. Encouragingly, he looked and sounded stronger, his dysphasia was less pronounced and he was generally more confident than last November’s Arts Theatre gig.

Best of all was the reaction of his eighteen-year-old son, Will, who watched the gig from the side of the stage, sang along to every word, gave encouraging thumbs ups to pa, danced gleefully, went into raptures at every one of Roddy Frame’s guitar solos and, in what is obviously a family trait, clapped along out of time. He looked, justifiably, like Edwyn's biggest fan and the proudest son. Well, if your dad had invented indiepop and written a ton of amazing songs, you would be.

I was pleased that Roddy Frame wasn’t as much of a showpony at this gig as he was last year. Whether he had been told to tone down his exaggerated – and faintly nauseating – swivelling, thrusting and strutting and let Edwyn be the star of the show, or if he had been over-compensating for Edwyn’s more subdued presence last year, we’ll never know. But it was Edwyn who was the star.

Will Collins singing along

When someone called for an Aztec Camera song, Edwyn declared, "This is an Orange Juice and Edwyn Collins gig," you knew he was back and all the better for it.

In the encore, Roddy said that it had “always been his ambition to be Orange Juice’s guitarist. I’ve always dreamed of being James Kirk.” If it’s of any consolation to you, Roddy, all of us have dreamed of being James Kirk at some point.

Photos by Mrs FET