Sunday, 17 September 2017

Television Personalities - Beautiful Despair

In 1988 Television Personalities recorded Privilege. The backing tapes sat in a cupboard for 2 years gathering mould before they were cleaned up for release in 1990. It was their first album since 1984's The Painted Word and their first new material since 1986's How I Learned To Love The Bomb.

Dan Treacy told Melody Maker in March 1990 that he already had the next 2 TVPs albums written. 1992's double album Closer To God took care of that.

Most of the songs on Beautiful Despair are demos of Closer To God songs. Others are early versions of b-sides released later, with the added bonus of a vocal on the previously instrumental I Get Frightened Too.

Calling Beautiful Despair a "lost album" is exaggerating the situation just a little even if there are newly mined gems like the title track. Beautiful Despair is psychedelic angst through a budget synthesiser and can rub shoulders with the very best TVPs, but the pickings on this album are slim.

Beautiful Despair is for diehard fans only. Those fans who can join the dots between the album's other 'new' song, If You Fly Too High, based on a gig the TVPs played with the Lemonheads in 1989, and 1995's Evan Doesn't Ring Me Anymore.

The pricing is a little optimistic. It's £25 for a "Rough Trade exclusive" (coloured vinyl). Seeing how the TVPs reissues did on Record Store Day (not brilliantly) this album won't find new fans. It's charming enough to please current fans, like me - even if my pleasure is dimmed by the acknowledgement that there aren't any true quality TVPs recordings hiding in the vaults.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

The Surfing Magazines interview

The Surfing Magazines album is really very good. They say they like Bob Dylan and Neil Young. I think they've got some Creedence Clearwater Revival about them. We're both right.

And they've got a song, Goose Feather Bed, which uses the Bo Diddley beat. So there are questions. Seven questions, really. Dave Tattersall answered them.

What made you you think, "Man, the Wave Pictures are amazing, but if we got rid of Jonny and had half of Slow Club (Charles Watson) it would put it over the top"?

It can be difficult dealing with Jonny's moods day to day. Like many a great artist before him Jonny can be hard work. Those of you who have seen the Jackson Pollock movie with Ed Harris will know what I mean. For the sake of our mental health, Franic and I decided to take a short break from the fiery furnace of life with an unpredictable northern genius. Unfortunately it has transpired that Dom, who is drumming for The Surfing Magazines, is even more difficult to deal with than Jonny. We have replaced Jackson Pollock with a sort of hybrid of Mariah Carey and Idi Amin. And don't get me started on Charles Watson, who is so unpredictably northern that touring with him is like finding yourself in an episode of Last of the Summer Wine.      

I enjoyed your gig at All You Read Is Love recently. You play quite a few covers. There's Neil Young's Like A Hurricane...sorry, the American Pale Ale was very refreshing. What covers did you play?

Yes, we did Like A Hurricane. We did Vampire Blues, also by Neil Young. And You Ain't Goin' Nowhere by Bob Dylan. And Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms, which is a bluegrass song that all the country boys used to do, I think Bill Monroe did it and Buck Owens did it... they all did it. And on the tour we have also covered The Man In Me, which is also by Bob Dylan. Mainly we like to cover Bob Dylan and Neil Young. We might throw in a Velvet Underground cover at some point. And Charles has floated the idea of us covering Albatross by Fleetwood Mac, which would be relaxing. 

You're named after The Go-Betweens song, but don't cover it. Any plans to?


Only one of The Beach Boys surfed. Which one of The Surfing Magazines reads surfing magazines?

None of us. Dom likes to read Viz, or at least look at the pictures. I'm partial to Classic Rock magazine myself. Franic likes Classic Trains magazine, your go-to read if you enjoy celebrating, as Franic does, the 'golden years of railroading' including the North American railroad scene from the late 1920s to the late 1970s. Charles is a Grazia man. 

Do you really think Bo Diddley eats pickled onion Monster Munch? I'm pretty sure that happened, but the American Pale Ale may have interfered with my memory.

If I had to guess, I'd say that Bo would have been a Roast Beef man.

Have you ever been somewhere so cold that your eyelashes froze?

I have not. I've never understood why anyone would go somewhere that cold. These so-called ''survival experts'' are really survival morons. A real expert would stay indoors.

Why do you keep calling me Big Dog?

It is your name.

I think that's quite enough hard-hitting investigative journalism for one day, don't you? So let's relax and enjoy New Day by The Surfing Magazines.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Hand Habits - Yr Heart

A proper music scribe would encourage you to listen to this (very good) song and persuade you, correctly, that you needed to buy it using the following terms: "formerly Kevin Morby's guitarist", "following her excellent, enigmatic album on Woodsist earlier this year" and "warmly intimate".

Some cub reviewer with enthusiasm undimmed by the prospect of a life reproducing press releases as content may well have done just that. I didn't check, to be honest with you. This blog's research budget goes entirely on import vinyl - like this terrific single.

"They call it understanding, they call it vulnerability," Meg Duffy decides on this campfire mopefest. I love it, and you will too if you love the gently psychedelic folk records by Woods and Real Estate. You'll really love it if you're also a fan of Belle Adair and the first Avi Buffalo album.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Marble Gods

Marble Gods’ first 4 songs are forged from gale-force riffs and solid gold pop hooks. They sound best played very loud. The band, almost inevitably, are from Scotland.

They might have taken their name from a Sad Day For Puppets song, but I’d have them as bigger fans of the Lemonheads, Sports, Belly, the Pains of Being Pure At Heart and Dinosaur Jr.

And if I had a club night, I’d have them on a dream bill with their most obvious contemporary sparring partners, Shunkan, Diet Cig and Bruising.

If anything, I expect Marble Gods will get noisier. I expect, too, that they’ll get even better. This is a very impressive start. Ones to watch for sure.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Vinyl is too expensive

Many records cost too much. It's the fault of record labels. Next year, why not rename Record Store Day "Record Label Day"? Some of the "limited" releases like Neil Young's Decade and The Cure's Acoustic Hits went on general release after the event at much cheaper prices.

That's after the labels, and some ebay touts, had made a ton of money. This week, Sandra Wright's Wounded Woman went on sale at £12. That's unsold stock from RSD 2015. What took them so long? Embarrassment, probably. Or hoping that buyers would forget they were trying to flog it for £22.

Don't believe any of the headlines about vinyl's revival. You may remember "Vinyl albums just outsold digital for the first time ever" last December. They didn't. They sold for more money (£2.4m v £2.1m) in one week only but they didn't sell more.

Most of that £2.4m was special purchases for Christmas presents. If you got a box set that you don't want, good luck selling it on. I was in a second-hand record shop on Saturday and the boss was complaining how hard it was to sell box sets. 

One of the biggest selling 7" singles of 2017 is Domino's reissue of Buzzcocks' Spiral Scratch. That's a pressing of 300. Its original release 40 years ago sold 16,000 copies.

You could pay £6.99 for the reissue or get a 40-year-old copy in VG+ condition for the same price. 

All vinyl is limited. There just isn't the market for it to be anything other than limited. Sure, low-run pressings put up the unit price, but some labels are taking the piss.

I yield to no-one in my love for The Orielles but Heavenly pressing 100 copies each of Sugar Tastes Like Salt on 7" and 12" and selling them for £15 is a cunt's trick. It's not as if their previous singles on other labels sold much more than that. 

I know Heavenly hasn't got EMI's money these days, but I'd rather it didn't try to take mine by creating fake demand with overpriced limited editions. 

Most indie labels run at a loss. It's a labour of love. I've got no complaint about their prices. 30 years ago Our Price sold all 7" singles at £1.79. That's £4.62 in today's money. Given that pressings in 2017 are in much lower quantities now than in 1987, each record costs more. But a 7" costs about £5 today. That's good for me, even if it leaves honest indie labels struggling. 

Which is no different a situation for labels - breaking even in 1987 was an achievement then as it is today.

The music business - the bigger labels, really - have got to stop marketing records as a luxury purchase. Otherwise they'll only sell records on Record Store Day and at Christmas to a richer, older demographic. And no kids will buy them. Of course, they're not looking long-term. 

The future is with the small indies who know the value of getting fans buying their records isn't the bottom line - it's to share the joy of music they love and celebrate that excitement by pressing it on vinyl.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

The cassette comeback is over (for me)

Perhaps the logical conclusion of the punk idea in recording was reached in the sphere of 'do-it-yourself' cassette tapes. During 1980, the music press began to publish details of a system whereby for the price of a blank cassette, a reader would be sent a copy of a set of songs or piece of music directly from the performers themselves. Many of these recordings were themselves made at home with only the aid of a single track tape recorder. DIY tapes represented the punk ideal of 'Xerox rock' in its purest form, by utilising technology that was available to, and manipulable by, almost anyone.
Dave Laing, One Chord Wonders
Can we stop pretending that, in all cases, labels and bands are releasing cassettes for non-commercial reasons? The launch in 2013 of Cassette Store Day buried that romantic idea.

Let me be clear: I'm not begrudging any label or band releasing cassettes and making money off them. They've got production and recording costs to cover. And they probably lost a ton of money at their last gig or are sitting on 200 unsold 7" singles.

I'm done with cassettes because I never play them. I was buying them for the artefact and just playing the downloads. And, yes, I do have a tape player. I don't have any romantic attachment for cassettes as a format, unless we're talking about them being the only way to hear music by underground bands. That was the case in the 1980s. It's not now.

I get that cassettes are for some fans the cheapest way for them to have a physical release by a band they love. I'm not knocking that. I'm still buying the downloads, just not the cassettes. In most cases, the cassettes are affordable, but international postage isn't.

Postage rates are hitting all labels regardless of format. Yes, I do have a romantic idea of vinyl, but anyone running a label or in a band making music who doesn't share that romance isn't going to release vinyl. The financial risk is too high. Again, I'm cool with that.

We're seeing the original DIY tape culture explained by Dave Laing embodied in today's DIY underground. Cassettes are cheap and easy, so go and do it.

I did, though, get a little weary of buying a cassette only for it to get a vinyl release down the line. It happened with many of the really good ones. This is a relatively small complaint - I'm genuinely happy that so many bands and labels are making and releasing great music.

Like I said, I'm still buying it, just not on cassette format. I stopped buying CDs years ago - I was a late adopter and never bought many. But I'm holding on to the ones I own. There will be a CD revival in the future. Of that I'm absolutely certain.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Brenton Wood

I'm going to list my top ten 60s soul albums:

This Is My Country - The Impressions
The Four Tops - Second Album
Brenton Wood - Gimme Little Sign

I'll stop there. The list will change any day I write it, but those 3 albums will always be in it. Even if you don't know those Impressions and Four Tops albums inside out, you know many of their songs. Brenton Wood, though, seems to have fallen through the cracks.

This is an error which history really should correct. The title tracks (in the USA this album was released as Oogum Boogum) are both classics, but the album is bursting full of greatness.

There are eleven originals - skinny R&B guitar, footstompers, soft shoe ballads, woozy keyboard - all written or co-written by Wood. Then there's a cover of Psychotic Reaction by Double Shot labelmates The Count Five which confirms Brenton Wood was making a world-first attempt at psychedelic soul on this album.

This album and the follow-up, Baby You Got It, have just been reissued on vinyl. That also features Gimme Little Sign, possibly in the entirely correct belief that it's one of the greatest ever songs and all albums are improved by its inclusion.

They're retailing at the thick end of £30. You could get an original Gimme Little Sign for that (but not Baby You Got It). Put them on your wants list and if you can only ever afford one, get the first.