Saturday 31 December 2011

Friends Of The Family

Friends Of The Family were a great little band who lasted two singles in 1987. Their debut Rotten To The Core remains my favourite, but as that's been uploaded by others before here are two songs from their second single, the Three Fat Men On A Bicycle ep:

 Lucibelle Green


Their schoolfriend Clare Wadd interviewed them for the final issue of her Kvatch fanzine. I promised someone (Matthew from Shelflife, I think) on a messageboard a few years ago that I'd upload that interview once I'd dug out the fanzine. The interview covers flexidiscs, 12" singles and major labels.

All indiepop fanzines in 1987 covered these topics. If you were really unlucky you'd also get a vegan cake recipe when what you actually wanted was another insight from David Gedge about the convenience of the Newport Pagnell service station on the M1 from Leeds to London. 

Friday 30 December 2011

A Black Tambourine advert

There were some compelling reasons to buy Black Tambourine's last record. The excellent Emily's fanzine listed five of them.
I think this was 1992.

Friday 23 December 2011

Bobby Gillespie is full of shit

Bobby Gillespie, traditionalist, revivalist and leader of one of Britain's premier Rolling Stones tribute bands, is this week moaning about rock music being "too conformist and normal". To make matters worse, he's using his showbiz pal Paul Weller as a reference. This is like Paul McCartney hiring Ronald McDonald as the spokesman for his latest vegetarian crusade.

That's right, the same Bobby Gillespie who's made a career out of plagiarism, relying on another band member to write Primal Scream's decent songs (Jim Beattie) or producers to make his songs sound less conformist and normal (Andrew Weatherall) or just covering a Stones song and passing it off as his own work by giving it a new title (Rocks).

"It seems to me that if you were a serious young person and you had something to say that you'd be looking at other disciplines." Sorry, Bobby, but you're little more than a grumpy old man who's out of touch. Claiming that bands who've come after The Strokes and The White Stripes have given up trying to be experimental is a strange stance.

Of course bands who are influenced by The Strokes and The White Stripes are going to be retro and looking at rock's past with reverence rather than disdain. The Strokes were a case study in style over substance from day one: their debut single The Modern Age ripped off David Watts by The Kinks. Which band was it that covered David Watts? That's right, your mate Paul Weller's band The Jam. But to consider the past 10 years of music only through the prism of The Strokes and The White Stripes bands is a straw man attack.

There are loads of fantastic rock bands out there. My Bloody Valentine's Isn't Anything is enjoying status as year zero for a lot of groups right now. Listen to Heaven's Gate or Exlovers, for example. Yeah, I know Isn't Anything is 23 years old. When you were a young man making records in the 80s, your key reference points were from 23 years before then.

OK, I'm sure you'll cite getting Kevin Shields in Primal Scream as a sign that you're way ahead of these young scamps who are influenced by MBV. Thing is, Bobby, that Shields' creativity was spent way before he joined your band. The baton had been handed over. You must know that most bands have a very limited time when they're at their best and making music simply because they have to.

You should listen to Weekend. I expect Shields would admire - envy, even - them. They take pop songs and give them a viking burial in gales of effects and distortion. No one else is making music like that. No one else can.

To disregard these exciting young bands and dismiss all music based on your very narrow listening is simply holding up the white flag and saying 'I surrender to pop music's unceasing novelty. Give me what I know, for it makes me comfortable and confirms my prejudices'.

Sure, the most exciting and creative music is mostly made by youngsters. I wouldn't say Primal Scream were ever that exciting or creative as they were always too in thrall to the past to shape the future; likewise, no one could accuse your mate Paul Weller of being much more than a revivalist. Even as a teenager in the late 70s, Weller was reheating the mid-60s mod sound. If he were really a modernist and his next record reflected a love of the latest underground dance sounds, his fans would be responsible for funeral pyres of Fred Perry t-shirts burning across England's suburbs.

You and Weller both rely on being normal and conformist to sustain careers and fan bases. If Primal Scream were American, they'd be seen as a third-rate Aerosmith and a second-class Black Crowes. For a long time it was really only the British weekly music press, a medium dependent on controversy and internecine scraps to fuel its weekly word count, that enjoyed your ill-informed diatribes. Now reduced to just the NME, the weekly music press doesn't need your pantomime villain theatrics. Which is just as well, as the few who might be most interested in reading about the next Primal Scream album will be subscribers of the cosy monthly heritage music magazines.

2011 has been interesting musically in many respects, not just for the cascade of thrilling guitar bands. Take the number of amazing records made by older folk, for instance. My favourite album of the year was No Time For Dreaming by Charles Bradley, a 61-year-old soul singer's debut record. At his London gig in the summer he stood on stage and thanked everyone from his heart for being there. It was no platitude, either: midway through the set, he walked through the audience and hugged everyone he could.

I'm not saying you should do that, Bobby, but if you had some of that humility, if you appreciated having fans instead of thinking of them as idiots you can master with some secondhand tunes and bullying rherotic, you'd be more likeable. And if you listened to some of the rock underground's latest sounds, you might find some much needed inspiration.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Sundray Tucker: If It Was Me

Regular readers of this blog (hi Brogues! hello Sir Elton!) will remember mention of Sunday's Ain't Got No Problems last week. Sunday might be more familiar to you as Cindy Scott for her northern anthems, the a and b pairing I Love You Baby/In Your Spare Time.

Released under her real name Sundray Tucker in 1981, If It Was Me is a straight up soul stepper you can file under modern classic.

Saturday 17 December 2011

Standard Fare: Out Of Sight, Out Of Town

Standard Fare are a rock band who play pop songs. Their big bold songs have killer grooves balanced by intense vulnerability. They glean with the shimmer of The Smiths’ Hatful of Hollow and carouse with the jubilant punch of Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak. Their second album Out Of Sight, Out Of Town is brilliant, dramatic and clever from start to finish.

Brilliant? The second song 05 11 07 reminded me immediately of Steve Earle’s I Ain’t Ever Satisfied; much later, a paean to an estranged relative, Half Sister, wonders “do you like Steve Earle?” This is a record made by music fans still in love with the magic of pop. You know at the beginning of the girl group floorshaker Dead Future that Emma Cooper and Danny How will engage in a call-and-response. Rather than make Standard Fare predictable, they sweep you up in their joyous celebration of pop music.

Dramatic? Take your pick. Any one of these songs is so powerful, whether in gigantic tunes or romantic desolation, it could raise the roof of the Royal Albert Hall. Just in Older Women you’ve got sapphism, inter-generational sex and bitter jealousy.

Clever? Again, so many choices, but just listen to Crystal Palatial. The opening line “I met her on a penny day” is a reference to the cheap entry shilling days at the Crystal Palace exhibition in 1851 which were quite the pick up joint. The break in the narrative for the authorial voice to advise “smoking’s bad” tells you more about the singer’s feelings and the relationship’s future than a whole verse could.

Emma Cooper’s bass has the same bounce that Andy Rourke used from his background in a Manchester soul band to lift The Smiths above the indie treadmill. Likewise, Danny How could expect Johnny Marr to give him one of his old guitars out of respect. I don’t much care for most bands who sound like The Smiths – I certainly don’t much care for The Smiths after 1984 – but in Standard Fare you’ve got a band that take the best of some great acts (Bruce Springsteen, Thin Lizzy, The Smiths, Steve Earle, for instance) and make it all their own.

I don’t know how many favourite bands I have; what I do know, though, is that when I listen to Out Of Sight, Out Of Time, Standard Fare are my favourite band.
Standard Fare - 051107 by In House Press

Wednesday 14 December 2011

The Voices

The highlight of the excellent new Eccentric Soul installment, The Nickel & Penny Labels, is both sides of the Voices' 1967 single, Fall In Love Again/Forever Is A Long, Long Time.

The Voices, all heavily pregnant with their first children during the recording, reconvened two years ago for an interview with the great Chicago Soul radio programme Sitting In The Park.

The Voices provided back up on one of my favourite Chicago soul singles, Ain't Got No Problems by Sunday. And here they are singing along to that, getting goosebumps, sounding great and looking fine. Now if you'll excuse me, I have something in my eye.

Monday 12 December 2011

The Jhamels: A Road To Nowhere

The Jhamels did superior sunny California soul with one eye on late night smoky nightclubs. I know about 5 singles - all miniature mod club gems - but A Road To Nowhere from 1967 is the classic. Thousands of great soul songs from this era disappeared, but I've no idea why this hasn't been reissued. Pop perfection in two minutes. You couldn't really ask for more.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

PMRC Indie: the sounds and swears of 2011

Each December I make an overview of the latest sounds for friends who don't have the time to keep their fingers on the pulse of what punk-ass kids with battered guitars and venereal diseases are shouting about in the squalor of their own making. Equally, it's for friends who do listen to a lot of new music but are happy to have their suspicions confirmed that actually they've either grown out of this crap or that they've heard it all before.

2011 has been a great year for music. Anyone who disagrees surely hasn't been looking hard enough, or we can just agree to differ. This is a celebration, not an argument.

These 25 songs are a representation of the richness and creative splendour of 2011. It's a guide, issued to friends in the hope that they might find new musical loves, not an awards ceremony.

PMRC? What the fuck?
Some recipients have kids. They might want to play Pink Motherfucker, for example, after the watershed.
C'mon, loser, just put up a download link.
Look, this is for friends who might buy stuff or could possibly just enjoy the compilation. I'm not giving away people's music. It's like a compilation tape.
What no Amor De Dias? It's an amazing album.
It is, but everyone's already got that album.
So you live in a world where if your friends have bought only one record, it's the Amor De Dias album?
"Bought" might be putting it a bit strongly, but yes.
Do you like actually know Amor De Dias?
We're on nodding terms at showbiz parties. No more, no less.
I am not your friend and to be honest I'm happy with it staying that way, but can I have a copy?
Seriously? Drop me an email.

Kissing Clouds - Sweet Bulbs
Black Eyes - The Twerps
Boys with Girlfriends - Bad Banana
Pepper Snake - The Cactus Channel
Ghetto Street - (thee ultimate) BABY J
Baby Your Lovin' - Electric Empire
Things I Like To Do - Lord Echo
No Sir, I'm Not A Christian - Terry Malts
I Will Kiss Anyone - Love Cuts
No Offense - SLUTEVER
Cult Hero Jonathan Lewin - Small Reactions
Senator - Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
Carol Stream - Four Eyes
Pink Motherfucker - Vein Cranes
Pushing Onlys - Woods
Tear It In Two - Real Numbers
Date It - Golden Grrrls
Privilege - CUFFS
Beg Me - DeRobert & The Half-Truths
Duh x12 - The Hairs
The Best Is Yet To Come - Mr President
Should Be Gone - The Feelies
Indiana Girls - The Happy Thoughts
Why Is It So Hard? - Charles Bradley
Fingers Of Dawn - The Bats

Sunday 4 December 2011

Weekend: Red

Weekend - Hazel by Slumberland Records
The most astonishing record of 2010 was All-American by Weekend: released in demo form, it summoned a violent upheaval that destroyed all other guitar bands in its wake. It was the sort of sonic destruction that happens rarely and leaves you open-mouthed and gasping for air: remember when you first heard My Bloody Valentine switch to You Made Me Realise? Weekend bolted out of the blocks full-throttle with a game-changer.

A year on from the Sports album, Weekend have been struck by lightning again. Somewhere in Red's volcanic maelstrom there are pop songs being kicked in the face. I can sense the ghost of AR Kane; there may be other reference points, but with Weekend there's the distinct idea that they're on their own.

Weekend's music is so impressive that other bands are bound to try to bottle their alchemy, but Weekend are surely the only band who can find the light in their own dark trail.

Yes, this ep came out ages ago. I held on for the delayed release of the splattered vinyl:

Saturday 3 December 2011

The Jam and Cockney Rejects

Probably more accurately 'Paul Weller and Cockney Rejects', England I Miss You was recorded in 1980, but its planned single release was apparently stopped by Weller. I have no more information than that.

My local second hand record shop got a stash of these in 1992. It's worth a listen.

Thursday 1 December 2011

Edwyn Collins - Down The Line

"Just understand I've lost some ground...this abstract sense of being is over now, it's in the past." Edwyn picks his way through personal hope by way of George Jones country and torch singer tragedy. Tread softly: this song will break your heart. EDWYN COLLINS - Down The Line by Analogue Enhanced Digital

Down The Line will be released on 12 December through itunes. The label say there'll be something for us vinyl lovers. I hope that means they'll stick out Down The Line on 7". I have even greater hope that digital sales will see it secure the Christmas number one spot.

There's a press release:

EDWYN COLLINS – Down The Line. Release date 12/12/11

This iTunes exclusive album is by way of a calling card. Throughout 2012 AED will be dusting off the Edwyn archives and releasing all his solo albums, in pristine order and tied up with a metaphorical bow. Mindful of how hard to track down much of this material has been, now that we have control of it all, we intend to do it justice at last.

But to whet the appetite, here is Down the Line, twelve songs recorded between 1989 and 2001, most of them flop singles, as was his wont, but all standing up well, we would attest. They are accompanied by a set of photographs taken by Ben Redgrove at the Queen Elizabeth Hall last year. Oh yes, and a new song, Down The Line, recorded last month, for Edwyn’s next album, due summer 2012, tentatively titled, Understated.

Hope and Despair
Ghost of a Chance
Everything and More
If You Could Love Me
A Girl Like You
The Campaign For Real Rock
The Magic Piper (of Love)
No-one Waved Goodbye
Johnny Teardrop
Back to the Backroom
Down the Line