Sunday, October 31, 2010


Best Of season is upon us and two of this early batch are of particular note. When Elliott Smith was found dead a week and a half over seven years ago a lot of those mourning his passing would console themselves with the opinion that such was his cult standing that surely he'd be elevated into a more widely known treasure like Jeff Buckley. That hasn't happened, maybe because unlike Buckley Smith never had the one big defining song, and he's settled into a tier of occasional influence instead. That may change now he's on the front of the NME and more overtly we have a supposedly definitive collection, An Introduction To... Elliott Smith, on Domino with a decent press push. Only one track each from XO and Figure 8 seems churlish, and only fourteen tracks means plenty of interest has been left out, but poor is the understanding of the modern singer-songwriter's craft without knowledge of Ballad Of Big Nothing, Waltz #2, Needle In The Hay or Pretty (Ugly Before). At the other end of the glamorous scale, Ultimate Pet Shop Boys notes 25 years to the week since the release of the hit version - it had been out in 1984 to no acclaim - of West End Girls. With just the nineteen tracks to play with, one the obligatory new song, sacrifices have had to be made and while we weren't exactly expecting Absolutely Fabulous, the lack of Rent, So Hard, Was It Worth It?, Can You Forgive Her?, Yesterday When I Was Mad and I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Anymore is glaring to us. Being Boring's there, obviously, there'd have been riots otherwise.

Unsurprisingly for a band who can certainly 'do' bombast on record, Broken Records can move mountains, or at least feet, at their barnstorming live best. Then again, they can dial it down and send a cold wind through their audience at their most intimate. Touring for Let Me Come Home starts on Tuesday at Manchester's Deaf Institute and carries on to Sheffield Harley on Wednesday, Leeds Brudenell Thursday and Birmingham Institute Saturday, thereafter heading to Bristol, London (Borderline), Brighton, Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen. Meanwhile the rejuvenated, in all senses, Edwyn Collins begins a tour on Thursday at Brighton Komedia, with Oxford Academy 2 on Friday, Leeds Brudenell Saturday, Glasgow Oran Mor Sunday, then Newcastle, Manchester, Preston, Liverpool (Anglican Cathedral!), Bristol and Birmingham. Frankie & The Heartstrings support on the first six dates. Glasgow's 13th Note on Wednesday night hosts The Indelicates Super Special Acoustic Live Album Recording Party, the title of which somewhat gives the game away. We think entry may be list only - check with the promoter.

One day Explosions In The Sky will kill us all, but they'll leave a beautiful, desolate set of extended metaphorically charred bodies behind. One such is Rumour Cubes, an instrumental sextet who build violin, viola and electronics into the skyscraping sounds explored on EP We Have Sound Houses Also (download free or buy the specially packaged CD from Bandcamp here, just listen on Soundcloud here, and you really should) and already count Warren Ellis - the acclaimed graphic novelist, not the beardy Bad Seed - as a fan. As with fellow instrumental post-rockists led by dual violins Talons, but in a less frantic way, those strings provide succour and pensiveness one moment and lead catharsis the next as the sonics crash down or ungainly flutter around them. Their biog says they're "working with film makers, poets and DJs". A multimedia experience? That could be in these hands if handled with care a different plane altogether. Even just musically they're getting there.

Well, next weekend some get to see how much of the organisers' flagrant papering of anyone who asks with tickets - we know of at least five people who've been offered up to four places as long as they pay for their accommodation - has held up the NME Weekender, which it should be noted isn't even an official NME event, just the brand name licensed by a company that usually puts on events in Ibiza. British Sea Power's booking agents really have got to stop agreeing to everything put their way. No, multi-day event of next weekend, and ATP aside this is probably the last time we can do this in 2010, is Bristol's Big Pink Cake Indiepop Weekender at The Croft, which stars Davey Woodward (best known for Brilliant Corners, but he'll always be the leader of the Experimental Pop Band to us), The Blanche Hudson Weekend and The Sunny Street on Saturday and Standard Fare, The School, Jam On Bread and the Mai 68s on Sunday.

Who'd like to contribute to MJ Hibbett's Christmas song?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Playlist additions 30/10/10

  • Aaron Wright - Takes One To Know One [Myspace] [Soundcloud]
    Friends in high places for this Edinburgh singer-songwriter, with Tracyanne Campbell on backing vocals and Stevie Jackson, Mick Cooke and Norman Blake guesting on the EP. The PR mentions Harry Nilsson as an influence, and that lushly radio-friendly string sound pervades his Neil Hannon-like writing quality.

  • Esben & The Witch - Warpath [download via Matador Records]
    Matador claim that in their honour they're "petitioning retailers to add an “Uneasy Listening” bin card to their sales floor". Actually, that's not mere weasel words hype. Very Siouxsie, very swathed in atmospheric echo, very like the Grimmest of fairytales.

  • The Good Natured - Be My Animal [Myspace] [YouTube] [Soundcloud]
    Still only 19, Sarah McIntosh has a more developed musical backstory then her current biography lets on - she played Indietracks in 2008, and now shares producers with Razorlight. None of this explains how she came to sound like a fetishistic Regina Spektor writing for Robyn.

  • Lykke Li - Get Some [download] [YouTube]
    "I'm a prostitute, you're gonna get some"? Steady on, girl. The glorious Little Bit aside, we always had the impression that Ms Zachrisson was better as a coyly all-action live presence then on record, but this welding of the I Want Candy beat to reverbed menace works just fine.

  • Mew - Do You Love It [YouTube] [download/stream via Treeswingers]
    The Danish gentlemen are leading the witness on, your honour. Sounding like something that got mislaid from And The Glass Handed Kites, it's the new track from a best of collection called, with the typically arcane sense Mew have for titles, Eggs Are Funny, which is out this week in Scandinavia. Dunno about the UK.

  • Pet Moon - Superposition [Myspace] [Soundcloud]
    More from what will almost certainly become a wretched reference point in the coming months and years, the Blessing Force collective. This arm is the new solo project of ex-Youthmovies leader Andrew Mears. While as awkwardly changeable as his old format the central peg now seems to be Dirty Projectors-like reappropriation of R&B's forward thinking beatmasters against itself, while simultaneously here taking the very essence of mid-80s chart pop - not the bits that influence bands now, we mean It Bites and King - and turning it inside out until it can't feel its toes

  • Phil Wilson - I Own It [YouTube] [Soundcloud]
    Formerly of C86-scene favourites the June Brides, Wilson's waited until now to release a solo album. This single is a much better Belle & Sebastian take then B&S themselves have done recently.

  • Tapes 'n Tapes - Freak Out [download via GvB]
    And you thought they were lying alongside Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! as long discarded collateral in the great blog hype wars. Instead they drive themselves to almost jangly distraction.
  • Friday, October 29, 2010

    We'd like to thank our agent

    Why not make the five and a half years of blathering, not to mention the near halving of our daily readership over the last year and a half, worth all the while by voting STN for Best Blog in the Record Of The Day Awards? You have until next Thursday.
    This is what we meant to post at the foot of that Peel tribute (but forgot, evidently) - John's not entirely watertight impression of a colleague on the Goodies to start with, but then an anecdote from one of his Mark Radcliffe Graveyard Shift standins, where a star chamber of Lee, Herring and Maconie share in his anecdote about his mixed meetings with the Super Chaps Three.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010

    Peel slowly

    Our favourite bit of that is with comedy grump Mark Lamarr in the background at 1:38.

    John Peel died six years ago on Monday, as celebrated by the #keepingitpeel scheme - look at the recent post there for links to a ridiculous number of blogged Peel sessions and tribute posts. Among the non-audio contributions we particularly like Smash Hits resource Like Punk Never Happened digging out David Hepworth interviewing Peel for Smash Hits in 1979 ("The Eagles don't make mistakes, Genesis don't make mistakes and I don't want to listen to either of them again.")

    Rhetorical beyond belief, we know, but where would Peel stand were he still alive? Would he still be on Radio 1? He was being pushed later in the schedule, we now know not exactly to his delight, but at the same time he was seen as a totemic presence for the station that tried to replace him for a while before realising they really couldn't. Maybe he'd have thought about his long time producer, close friend and spiritual guide John Walters, a month older, who died in 2001 in semi-retirement - Peel'd be 72 by now. But even if he'd stayed on there'd be everything else. The coincidental rise of the blogs and Myspace began in earnest in 2005, making every two-bit hack their own guide through the waters of new music if with far less a prospective domain. You can just picture him bemoaning the number of young bands who sent him links to their Myspace instead of tracks. Then again, the democratisation of music from around the world and across the spectrum would have excited him as much as it would have tired out a man who somehow balanced a healthy family life with spending all his other time listening to new music and acting as a small but worthy part of the nation's quality control, not really caring whether those he found would become big or do nothing else ever. Imagine how excited he'd be by dubstep, glitch or the indiepop revival. Imagine how he'd sort all that wheat from this chaff and come up with only the stuff he really excited him, which he would then present for the nation to hopefully expand their horizons to, linked in his singular style. What was it he summed his approach up as? "I just want to hear something I haven't heard before."

    Speculation's all unfortunate pie in the sky, of course. But nobody's going to surprise you like that any more.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Brandy awareness

    Another free Bandcamp download comes our way, Brandyman's three track coming out to the wider world, a BBC Radio Wales Adam Walton session from April. Brandyman are the new band of DC Gates, sometime frontabuser of ranting follies Gindrinker, a duo given much admiration around these areas in the past, plus one of STN Class Of '08 members Joy Of Sex, one of Truckers Of Husk and Wales On Sunday's 22nd sexiest man in the principality. They sound like the Jesus Lizard gone metal, and one track features the line "I've ridden on a motorbike with Geddy Lee and he sounds like Brian Blessed".

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    Making the Effort

    Free download album of the week recommendation - a very shortlived feature, you'll appreciate - is by The Japanese War Effort, the trading name of Martin Moog, except that's not his real name either, that's James Scott. Oh man, it's Giant Haystacks all over again.

    Anyway. Formerly based in Edinburgh, and also half of Conquering Animal Sound, the act nobody abbreviates to JWE's Sings Of A Dear Green Place is a concept album about moving to Glasgow through the medium of glitched up ambient pop with a dark heart, full of crackles, lo-fi electronics and beats and general atmospheric shades of light drone. There's a track called I Hate Glasgow, loosely inspired by Ballboy's I Hate Scotland and ending with a subversion of an old recording of I Belong To Glasgow. Fuzzy, hazy and, despite its confused sentiments, almost lovely.

    Sunday, October 24, 2010


    Thoughts On An Album (In A Record Store, October 2010). The thing that let Broken Records' debut album down after a set of stellar demos and singles was overproduction, triumphant/heartbreaking songs flattened to an amorphous gloop by dumping everything on top of everything else. Word is Let Me Come Home scales down and brings an understatement to their strings-aided spiralling, finally maybe even replicating the bottled dynamism of their live set. On the other side of the sonic spectrum, Warpaint, a band who have mastered the art of starting minimal and eventually broaching into cinematic soundscapes without changing the instrumentation. Comparison will be made between The Fool and the xx, but while the latter made minimal patchwork almost a necessity Warpaint strain at its edges in an attractive slow burning way until eventually myriad layers emerge. Something to get lost in.

    We really hope word of Meursault's greatness has continued to spread since their Glastonbury appearance and play by Fearne Cotton on Radio 1, even if they were played as a recommendation to a listener who wanted something that sounded like both Kele and All Time Low. We'd love to see the equation they used. The power trio touring version goes on a proper nationwide jaunt from tomorrow with an Edinburgh home town show at The Caves, followed by Newcastle Head of Steam Tuesday, Sheffield Harley Wednesday, Leeds Royal Park Cellars Thursday, London Luminaire Saturday, a free gig (so no excuses if you're in the area) at Norwich Playhouse Bar this night-time next week, then Manchester, York, Dundee, Aberdeen and Glasgow in November. Should you be in London tonight we recommend Marginalised: Songs of Love & Loss, a fundraiser for Union Chapel's Margins Project providing services and facilities for those in crisis and homelessness. A night dedicated to songs about love in all its guises, James from The Miserable Rich hosts sets from the ever cryptically reliable Robyn Hitchcock, Cathal Coughlan, Cate Le Bon, Alasdair Roberts, Dan Michaelson, Emily Barker and Jo Bartlett. In further touring news Foals are off around the nation from Friday with support from Toro Y Moi and Andrew Mears ex of Youthmovies' new Pet Moon identity for its first half and Crystal Fighters and Pulled Apart By Horses for its second. Leeds Academy Friday, Manchester and Edinburgh next weekend, then check press for details. Meanwhile Liverpool Music Week starts on Friday and finishes... that's right, 25th November. Paradoxism, thy name is Scouse. We'll keep an eye on this over the week month, but we can't imagine tickets for !!! next Sunday at Stanley Theatre won't be snapped up. And if they have, Field Music are simultaneously playing for free at Mojo.

    Irish bloggers have been banging on about Dublin's The Cast Of Cheers (is that a good name or a terrible one? We can't work out which) for pretty much the whole of 2010, but we've had stuff to do. Now we've caught up with their album Glitter, available for not much via Bandcamp or freely available with the band's blessing from assorted download servers - this seems a working one - let us join in and lay the line down. It's not like the world is currently experiencing a shortage of bands based around skippish math-rock drumming, declamatory half-shouted statements for vocals and aereated effects-friendly guitar, but Chariot is a self-produced album that seems determined to take Silent Alarm on at its own game. Simultaneously, as befits the country that produced Adebisi Shank (whose recent album is spectacular, and we forgot to ever write about it on here) and And So I Watch You From Afar, something about how these songs are put together, while with modern post-Foals crossover potential, seems slippery in dynamic and strut, tappy guitar parts elbowing in between the polyrhythms. They're already recording a second album, at which watch them fly.

    This weekend is Oxjam, 28 national all-dayers featuring a total of nearly 900 bands and DJs in over 160 venues. We promised we'd give it a mention, but in reality pretty much all of them are overfull of 'unsigned' locals taking a break from being second on the bill somewhere local every single week, and we can ignore those. Send a direct debit to Oxfam yourselves and instead go to Nottingham for the annual Hockley Hustle, also for charity but featuring booking invention across its 30 venues. The Bodega Social, for instance, is putting on a day of local bands playing at being their inspirations, including Nephu Huzzband as ...Trail Of Dead, Stop Eject as Nirvana, Slowcoaches as Pixies and Bronze Medals as Refused. Buttonpusher take on Bunkers Hill with Talons, Buenos Aires, Illness, Double Handsome Dragons and Sir Yes Sir; My First Tooth headline at Lee Rosy's; and Hello Thor take over Jam Cafe and bring Moscow Youth Cult, Over The Wall, Japanese Sleepers and Mexican Kids At Home. There's also a band somewhere about called Arse Full Of Chips. We dare not ask. Next weekend? Battersea Power Station hosts something called the Freeze Festival, which seems to be some bands playing to next to nobody next to some snowboarders. So there's your Roni Size, Hadouken! and a headline DJ set from Pendulum, but headliner Mark Ronson has sneaked Rose Elinor Dougall onto the bill, because surely what better soundtrack is there for wildcats and McTwists then Casiotone shoegaze? There must have been some misunderstanding on Relentless' own stage on Sunday night too, as between ragga metallers Skindred and straight up pop-punks Fenix TX come Dananananaykroyd, a band we personally haven't seen live for just too long now, and whose set will probably contain more high stakes agility than the entire big air competition.

    Tomorrow, remember to Keep It Peel. And in view of such, Dandelion Radio has opened the voting for this year's Festive 50.

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    Playlist additions 23/10/10

  • Broken Records - A Darkness Rises Up [Myspace] [YouTube] [Spotify]
    They're back! Jamie's still howling into the void! It sounds a bit more like Arcade Fire than before! It can't be helped.

  • Fire Eyes - Fire Eyes [Myspace]
    Do you remember Cottonmouth Rocks? What? Oh. Well, in that case, here's someone who is new to you with their new band, with a blues/r'n'r twang, an amount of intrigue and an air of David Lynch.

  • Gospel Music - Automobile [YouTube]
    The bassist from Black Kids makes an EP of duets, this one with Tracyanne Campbell, and makes like Jonathan Richman.

  • Gruff Rhys - Shark Ridden Waters [download] [Soundcloud]
    The customary retreat to solo waters after a pile of SFA and collaborative activity, it's back to the road trip tropicalia, produced by Andy Votel for that extra retro-futurist weird beat.

  • Holy Fuck - Red Lights [Myspace] [YouTube] [Spotify]
    In which Holy Fuck make a video in which cats play instruments, closely followed by Carles closing Hipster Runoff out of spite. (Maybe.) It's pretty much made for a weird chase sequence, in something akin to fairness.

  • James Blake - Limit To Your Love [YouTube] [Soundcloud]
    The Aqualung of 2011?

  • Trophy Wife - Microlite [Myspace] [YouTube] [Soundcloud]
    So, after everything, it seems Jonquil's other projects are attracting more attention than the umbrella band have ever managed. Following Hugo Manuel's Chad Valley persona, and another wing of Oxford's burgeoning Blessing Force collective (see also Rhosyn, Manuel-associated and soon to support Jonquil), Jody Prewett's side band take New Order to the west coach beach. Again, people will wrongly file this under chillwave and send it to the relevant overkill authorities, but fans of The Notwist will find things to like.

  • Warpaint - Set Your Arms Down [Myspace] [live YouTube] [album stream]
    This is what they do. Make you think they're going one way with the slow burn spaciousness, then pile on the existentialism and head to darker climes.

  • We Three And The Death Rattle - Double Or Quits [Myspace] [Soundcloud]
    No need to write about this again, we've already done so.

    More proof, meanwhile, that Islet are not like other bands. While the rest of the pop world goes mad for images of cats as part of the internet lols, they bring along a dog.

    Islet "Ringerz" from Ewan Jones Morris on Vimeo.

  • Thursday, October 21, 2010

    Motor away

    Quick post to make up for not posting while we do some heavy duty catching up. Motorifik are Idrisse Khelifi of Paris and Phil Kay of Manchester and Working For A Nuclear Free City. They work in the field of pop gone wrong, borrowing those damned Be My Baby drums and a general Spector (via Velvets) production quality plus a blissed out vocal with plenty going on underneath. An album of the same name is out on November 15th.

    Motorifik - Secret Things

    Sunday, October 17, 2010


    At last, a Superman Revenge Squad record that you don't have to pay for via PayPal direct from Ben, Dead Crow Blues also the first album of new songs to feature cellist Martin Webb. First track Fairweather Friends is available for free here, an intriguing choice for preview/first song given it features a suggestion he's about to give up (he isn't). In album terms, while it unfortunately seems to have ventured under most people's radar a good few of the reviews for The Phantom Band's The Wants compare it to Wild Beasts' Two Dancers in terms of progressing and finding further in their own peculiar sphere. With three tracks breaking six minutes the adventuring had better be worth it.

    UK tours by The Chap are so scarce that by comparison hen's teeth are recommended in the window at Gregg's, so any chance to see their peculiar, occasionally choreography and bow-destroying featuring sets is recommended. Just the four dates, mind, starting Friday at Edinburgh Voodoo Rooms before crossing to Glasgow Captain's Rest on Saturday, followed by Hull Adelphi on Sunday 24th and Winchester Railway two days later. Clinic's tour, which is just some people in surgical masks and whatever shirt design they're going with this album, is a comparatively back-breaking eight dates, and the first of those is at Swn, which we'll come back to. Thursday sees them at Manchester Deaf Institute, Friday Liverpool Static Gallery, Saturday Stockton On Tees Georgian Theatre, and then next week onto Glasgow, Nottingham, London (Village Underground, whatever that is) and Leeds. The more convincing live than on record Spectrals support. Last but by no means least, sad news this week that hyper Leeds new wave darlings The Kiara Elles are splitting. Go and download the album Slide Over if you haven't, it's ace, and if you're in the locale of Leeds' Elbow Rooms on Friday go and wish them luck as you wave them goodbye.

    South London's Breton have been making waves for a couple of months now - the link is to a Soundcloud of their Sharing Notes EP, released in July - as the kind of multimedia collective that sends certain writers into paroxysms of excitement without ever thinking to sell the music as its own venture, especially so if the band decide to join in and fog the notion that they ever made music that might stand up on its own without a cloak of blog-friendly pettifogging. Luckily, Breton are not WU LYF. Theirs is an open house in which math-pop rhythms and dubstep-suggestive lo-frequency electronic basslines are thrown together with rotted electronica (think Holy Fuck filled in with cement) and eerie cinematic soundscapes, leaping from style to style while still maintaining the aura of a whole cohesive work. It starts a bit like Gorillaz, ends a bit like Foals and heads across the shop in the middle.

    Swn's the big one this week, Huw Stephens and John Rostron ramraiding the nightspots of Cardiff between Friday and Sunday to put on the best new talent and often most wayward too. Big recommended artist list! Clinic, Swans, Islet, Standard Fare, Calories, Talons, Perfume Genius, The Victorian English Gentlemens Club, Mitchell Museum, The School, Dog Is Dead, Fair Ohs, Still Corners, Sweet Baboo, the reformed Melys, Peggy Sue, Let's Wrestle, Spectrals, Dutch Uncles, Munch Munch, Veronica Falls, Stagecoach, Race Horses, Chad Valley, Paul Heaton, Threatmantics, Cate Le Bon, The Keys, Young Legionnaire, T3ETH, Egyptian Hip Hop, Tall Ships, Colorama, The Vaccines, Y Niwl, Magic Kids, Attack + Defend and local legend Meic Stevens. In the other set of the Celts, Edinburgh Popfest is over the same three days, one of a growing number of indiepop weekender hangouts for the unerring. Friday at The Wee Red Bar stars ballboy and Withered Hand, Sunday at The Lot brings Darren Hayman, Gordon McIntyre, the Bobby Mcgees and Eagleowl, but the standout is at The GRV on Saturday, where Suburban Kids With Biblical Names headline over Bearsuit (who are opening), Internet Forever, The Second Hand Marching Band, the Just Joans, Red Shoe Diaries, Pocketbooks, Be Like Pablo and Kid Canaveral, not in that order because we're like that.

    Saturday, October 16, 2010

    Playlist additions 16/10/10

  • Big Deal - Homework [Myspace]
    Two people, two acoustic guitars, one arrow straight for the heart. No Robbie Box. The self-regarding nature of getting on new music early enough in action: Their press bit currently consists of a quote from the Guardian and a line from the NME about their getting a quote from the Guardian.

  • The Books - A Cold Freezin' Night [mp3 via Stereogum] [Myspace] [YouTube]
    This has been around for since July, and the Books have been around for, oh, years. They should have said something earlier. It's the sort of thing that will either drive you insane with its cut and pasting around samples of kids delivering threats into tapes, or you'll put it on your next Outsider Beats compilation CDR. You know, like you make all the time.

  • Chapter 24 - Gregory [Myspace] [YouTube] [Soundcloud]
    There seem to be a few bands emerging at the moment with echoes of the Raincoats' perenially falling apart post-punk dub clash. Chapter 24 add a hint of hi-life, a soupcon of surf and an addendum of changeable artiness - we mean, *look* at that video - and produce something that's likely to take unsuspecting listeners to places far away.

  • Codex Leicester - Strong Like Bull [Myspace] [YouTube]
    That video is not for the squeamish around raw meat, let's just say that first. Named after the Shakespeare writings, but also actually from Leicester, they're here to hammer your homes down.

  • Das Wanderlust - Swan Song [Bandcamp free download]
    They've not always been the easiest band to get along with, such is the wild randomness of their relationship with melody and sensible song structure. They've self-sedated for long enough to make this carousel ride of psych shambles. It actually sounds a little like Deerhoof, albeit Deerhoof on a Fisher-Price budget.

  • Duck Sauce - Barbra Streisand [Myspace] [YouTube] [Soundcloud]
    WE GIVE IN. WE GIVE IN. (Yeah, it's basically a four to the floor Bonkers, isn't it?)

  • Gang Of Four - Never Pay For The Farm [mp3]
    From Content, their first album in fifteen years, out in January. It sounds a bit awkward, a touch proto-modernist, but then Andy Gill's guitar tone kicks in and Jon King begins accusing, and all is right.

  • The Go! Team - T.O.R.N.A.D.O. [mp3 via P4K]
    It sounds like the Go! Team.

  • Islet - Living In Manila [Spotify]
    Whatever rulebooks Islet had left lying around get completely thrown out by this stage of Wimmy with a track that ping-pongs from ghostly reflectiveness to scratchy Afrobeat to No Wave atonality without as much as an apology. And of course they've got to where they are without using any Internet presence at al...oh, wait.

  • The Kabeedies - Come Out Of The Blue [YouTube]
    Slight return of Norwich's least rested, here sounding like Vampire Weekend's Cousins actually was by ambitiously energetic English people rather than hoping it'd sound that way.

  • Plantagenet 3 - Theme From an Imaginary Western [Vimeo] [Soundcloud]
    A make-believe spaghetti western theme, indeed. Were Red House Painters commissioned. Whyever they'd be asked to do it.

  • Pulled Apart By Horses - Somersault [Soundcloud] [Spotify]
    Back in the day this, we're fairly sure, was the first Sky Larkin song we ever heard. Their mates PABH give it the full screamalong guitar throttling they're justly feared for.

  • Rhosyn - Eurydice [Myspace]
    So, Wap Wap Wow have split up already (well, nearly, seems there's a couple more gigs at least). We're used to bands disappearing within a year of our lauding them as the sound of the future; few have done so three months before we've had a chance to put them in the Class Of... start of year specific overview feature. What we can replace them with is Rose Dagul's replacement iteration, which she helpfully describes as "Wap Wap Wow, but more defined". And, sampling and looping her own voice as ballast, it's as marvellous and moving and hypnotic and reaching far beyond the ken of most British bands as Wap Wap Wow are/were, so that's alright then.
    (NB. Rose has since clarified for us that Rhosyn is the same band, but with five members rather than nine and a new name.)

  • SixNationState - Why Don't You Love Me [YouTube]
    A long time since we've heard from the alehouse skank summer indiesters, and we've no idea if this is set for proper release or if there's an album imminent, but its brooding psychedelic touch suggests they're still on form. Mind you, aren't you bored of all those videos in which people drive golf balls at a burlesque dancer?

  • Sparrow And The Workshop - Black To Red [YouTube]
    S&TW were country death folkies last time we saw them, which makes this deviation into PJ Harvey anger and big surf riffing the more surprising but no less welcoming, within reason.

  • Wire - Two Minutes [mp3 via Altered Zones] [Soundcloud]
    More like Send's uber-distortive rush then the more straightforward Object 47, to put it in the range of Wire activity since returning at full strength, with a ranting Colin Newman to boot. Although since Bruce Gilbert is no longer involved shouldn't they be Wir again?

    Plenty to be going on with as it is, we know, but a new Allo Darlin' video is never a bad thing, and after nearly a year of trying we may even be putting them on under STN Presents auspices in the new year. We've made four attempts already, it's got to happen eventually.

  • Thursday, October 14, 2010

    I'll hum this tune forever

    Glancing at what was around them at the time Dexys Midnight Runners (see posts passim) were going their own unique way proved to be more fulfilling than expected. In the chart announced on 1st August 1982, for instance, the theme to Postman Pat was at number 60. And that's barely the half of it.

    40 Sylvian Sakamoto - Bamboo Houses/Bamboo Music
    Everyone knows of how David Sylvian turned on a dime from cheekboned New Romantic pin-up to experimental kingpin, but this was his first single after stepping off the Smash Hits gravy train and it still sounds like a far more accurate description of Hurts than those Go West/Climie Fisher reaching references. Perhaps this says something.

    39 Boystown Gang - Can't Take My Eyes Off You
    Hi-NRG is starting to arrive, and we fear we may never have recovered as a pop universe.

    38 Sheena Easton - Machinery
    We'd never heard this song before writing this, and it'd be difficult to find something more like the female-fronted pop of the very early 80s that strived for synth pervasiveness, and indeed perviness, in a slightly ludicrous way. Watch the arm waving and imagine Hot Gossip's routine forming.

    37 Imagination - Music And Lights
    Simon No Rock'n'Roll Fun, when we ran out of inspiration and asked on Twitter: "it's like they fed Prince songs into a computer and got a histogram out in lieu of lyrics 'music/light/sequins/pearls/girls'".

    36 Cheri - Murphy's Law
    "The track is also best known for featuring squeaky sped-up vocals and laughs throughout the song and in its chorus." It's the Pinky and Perky of dancepop.

    35 Talk Talk - Today
    The great MacGuffin of 80s revivalism, in that someone somewhere will bring them up and be scolded for not knowing that they were minimalist experimentalists later on, h'actually. At this point they still sound like Spandau Ballet concurrently did.

    34 The Associates - 18 Carat Love Affair/Love Hangover
    This is the song from the fabled anecdote about Alan Rankine commissioning a £600 chocolate guitar from Thorntons (or £420 from Harrods, depending which source you believe. Expensive from somewhere chic, basically) for the TOTP performance. And then you can barely even see it. Watch how quick the zoom at 2:05 is when the director realises Rankine's given it out too quickly and has to grab the spare. Still, what's a sweet tasting fretboard when the director's fixated on the on loan keyboard player from Martha & The Muffins.

    33 Elkie Brooks - Nights In White Satin
    Does she have to pay the organist as well?

    32 Natasha - Iko Iko
    The Belle Stars version is the one that turns up on 80s retrospectives - quite long ones, obviously - but this came out at the same time and comfortably outsold it. Natasha later fronted Why. (That doesn't work without the quotation mark)

    31 The Fun Boy Three - Summertime
    Terry, Lynval and Neville do Gershwin to not enormous effect.

    30 The Clash - Rock The Casbah
    We're with Sharif.

    29 Survivor - Eye Of The Tiger
    Erm... Adrian?

    28 Leo Sayer - Heart (Stop Beating In Time)
    Dignitas would manage that just as well.

    27 Wavelength - Hurry Home
    Sounds like Boston doing a Bee Gees ballad. As good as that sounds.

    26 Haysi Fantayzee - John Wayne Is Big Leggy
    This! This is the sort of thing we mean when we laud songs that could never be hits now, by bands who could never exist in the mainstream now. It's two people in ragamuffin robes and stovepipe hats whooping over galloping percussion and all sorts of junkyard instrumentation about John Wayne's racist views. Those names: Jeremy Healy, later a prime hellraiser in the Superstar DJ era, Kate Garner, a much in demand fashion photographer, and elusive third wheel Paul Caplin, now a big shot in financial software.

    25 Junior - Too Late
    Because we couldn't wait around for mAlexander O'Neal to become popular.

    24 Bucks Fizz - Now Those Days Are Gone
    Everything you know about some of the bands in this chart is wrong. This, in the middle of their sultry period, was a mostly acapella lament with a WWII themed video. They were clearly good for some things.

    23 Odyssey - Inside Out

    22 Donna Summer - Love Is In Control (Finger On The Trigger)

    21 Bad Manners - My Girl Lollipop (My Boy Lollipop)
    You could have chat about mannered New York disco, or you could have an obese man with a long waggling tongue prancing around Millie's one hit. We will always outrank them.

    20 The Brat - Chalk Dust (The Umpire Strikes Back)
    The early 80s, as we always say, was a vintage period for odd novelty hits. This was Roger Kitter, an actor and impressionist (he 'did' Tommy Cooper in the famous Lego advert), as John McEnroe extemporising at length after an obvious argumental fashion. Look, just watch it and see the awkward Top Of The Pops audience choreography.

    19 The Belle Stars - The Clapping Song
    Rubber dolly, yes. Neat idea, but Shirley Ellis' runaway soul rhythm instructional song didn't need sensualising by the erstwhile Bodysnatchers. Song later referenced by Tom Waits (Clap Hands, evidently) and Radiohead (on Pyramid Song). Not known which version each took inspiration from.

    18 Dollar - Videotheque
    Videotheque! No single word surely ever precisely aged a song faster. Therese and David muck about with Trevor Horn's vocal effects knobs.

    17 The Firm - Arthur Daley (E's Alright)
    Look, you're going to have to watch this one. John, you could have done a lot better with your intro. And outro, although anyone who knows what that refers to, do let us know. His line after that's good, though.

    Chas & Dave not pictured (though they are in this chart, Margate at 63). One of the people behind The Firm went on to write music for King Of The Hill. The other was called Grahame Lister. If the Star Trekkin' (yes, same people) follow-up had been about knowing doctors, dentists and architects they'd still be successful.

    16 Visage - Night Train
    You have to seek this out, it's the most blatant Human League rip you've ever heard. Given Steve Strange's general position in society shameless was never going to be low on the menu, but really.

    15 Paul McCartney - Take It Away

    14 Shalamar - A Night To Remember
    This was what Jeffrey Daniel was promoting when he turned up in the TOTP studio to do his mime routine featuring the celebrated moonwalk. See, Jarvis, Michael Jackson didn't invent it after all, so when you said it was the only thing you liked him for you were VERY WRONG. Daniel went on Jools last year to recreate the magic, and he's put it up on his own site. We can't work out whether it seems more out of place to have Jools conducting the interview in front of Nick Hornby or Daniel doing his thing in front of Wild Beasts.

    13 David Essex - Me And My Girl (Night-Clubbing)
    No, we just can't quote HMHB two charts in succession.

    12 The Steve Miller Band - Abracadabra
    "I wanna reach out and grab yer!"

    11 The Stranglers - Strange Little Girl
    They made a strange (in context) bid for respectability around this time, Golden Brown only a couple of singles gone and the next one featuring synths and a soft Jean-Jacques Burnel vocal.

    10 Cliff Richard - The Only Way Out
    Sounds like a 1980s Cliff Richard mid-paced song.

    9 Japan - I Second That Emotion
    Sylvian, despite his wanderings, was still hanging around with the band, adding balloon-held-tightly horns to a Smokey Robinson cover devolved of real emotional content.

    8 Kid Creole And The Coconuts - Stool Pigeon
    Ha cha cha cha. Easy to overlook, given how lauded the label is now for Cristina and James Chance, that this was on Ze Records. Not so easy to overlook that it led to Modern Romance.

    7 Bananarama - Shy Boy
    Their first single after the Fun Boy Three collaborations, as with most of their first movement sounding like they were trying to get away with it as they went along.

    6 Trio - Da Da Da

    And if you thought that was a weird use, cue Xtina...

    5 Hot Chocolate - It Started With A Kiss
    No sign of the KP It Started With A Crisp commercial, so let's just remark that, like a lot of first dance songs, it's not really a love song at all.

    4 Madness - Driving In My Car
    "I drove along the A45, I had her up to 58!" While we're on an embedding adverts run, someone's put together their five Japanese commercials for the Honda City, a couple of which reworded this, plus a couple of more recent UK things at the end. The Japanese non-verbal explanation of what their name also means seconds in is worth the effort.

    We'll stop with the embeds now, it's just a fertile chart.

    3 Yazoo - Don't Go
    The most influential record of 2009.

    2 Irene Cara - Fame
    To blame for many, many things.

    1 Dexy's Midnight Runners With The Emerald Express - Come On Eileen
    No, Kevin didn't sack the drummer for not looking dirty enough. No idea where that came from.

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Now just look at me as I'm looking down on you

    So we've seen what Dexys did pretty much single-handedly, and single-mindedly, to become both commercial successes and cult greats, but what was actually in their chart radar? Presenting the top 40 of 4th May 1980:

    40 Liquid Gold - Dance Yourself Dizzy
    Steve Lamacq recalls the dedication to their job of whoever got the job of typing out the lyrics to this in Smash Hits, beginning "D-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-dizzy!"

    39 Junior Murvin - Police And Thieves
    The Clash version had been around for three years but there's suggestion, any if anyone knows better do tell, that it took until now for Island to realise and officially put this out in the UK, leading to his somewhat unorthodox TOTP choreography. Watch him when the TOTP2 caption appears.

    Junior Murvin - Police And Thieves -1977
    Uploaded by LostPirate77. - See the latest featured music videos.

    38 BA Robertson - Kool In The Kaftan
    Seemingly a song about how everyone else in pop is doing it wrong. History has not borne him out.

    37 Selecter - Missing Words
    It was no Shed Of Dread.

    36 The Four Bucketeers - The Bucket Of Water Song
    The Tiswas spin-off single! Written by John Gorman, who of course knew about all this from The Scaffold, and produced by Nicky Graham, whose magnificently eclectic CV includes being Bowie's Spiders From Mars keyboard player, signing the Clash to CBS and producing Let Loose. Video, to surely nobody's great surprise, prominently features Sally James in leather getting covered in water.

    35 Crown Heights Affair - You Gave Me Love
    You know it's a turn of the 80s disco-funk group from New York just from the name, don't you?

    34 Smokie - Take Good Care Of My Baby

    33 Bad Manners - Ne-Ne-Na-Na-Na-Na-Nu-Nu
    Our first taste of Buster and his merry band of horn section beer hounds, one that never saw the need for words when it had a laughing saxophone.

    32 The Cure - A Forest
    And speaking of laughing boys, this was the second week ever on the top 40 for Cap'n Bob Smith and brooding friends of the moment. Existential.

    31 New Musik - This World Of Water
    Runt of the electropop litter. That's just the moon, isn't it?

    30 Mystic Merlin - Just Can't Give You Up
    Really hoped this would be someone's real name; that they turn out to be a run of the mill soul outfit, even one that started out with a magic sideline, seems a letdown.

    29 Madness - Work Rest And Play EP
    Led by Night Boat to Cairo, its video perhaps not shot on location if you ever see it.

    28 The Average White Band - Let's Go Round Again
    A stab at populist disco, which we suppose worked given Louise covered it, and a final top 40 single for the surprisingly actually Scottish funkateers.

    27 The Ruts - Staring At The Rude Boys
    A tribute to 2-Tone, apparently. God knows what the Gallows/Bizzle cover was a tribute to. The burning desire for noise abatement?

    26 Kate Bush - Breathing
    A spooked piano ballad about a baby being born into a post-nuclear fallout world. That this doesn't seem unusual for Kate Bush is telling.

    25 Michael Jackson - She's Out Of My Life
    "S Club 7 performed the song on their S Club Party Live Tour in 2001". PARTY ON.

    24 Sad Cafe - My Oh My
    "Got ten out of ten in Jockey Slut!"

    23 Cockney Rejects - The Greatest Cockney Rip Off
    Could Oi! have ever been said to have had an imperial phase, or is that putting too much faith in it as a sustainable genre? For the unaware Oi! was the scrag end of punk, only more Cockney then you could ever fear, coined by Garry Bushell and marvellously said by Wikipedia to have originated among "non-aligned working class youths sometimes called herberts" as if this were a mid-70s ITV sitcom. Its biggest hit, this, was a pisstake of Sham 69. And then it went underground and re-emerged in subterranean clubs in America, as all these things tend to do.

    22 The Pretenders - Talk Of The Town

    21 Whitesnake - Fool For Your Loving
    Good old school northern hard rock. No duetting with members of the Saturdays for them.

    20 Saxon - Wheels Of Steel
    See above. Saxon. That's a name that just oozes 1980 Yorkshire hard rock even if you didn't already know.

    19 Leon Haywood - Don't Push It, Don't Force It
    What can you say that would be repeatable?

    18 The Detroit Spinners - Working My Way Back To You
    You know that the English trad folkies forced them to add the Detroit to their name for the UK? And that a cover of this staple of TV-advertised Not Available In Shops timelocked compilations was Boyzone's first single, which failed to chart in the UK? What? Oh.

    17 The Beat - Mirror In The Bathroom
    Perennially touring the UK in a version that contains two original members, though Ranking Roger still has the energy of the four or five left behind, or in Dave Wakeling's case fronting his own Beat with even fewer original members in America.

    16 Dr Hook - Sexy Eyes
    Which isn't something you could say of Ray Sawyer.

    15 The Nolans - Don't Make Waves
    Before Colleen became the most famous woman in Britain.

    14 Jimmy Ruffin - Hold On To My Love
    Completely forgotten now, by and large, but the soul singer had six top 10 singles, two admittedly the same, over fourteen years. That's memorability for you.

    13 UB40 - King/Food For Thought
    Our introduction to what was then a sociologically hard hitting proper reggae outfit before all the covers nonsense. Seek out Signing Off, it's better than you'd imagine after twenty five years plus of attempting to turn Jamaica into the world's biggest wine bar.

    12 Bobby Thurston - Check Out The Groove
    He's not even on Wikipedia! How are we meant to cope?

    11 Narada Michael Walden - I Shoulda Loved Ya
    Rather marvellously, a former Mahavishnu Orchestra drummer, by now making servicably bendy jazz-funk. Went on to write hits for Whitney, Mariah and Starship's Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now, so he doesn't get away with a free pass.

    10 The Undertones - My Perfect Cousin
    Odd thing is, the Human League of synthesizer advice fame were at 72 this week with the Holiday 80 EP, and that was their second ever week in the top 75 (though Being Boiled and Empire State Human had already failed to chart). That's a hell of a reputation to build in such a short space of time that charting larrikins can be taking the piss before you've had any commercial prestige.

    9 Hot Chocolate - No Doubt About It
    A song about witnessing a UFO. And that's it. No amusing kidnapping, no new perspective, just the act of witnessing a UFO. That's not how to develop a story lyric.

    8 Motorhead - Golden Years EP
    Something telling here - Motorhead had three top ten singles, of which one was split with Girlschool and the other two were live EPs. The lead track Leaving Here was, of all things, a Holland-Dozier-Holland song that Eddie Holland himself had a small Billboard hit with, which the Who covered at some stage. Not much of HDH's original intent is left standing.

    7 Rodney Franklin - The Groove
    You know jazz-funk's problem, apart from that Jay Kay likes it? Too long for its own good. Too much US cop show weedy horns as exposition. Doubtless a Radio 2 DJ has once used this as intro bed music.

    6 Sky - Toccata
    Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, also Vanessa-Mae's theme when she was hanging around in diaphonous slips during the first summer of pop-classical glamour crossover. When 'they' say punk killed prog 'they' forget John Williams was still up to this sort of thing to great success.

    5 David Essex - Silver Dream Machine
    From a film called Silver Dream Racer, a motorbiking action pic that proves why Britain never made its own Vanishing Point.

    4 Blondie - Call Me
    We think we might have mentioned this before, actually, but, remembering the briefly popular 'Blondie Is A Band' slogan, have you noticed the currently popular band in a similar if more straight up pop-punk idiom have popularised the T-shirt 'Paramore Is A Band'?

    3 Paul McCartney - Coming Up
    The slightly ridiculous balsawood funk record which Paul plays all the instruments on and, legend says, inspired John Lennon to come out of retirement. And that (embedding disabled) video! Fuck you, Bohemian Rhapsody, this should be on all the Greatest Video Ever polls as the token retro entry. Fab Wacky Macca Thumbs Aloft dressed as Ritchie Blackmore, Mick Fleetwood and Ron Mael!

    2 Johnny Logan - What's Another Year
    Grandstanding Eurovision winner for the only man to have won the thing twice, and he's written three more Irish entries. It must be all the canapes and opportunity for whoopee during backstage filming that drags him in so often. If you must know Love Enough For Two by Prima Donna, a sextet featuring Kate Robbins, came third.

    1 Dexys Midnight Runners - Geno
    Actually its second of two weeks atop, it's just this chart was better to write about. We wrote in the last post about how Washington had been encouraged to retake the stage in the wake of this being a hit, when it fact it turns out he was busy training to become... a hypnotist. A hypnotist! And these days he includes it in his act! He should have toured with Mystic Merlin.

    And if that chart wasn't good enough, or you thought it was shit and demand another, you should see what was around when Come On Eileen was topping the singles chart... we'll tell you next post.

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    An Illustrated Guide To... Dexys Midnight Runners

    As usual, Ben Parker AKA Superman Revenge Squad nails it.

    Or, more directly:

    Lisa: You beat Dexy's Midnight Runners.
    Homer: Well, you haven't heard the last of them!

    On some level - that level where you don't just think of Come On Eileen, ie THE RIGHT LEVEL - it seems odd that in America Dexys Midnight Runners are on the same level as... maybe not Joe Dolce, but certainly M/A/R/R/S or Fern Kinney. Come On Eileen was so overpowering a fluke hit, so much now the part of wedding party singalong and shopping mall retro muzak, named the biggest one hit wonder of the 80s by VH1, that most (but not all) attempts at suggesting they might have done other stuff that people on this side of the pond liked is on a LOL-look-at-this-pretension-know-your-place level at best. Or, just ignore it (or, as we see on that link, make out it was a novelty record all along - "the Dexy’s Midnight Runners story is the more common story: here today and gone tomorrow. That story holds true for Right Said Fred with “I’m Too Sexy,” Sir Mix-A-Lot with “Baby Got Back,” Toni Basil with “Mickey”. Hmm, maybe that not-Dolce assumption was wrong)

    But of course they aren't defined by one song. Or at least Kevin Rowland's remarkable, impassioned vision isn't, nay, couldn't be. His puritanical streak and belief in purity of soul was one thing, its channelling into a unique post-punk approach to hard hitting Stax revues, socio-political statements and divergences across the borders of what he grew up with and what he wanted to project regardless of fashion status quite another.

    A second generation Irish immigrant born in Wolverhampton in 1953, Rowland was by his own admission a teenage tearaway. Arrested thirteen times, once for attacking a group of men with an iron bar, he was forced by his older brother into learning an instrument to calm him down. Briefly forming a cabaret band with his brother called New Blood, running off his dream of becoming a singer after seeing Billy Fury on television, he ended up in Lucy & The Lovers, running off the art school/post-pub rock end of the Roxy Music bandwagon, while working as a hairdresser. Intrigued by the possibilities of the nascent punk movement that band mutated, with plenty of lineup changes, into the Killjoys. One recent overview claims they "made the Ramones look like the Osmonds" with their speed of playing, and toured widely to mostly acclaim. Putting out a 7", Johnny Won't Get To Heaven, on Raw records in July 1977, they put some tracks down for an album and did a Peel session before a change in line-up and approach after Rowland became bored of punk's stagnation. The new Killjoys were more about rock'n'roll and power-pop, Kevin instigating the marathon rehearsal sessions he'd come to make his own. A second Peel set followed, but Rowland's leadership tendencies were causing rows within the band; Kevin Archer, five years Rowland's junior, arrived in place of the then guitarist, but only on the understanding that he change his first name to Al as there couldn't be two Kevins in the group. Kevin for his part is open about his idea to "get signed by a major label in the Killjoys, then get as successful as possible, then split up and form the band that I wanted to form". Finding interest dwindling and members rebelling, the Killjoys dragged to an end in June 1978.

    At the start of 1978 Rowland, occasionally calling himself Carlo Rolan, and Archer sat down and planned out a new band, one reflecting Rowland's love of soul as well as the energy of punk, a form nobody else was doing. The name came from dexedrine, a type of amphetamine popular on the Northern Soul scene that enabled its users to dance all night. Having gone through a good number of candidates after initially placing local press adverts in July, by the first single the rest of the lineup was settled as Rolan (as credited on sleeve) on vocals, Archer on rhythm guitar, Pete Williams (bass), Pete Saunders (keys), Bobby 'Junior' Ward (drums), Geoff 'JB' Blythe (tenor sax), Steve 'Babyface' Spooner (alto sax) and Big Jim Paterson (trombone). It was this lineup, starting as a covers band and eventually working in owland/Archer originals, that Rowland imbued with his evangelical fervour, using abandoned warehouses for rehearsals, instigating abstinence, operating vigorous training regimes and dodging train and bus fares, so as to create a tight outfit up for the rigours of touring and the toughening up of the soul sound, and maybe partly to replace the amphetamine rush and resultant quality of manic self-belief. The gang mentality was heightened by the woolly hats and donkey jackets, influenced by Mean Streets and

    The Deer Hunter, that the anti-style conscious Rowland brought in, believing that as a gang a group had to "look like something". Their live reputation quickly preceded them once they'd debuted at the start of 1979. That first single was released on small indie Oddball Records, run by idiosyncratic Clash manager Bernie Rhodes, who was briefly their manager and suggested Rowland find a more original of singing, which led to his adapting the distinctive bark of Detroit soul hitmakers Chairmen Of The Board's General Norman Johnson. Released in October 1979 and, after a spell supporting the Specials and The Selecter on the 2-Tone tour, tipping into the top 40 at its lowest rung at the start of 1980, it turned out to be a diatribe about Irish jokes. The band dodged the fare on the way to the Top Of The Pops studios.

    That, and the lengthy tie-in tour (the Proclaimers were reputedly inspired to go into music after seeing them at St Andrews University in February 1980), was enough to pique EMI's interest, to whom the band signed an album deal, Andy Grocott taking over on drums and Andy Leek on organ. The first single was a tribute of sorts to Geno Washington, whose high-octane rhythm and blues sets with the Ram Jam Band (who JB had been a member of) had made him a cult in the UK Northern Soul circuit. Rowland had seen him aged eleven (although the opening line refers to a gig four years later), and while lauding his inspiration warned in the lyric that one day "just look at me as I'm looking down on you're all over, your song is so tame/You fed me, you bred me, I'll remember your name". Released in March, by the end of April it was number one.

    Washington was reputedly inspired to return to the stage after its success. Leek wasn't, leaving as Saunders returned for the album sessions. Produced by soul specialist Pete Wingfield, it was briefly held up when Rowland decided the most direct way of renegotiating their deal with EMI would be to steal the master tapes and hold them to ransom. Worked, too. It was preceded by the nearly two month long Intense Emotion Review tour and the number 7 single There There My Dear - a cutting attack on a sceptical hipster (nobody in particular, Kevin averred, but he did cite Howard Devoto as the type in one interview) failing to "welcome the new soul vision". On Searching For The Young Soul Rebels' liner notes a footnote would be appended: "P.S. Old clothes do not make a tortured artist."

    Searching For The Young Soul Rebels - which is out in expanded form a week today, which is why we're doing this now - never got above number 6, but would go on to be named among Channel 4's poll of the hundred greatest albums of all time. With a cover shot of a Belfast Catholic boy carrying his belongings after being forced from his home in the 1969 Northern Ireland sectarian riots that sparked off the Troubles, it began by cutting down the Pistols and Specials and presented Rowland as the authentic soul voice of the ambitious, driven working class, a sound and view for people to believe in.

    It's just that Rowland by now wasn't so sure that so many should be. Having announced he would no longer be giving interviews and would only be communicating through press adverts, sleeve notes and fan club, and with Mick Talbot taking over the keys the flagrantly uncommercial Keep It Part Two (Inferiority Part One) was recorded for a single that failed to chart. The entire band bar Archer and Paterson promptly walked out, forming the not dissimilar The Bureau, whose singles and album failed to chart in the UK. For his part Rowland claimed in a press advert that they had "hatched a plot to throw Kevin out and still carry on under the same name".

    A new line-up was formed by the three remaining members, involving former Secret Affair drummer Seb Shelton, bassist Steve Wynne, keyboardist Micky Billingham and sax duo Brian Maurice and Paul Speare. No sooner had they been on the Christmas TOTP for Geno then Archer left to form The Blue Ox Babes, moulding the soul approach with traditional Celtic folk and Arabic influences. Billy Adams replaced him on guitar.

    The new line-up had a new look - hooded tops, boxing boots and ponytails - a new workout regime - cross-country running a speciality - and a new single in Plan B, apparently against the band's wishes. When that flopped, they discovered a loophole in the EMI contract that enabled them to leave the label. Phonogram/Mercury picked them up for the storming Show Me, restoring some commercial pride by reaching number 16.

    Audiences were introduced to the band through The Projected Passion Revue tour, in seated halls and with a burning desire and discipline at its heart, best expressed in three memorable shows at London's Old Vic in November. That was preceded by slow burner single Liars A To E, which did nothing chart-wise. Giorgio Kilkenny came in on bass, but the most notable change came in the brass section learning and playing viola and cello. Rowland has since called this the best incarnation of Dexys; commercially available now is a collection of all they recorded and a BBC live recording.

    The Blue Ox Babes were meanwhile demoing around an Archer discovery, violinist Helen Bevington. Alongside the rootsy music they were formulating a rootsy, dressed down, gypsy-styled image. Archer played Rowland the demos, of which he was very keen. So keen, in fact, that during that band's downtime he 'borrowed' Bevington, changed her name to Helen O'Hara and, along with friends Steve Shaw and Roger Huckle (now known as Steve Brennan and Roger MacDuff respectively), introduced a 'heart of the Celtic Soul' vision based around soul-fuelled Celtic folk and a dungarees, neckerchiefs and raggle-taggle look reflecting rural Irish gypsy origins (Rowland: "everybody else is dressing up sort of straight-laced and we come in wearing these"). Suddenly, nobody would touch the Blue Ox Babes as they were seen as Dexys soundalikes. They split in 1983, and after turning down an offer from Rowland to rejoin Archer broke down and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. The band reformed at Rowland's instigation and with several ex-Dexys members in 1985 and released an album in 1988.

    With the new Dexys string section trading as The Emerald Express, adopting a whole new sound proved too much for Paterson, Speare and Maurice, who left the permanent band due to diminished responsibility but stayed on as session players, eventually adding a member and swapping another out grouping together as the TKO Horns, regular session men of the mid-80s. The first Emerald Express single, The Celtic Soul Brothers, mapped out the sound but just missed the top 40; like first time around, at the second time of asking they hit the bullseye.

    Fiddlers with a foot up on the monitors! That's the way to do it.

    Rowland, openly, hadn't made for good star quality, but he still hoped to make a big splash whatever he did. As he said at the time of the era, "it was an actual plan that had to be modified along the way. I’d resigned myself to the fact that if Eileen wasn’t a hit then I was in trouble, so it wasn’t quite as cool as that. It was getting a bit desperate." It worked - loosely inspired by A Man Like Me by Jimmy James and the Vagabonds, it became the best selling single of 1982 in Britain with four weeks at number one, topped the Billboard list for one week eight months later in April 1983 (being the filling between two Michael Jackson hits) and won the Best British Single award at the following year's Brits. Julien Temple's video, filmed in Kennington and starring Siobhan Fahey of Bananarama's sister, cemented the image and one-off nature of the hit, as much here as over there, forever in the early days of MTV.

    The climb proved so slow that album Too-Rye-Ay, produced by the none more 80s team of Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley (though they say they had little production input, and Rowland now thinks it a letdown), had been out for six weeks by the time the single went top - in fact Too-Rye-Ay spent its own first six weeks in the top three without ever knocking the Kids From Fame album off the summit. Somewhere in the midst of it all, Giorgio Kilkenny was replaced on bass by Johnny Edwards, while a whole new horn section came in for the accompanying The Bridge tour.

    Provocative as ever - plenty have wondered whether the "pretending that you're Al Green" line in Adam Ant's Goody Two Shoes is a dig, an affectionate reference (he was a vocal fan of Dexys) or neither - when finally giving the NME an interview Rowland had strenuously denied any Van Morrison influence on the new look. Slightly odd, then, that the next single was a cover of Jackie Wilson Said (I'm In Heaven When You Smile), reaching number 5 in October. (Morrison had recorded a monologue intended for the album coda, but it was eventually cut.) You all know the story with this performance, and despite what the caption says all parties swear it was deliberate, OK?

    The slight return to emotive brassy soul Let's Get This Straight (From The Start) also sneaked into the top 20 before the end of 1982, helped by a notable performance on The Tube; Micky Billingham left to join General Public, leaving a four-strong core. Another top 20 hit, a reissue of The Celtic Soul Brothers in April 1983, eked out while the band spent the first half of 1983 touring, generally in America. By the start of 1984 Dexys were reduced to a core of Rowland, Adams, O'Hara and saxophonist Nick Gatfield. That year all sorts of people came and went over at least three recording sessions, not least an entire re-recording with a new drummer. Clearly they were up to something.

    That something was released in September 1985. Don't Stand Me Down came with a new besuited Brooks Brothers Ivy League-influenced look and, initially, no singles, Rowland decreeing it to be a body of work rather than something tracks could be plucked from. Even when it was suggested a single might help he offered the rollercoaster of emotiveness This Is What She's Like, twelve and a half minutes long.

    Don't Stand Me Down has been painted as a commercial disaster - it did still chart at 22, but hung around for 40 fewer weeks in the top 75 than Too-Rye-Ay had. During the accompanying tour, Rowland would be 'arrested' by a uniformed policeman for 'burning'. It was that kind of outlook, firing off politicised polemic at all classes and his media opponents (who gleefully stuck the boot in when sales slumped), engaging in offhand Beckettian dialogues with second in command Billy Adams, most famously the lengthy duologue that opens This Is What She's Like. "The words don't quite fit the songs but they read better this way" said the sleevenote. It had all the hallmarks of the lost classic it's become.

    And that was about it. An offcut from those sessions, Because Of You, was used for the theme for handyman sitcom Brush Strokes and went top 20 at the end of 1986. Rowland decided to go solo, but neither much overlooked and never reissued album The Wanderer or its three singles go top 75. Rowland co-wrote a song for Adam Ant's 1990 comeback album and, while a Very Best Of went to number 12 in 1991, recorded demos sporadically during the 1990s, performing two with Adams, Paterson and others on Jonathan Ross' Saturday Zoo in March 1993 amid reports of a full comeback. In a corresponding interview Rowland went public with remorseful credit to Kevin/Al Archer for inaugurating the sound he'd "stolen" for Too-Rye-Ay, later admitting the falling out was his biggest regret.

    It never came about. Rowland spent the first half of the decade, and the end of the 80s, battling cocaine addiction, lost his house and was made bankrupt in 1994 amid stories of his living in a squad and joining a religious cult. Cleaning up with eight months in rehab, in 1997 he signed to Creation Records, Alan McGee a long time fan who that year reissued Don't Stand Me Down to belated acclaim. My Beauty eventually came out in October 1999. A covers album, it still garnered a good number of rave reviews, but of far more note to them was the infamous cross-dressing, skirt-lifting cover. A three song set, with two lingerie-clad dancers, at the Reading Festival didn't help matters. As much as McGee recently claimed it's shifted 20,000 worldwide, the best estimate anyone can come up with for UK sales is 700. Creation went under three months later, wrecking chances of two new Dexys albums that also formed part of the contract; Rowland now calls the signing "a mistake".

    Since then it's been fits and starts. Kevin grew a waxed moustache. Then he started dressing as a country gent. A new incarnation toured in autumn 2003, featuring the only other original member involved Pete Williams as joint lead vocalist and a look based on Brighton Rock and Italian gangsters, and a corresponding best of, Let's Make This Precious, featured two decent new songs, one of which had been performed on Saturday Zoo. Some people re-recorded Come On Eileen as Come On England for a Euro 2004 anthem that reached number two. In June 2005, Rowland announced that Dexys were back in the studio. As he would again in February 2007, a Myspace account launched with a new demo. Later that year he contributed to the Motown Made To Measure handpicked compilation series. DJ sets filled his time. Interviewed in March, he said he was ready to actually get in the studio and make the thing with some ex-colleagues. Whatever sort of coda this is to the story, it's already one overflown with something powerful and insolently special.

    Sunday, October 10, 2010


    Busy week this week, including Nosferatu D2's album which we only wrote about last week but the digital release got delayed until tomorrow, and Mitchell Museum's The Peters Port Memorial Service, which gets a delayed CD issue this week and hopefully we'll finally be able to get hold of it, not wanting to sign up to iTunes or owt like that just for one album. No excuse, we know. (Ice, Sea, Dead People's Teeth Union also gains physical form this week) In proper new releases there's Belle & Sebastian, Shrag, Islet's new EP Wimmy (yes, it's got the reggae one on)... but, like the rest of the world, everything stops for Sufjan. Your key to understanding The Age Of Adz, or at least what we've heard of it so far, is the track he contributed to the Dark Was The Night charity album last year, which threw his Neil Young/Gershwin/American folk field recording/showtunes mix into a wall of electronics and saw it emerge remarkably unscathed considering, albeit spread over a wide/long area. Be interesting to see how this does in the universal end of year lists. Be interesting to see how it does as a full listening experience, too.

    Last December we put on the third of our occasional money-haemorraghing but enjoyable nights of live music in a city with no proper gigging scene. (Oh, they try, with their Academies and their Oxjams getting to close off an entire road for a day, but you should see the paucity of bands they put on. Seriously, we've had to reconsider some live plans as we don't have a clue who could support them among known local talent.) This was a particularly epic fail, as bringing up 4 Or 5 Magicians on a fractured, and indeed fractious, tour brought in five punters. Three of those were other local promoters. All five were people we knew. People got less for Christmas from us than they might have been banking on. By the end of the openers' set, for further indignity, one person had turned up, and he during the last song. That band were the falling apart raucous pop shapeshifters Ace Bushy Striptease, and at least something came out of that night as they and the Brighton post-Pavement acerbic if-it's-Dan Ormsby-and-your-granny-on-bongos-it's-a-4 Or 5 Magicians-gig headliners met, got on swimmingly and as an eventual result start a joint tour on Thursday. That's at Big Chill House, followed by Brighton Hobgoblin on Friday, Bournemouth Green Room Saturday, Bristol Mother's Ruin next Sunday, then Birmingham Victoria, Manchester Tiger Lounge and Nottingham Spanky Van Dykes (where we once saw Silver Columns playing Upwords) in the following days. Go and see them if you can, make them less lonely.

    Staying in Scotland, as fertile as it is at the moment, and to the very Scottish monickered The Douglas Firs - not the one from Bournemouth we first stumbled into when trying to find this Myspace URL again, but the one from Aberdeen that is by and large the work of one Neil Insh, also drummer with Song, By Toad band Jesus H Foxx. The recent Haunting Through EP, on a name-your-price deal from Bandcamp, is all over the place while keeping to a certain uncomfortable tone. Just its opening track, nearly seven and a half minutes long, veers from field recording to Irish folk to gospel vocals to to lushly dulcet singer-songwriter fare with discordance to a reel to an ambient close, like an even more distracted Phantom Band. The range is all over the place but coalesces to a certain point of cut and paste effected folk atmospherics that are Sufjan-like in its scope and ambition, plenty of carefully plotted instrumentation unafraid of following a big chorus with floaty ambience. Hypnotic and entirely fascinating. There's been an album in the works for more than a year; their next gig is a Pakistan flood relief benefit at the Roxy Arthouse, Edinburgh with Alasdair Roberts and Eagleowl on the 18th.

    In The City isn't so much a conference and gig coming together as a cultural ecosystem. Based in a four hotel campus around Manchester’s Northern Quarter between Wednesday and Friday, by day there's a selection of keynote speakers - the president of Jay-Z's Roc Nation, Epic's MD, REM's manager, former BPI and Warners chairman Rob Dickins, Nick Mason, Paul Morley, Mike Pickering - and panels with hard hitting guests - Guy Garvey, Helienne Lindvall, Mark Gardener, John Robb, Trevor Dann, Joe Muggs and everyone's fantasy matchup in an industry bare knuckle fight, Ryan Schreiber and Sean Adams. And by night, a whole horde of bands, from the unsigned to the internationally acclaimed. Deep breath - No Age, Sky Larkin, Standard Fare, Pulled Apart By Horses, Let's Buy Happiness, Dog Is Dead, Still Corners, Male Bonding, Calories, Spectrals, Gallops, Honour Before Glory, Young British Artists, Yuck, HEALTH, Clock Opera, Is Tropical, This Many Boyfriends, My First Tooth, Dutch Uncles, These Monsters, Worriedaboutsatan, The Woe Betides, Egyptian Hip Hop, The Neat, T3ETH, Tim And Sam's etc, Chad Valley, Chickenhawk, Brontide, Orphan Boy and hundreds of others that we're currently trawling for future new band linkage.

    Saturday, October 09, 2010

    Playlist additions 9/10/10

  • Clock Opera - Once And For All [Myspace] [Soundcloud]
    Guy Connelly sounds a little like Peter Gabriel, straining every sinew over the electronic layers proving that the machines can grow a heart.

  • Spectrals - Peppermint [Myspace] [Video] [Soundcloud]
    Like a surfing Lee Mavers getting his mixing desk with original 60s dust, like a Spector Campfire Of Sound, like rock'n'roll might finally be coming back. About to support Clinic on tour.

    Yeah, bit of a quiet one this week.
  • Thursday, October 07, 2010

    Peel by behest

    Quick note to stop this looking so bare (stuff in the next couple of weeks, don't worry): the BBC may not be bothering any more but people do still remember John Peel. The World International John Peel Day 2010 is on Saturday, primarily celebrated by a coming together of indiepop promoters at Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes, 2pm-2am. Bands playing the three stages include Bearsuit, Ice Sea Dead People, Superman Revenge Squad, Paul Hawkins, Nitkowski, Horowitz and a one-off reformation of Miss Black America; DJs DJing include Laetitia Sadier, Peel producer Louise Kattenhorn, Fortuna Pop!, How Does It Feel To Be Loved?, Withered Hand and Vacuous Pop. Tenner on the door, all cash to DEC.

    Tuesday, October 05, 2010

    Always Check The Label: Song, By Toad

    Maintainer of a blog and later podcast of great value and no little righteous anger, Matthew Young did the one thing with his awareness and support of new music that we can never bring ourselves to and started a label out of Song, By Toad, a cottage industry the Scotsman called "the DIY front-line of (Edinburgh)'s homespun and rapidly expanding music scene". Pretty much everything he puts out is of the utmost quality, so we got him to share his secrets.

    Why start a label?
    Because I had people reading the site who were really enjoying the unsigned bands I was writing about, so it just seemed to make sense to bring the two together.

    What's your ethos?
    I just release music I personally love, and don't worry about the commercial viability of the band in question. And the artists never owe us anything - it's our job to produce a business model which gives them the best chance of being profitable, and their job to make the music, as simple as that.

    Have you been influenced by any labels?
    Mostly Fence Records, to be honest. I like the community they've built, and the way they take chances on everything from folk to indie to electronic to experimental. Also, they were incredibly generous with help, advice and contacts when I started up.

    What do you initially look/hope for in a prospective signing?
    Generally I have to like and trust them, but I've never met a couple of our bands, so it really is just how much I love the music. And, of course, if they are happy to work within our limitations, because we are pretty fucking tiny in the grand scheme of things.

    What else should people looking to send you a demo know?
    I don't care about anything but the music, so even just a Bandcamp link is just fine - there's no need to bother with all the accompanying PR bollocks or trying to impress me with achievements because I genuinely don't care. All that matters is if I like the music, and if we basically can get along.

    If push comes to shove, what would be the most satisfying thing you’ve done through the label to date?
    Probably Cold Seeds, because my encouragement helped it happen, to a large extent, and because I was able to do pretty much all the artwork myself, so I felt a lot more involved. Oh, and because it's on vinyl too, which I love, and wish I could afford to release more often.

    What's your biggest selling release to date?
    Meursault - All Creatures Will Make Merry

    Anyone notable that you’re willing to admit you passed up on?
    Hmm, well Sparrow & the Workshop, eagleowl and Withered Hand all turned down the opportunity to release with me, and all at times when I think I could have done a lot for them, honestly speaking. But they've all done so well anyway that I can't imagine any of them regret it for a second!
    I can't think of anyone I've passed up where I have gone on to regret it, though. Because I don't judge the success or failure of a record on a commercial basis, I tend not to get myself in that situation, although there are always more people I want to work with than I practically can, of course.

    What is the future of the common or garden record label?
    Same as it ever was, although they are going to have to learn to become a little more multi-media orientated and a little more interactive, I think. But that's the nature of almost any product nowadays.

    Do you still believe in the physical product?
    Absolutely, but not in the commodity sense as represented by the old CD in a jewel case model. If you want people to buy something physical then you have to make it something very much worth owning.

    One thing you've learned about being a label boss and can pass on to anyone looking to do likewise?
    It's 99% admin and organisation, so unless you are obsessively passionate, don't even consider it. Also, longevity and determination trump show and flash.

    What have you got coming up?
    Yusuf Azak's debut Turn on the Long Wire, then The Savings and Loan's debut Today I Need Light. The in the new year we are going to be releasing Animal Magic Tricks, Trips and Falls' second album, and hopefully records by King Post Kitsch and Jesus H. Foxx. I'm also working on a sort of sub-imprint of the label which will be a little more throwaway, with minimal packaging, digital-only PR work and an emphasis on artists taking chances, experimenting and trying new things. Basically, a way to make a virtue of the more disposable nature of music nowadays and to take proper advantage of new technologies in a similar way to those iconic Penguin paperbacks, back in their day.