Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sweeping The Nation Covermount 6: You Probably Think This Song Is About You

The sixth in our occasional but monthly at the moment series of mixtapes (Sendspace, ZIP file, you know by now) is a single download, which is good for us as much as it is for you. It's also simpler to explain than last month's, as those of you who voted for it in our snap poll a couple of weeks back will appreciate. It's songs about or named after other artists, whether in tribute or to prove an auxiliary point. Got that? Good...

You Probably Think This Song Is About You

Dexys Midnight Runners - Geno [Searching For The Young Soul Rebels]
We open with Kevin Rowland's effusive tribute to the man, and the Ram Jam Band, he skipped school to see live in 1968, only to at the end caution that he himself is now the bigger star. Which is hardly a glowing conclusion

Arthur Conley - Sweet Soul Music [Sweet Soul Music]
Mind you, some were paying tribute to the soul legends while they were still at their height, this released in 1967 by Otis Redding's protege

Van Morrison - Jackie Wilson Said (I'm In Heaven When You Smile) [Saint Dominic's Preview]
The legendarily grumpy Van The Man fancies himself as a soul man every so often. What Wilson said long before his plasticine internment was that it was Reet Petite. How writer Berry Gordy Jnr picked up on Geordie dialect isn't known.

Ian Dury and the Blockheads - Sweet Gene Vincent [New Boots And Panties!!]
Like the hero worshipping Dury, rockabilly pioneer Vincent was struck down by a withered leg, in his case a motorcycle accident while stationed with the US Navy, but overcame it with only a similar in both cases mike stance to suggest the problem

Heinz - Just Like Eddie [Just Like Eddie: The Anthology]
Gene Vincent was injured in the taxi crash in Chippenham that claimed fellow rockabilly pioneer Eddie Cochran's life. Three years later Heinz Burt, scion (and for a short time boyfriend) of Joe Meek and former member of the Tornados, took him back into the top five

Johnny Cash - The Night Hank Williams Came To Town [Johnny Cash Is Coming To Town]
Lots of songs reference Hank - The The brought out an entire covers album entitled Hanky Panky - but Cash, not in a great place within the Nashville orthodoxy at the time, nails the place and time particularly well

The Replacements - Alex Chilton [Pleased To Meet Me]
The great drunken Minneapolis blues-punk anthemists hail their Big Star-leading hero on their lesser, one member down penultimate album. Chilton hated it, apparently

Robyn Hitchcock - Listening To The Higsons [Invisible Hitchcock]
Obscurities at work here - not so much Hitchcock, whose Barrettesque British pastoral whimsy with the Soft Boys and solo is high in its field, but the superior but small selling Norwich high-energy punk-funkers led by Switch, real name Charlie Higson (the famous comedy one, yes)

The Fall - I Am Damo Suzuki [This Nation's Saving Grace]
Mark, Damo Suzuki was a Jehovah's Witness ex-busker whose mantras took Can through the prime of their Krautrock lives, and you are a drunk poet from Salford. And you've ripped off Oh Yeah from Can's Tago Mago for this too

Television Personalities - I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives [...And Don't The Kids Just Love It]
Cambridge, apparently - indeed it's claimed the TVPs were once invited to support Pink Floyd and earned Roger Waters' disgust by actually revealing the supposed address mid-song. Dan Treacy has been about as well as Syd of late too

Devendra Banhart - The Beatles [Cripple Crow]
Gah, those pesky freak folkers, eh? Where Donovan, Marc Bolan and Six Organs Of Admittance's Ben Chasny come into the Spanglish equation we're not so sure

Barenaked Ladies - Brian Wilson [Gordon]
Covered by Wilson at some of his early 00s comeback gigs, which given it's about his own post-Smile depression and withdrawl is good of him

Chris T-T - Eminem Is Gay [single]
Literate socio-political acoustic singer-songwriter compared to William Blake by the Sunday Times poses a "what if...?" poser that's unlikely to have gone down well round Shady way on past evidence

Jonathan Richman - Velvet Underground [I, Jonathan]
Richman actually hung out at the Factory aged eighteen and often cited them as his primary musical influence - witness the use of Sister Ray keyboards in his work. For his own part laughing boy Lou Reed once said "I will not be held responsible for Jonathan Richman"

Pavement - Unseen Power Of The Picket Fence [Crooked Rain Crooked Rain (Special Edition)]
Being Pavement, and this being their default position, it's hard to tell whether this 1994 tribute to REM originally on charity compilation No Alternative given Malkmus seems to suggest they had a part to play in the American Civil War

Minutemen - Political Song For Michael Jackson To Sing [Double Nickels On The Dime]
No lyrical connection to Michael Jackson at all, we just wanted to put some Minutemen on a Covermount

The Period Pains - Spice Girls (Who Do You Think You Are?) [single]
Four 15 year olds apparently from Reading inspired by X-Ray Spex and Bikini Kill to make noisy, satirical, sassy teen-C punk circa 1997, and this was the closest they came to a hit. Mel C was a fan, allegedly. Inevitably. Less inevitably, singer Chloe Alper is now in proggers Pure Reason Revolution

My Robot Friend - We're The Pet Shop Boys [Hot Action!]
Spot-on pastiche from New York performance artists-cum-electronica turn. Excellently, the Pet Shop Boys covered it on the B-side of 2003 single Miracles. Less excellently, Robbie Williams then had a go on Rudebox with Neil and Chris on production and BVs

The French - Gabriel In The Airport [Local Information]
Here's a song we were set fair on getting onto this Covermount whatever happened. The French was a one album project by Darren Hayman and John Morrison after Hefner's split, although a Hefner version is on their rarities album Catfight. We may well bore you rigid about Hayman some day

The Auteurs - The Rubettes [How I Learned To Love The Bootboys]
Denim - The Osmonds [Back In Denim]
And to finish two songs by great British curmudgeons of the nineties, Luke Haines and Lawrence Hayward, that use paragons of 70s glam to take a production-wise similar but distinctly non-rose tinted, easy uncritically nostalgic look back at as much as they can think of from that decade. Does that make sense?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

It'd be remiss of us not to mention

that Los Campesinos! (see overexcited posts passim) are giving away both sides of their new 7" gratis on their new official website, from where you can also order a T-shirt and, erm, admire words.

Also worth consideration: Stereogum's two new Page France tracks and Arcade Fire on Saturday Night Live (via You Ain't No Picasso). Over here, the people's Covermount goes up tomorrow evening...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Weekender : unacceptable in the 80s

Firstly, can we just qualify that this particular tag is nothing to do with us?

FREE MUSIC: Still on the SXSW mp3s, which we expect to be covering for quite some time yet, Art In Manila are the new band of Orenda Fink, formerly of Conor Oberst-associating Americana dreampop duo Azure Ray, and are playing as part of a ridiculously strong Saddle Creek/Memphis Industries joint showcase on the Saturday of that week also featuring Field Music, Tilly And The Wall, the Pipettes, Tokyo Police Club and Cursive. Our Addictions is more than a little Rilo Kiley, a bit Veruca Salt, and very any good.

HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: Cwmbran's Gethin Pearson And The Scenery will no doubt be called the Welsh Bright Eyes before long. In British terms he/they would fit neatly next to Frank Turner or Johnny Flynn, but his particular DNA shares something of Conor Oberst's smartly heartfelt melodic alt-country/Greenwich Village folk for the indie kids approach, right down to the vocal vibrato, although there's echoes of Johnny Cash and the lo-fi antifolkers. Pearson himself describes his songs as being about "nothing, something, no-one, everyone, anything and everything all at the same time", whatever that translates to.

VISUAL REPRESENTATION: News of a Joe Meek film documentary, Something I've Got To Tell You, has been doing the rounds for some time - we might even have mentioned it here before - but it's now awaiting proper release after a showing in London earlier this month curated by, and here's a complete lack of surprise, Bob Stanley - here's the trailer. The last part of Radio 2's fine documentary series about the man and his methods is this Tuesday, and this upswing in interest has encouraged us to head for the vaults. The Tornados are well represented, for one, even if their big moment Telstar is only available in a duff live version, although the bit rhythm guitarist George Bellamy's son Matt ripped off for the intro to Knights Of Cydonia should be just about audible. They had other hits, and we guarantee you'll see little as strange as the video to 1964's Robot this week, while All The Stars In The Sky, complete with Shadows guitar moves, came after bassist Heinz left to go solo to record the likes of Live It Up. Don't overlook that Meek, as well as being the innovator of legend, was really a beat pop man, the Honeycombs' Have I The Right being a number one as well as giving the rhythm guitarist a chance to look far too excitable. Lastly we find Law And Order by the Outlaws, an instrumental outfit made from regular sessioneers including Ritchie Blackmore and Chas Hodges from Chas & Dave.

VIRAL MARKETING: The Kaiser Chiefs' album Yours Truly Angry Mob is out today, and you can make your minds up yourselves with live versions from 4 Music and their Radio 1 gig of Heat Dies Down, The Angry Mob and Highroyds. Plus, because we like you, a French TV cover of I Heard It Through The Grapevine. A camera on the bass! But of course!

FALLING OFF A BLOG: More celebrity blogging this week with the Mystery Jets' own Behind The Bun House, including mp3s and updates on what they're up to.

EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: We mentioned yesterday that the mysterious nature of the Human Knives EP is somewhat compromised by the person behind it explaining exactly who he is on its Myspace. What they do is House Of Tracks, an idiosyncratic monthly Flash magazine which tries to get away with reviewing the self same EP while professing ignorance in its current issue alongside reviews, thinkpieces, random nonsense and interviews with the Noisettes, the 1990s and Good Shoes. The previous thirteen issues are all fully archived too, and we particularly admire the Mixtape feature, a list of bands' favourite songs which throws up the odd pleasant surprise, not least Pennie, the shouty Automatic keyboardist, namechecking Jake Thackray.

IN OTHER NEWS: You're nobody without a podcast these days, which explains Manchester Music Speaks, which appears to be a brainwave by the Greater Manchester tourist board. Six local names will be dropping off their localised thoughts between now and May, starting with Mike Joyce and promising John Robb, Peter Hook, Liam Frost and, distressingly for those of us who'd hoped for some level of musical knowledge, someone the site refers to as Guy Harvey.

IN OTHER OTHER NEWS: Is this why we haven't had a Prefab Sprout album for a while?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

In shops tomorrow: 26/2


All the action in this very busy week is taking place on the vinyl market, where many a 7" of the utmost quality is being unleashed. Where else to start but the debut proper of Los Campesinos!, a band who, let it be known, we were onto within a fortnight of them letting their presence be known to movers and shakers alike. Eight short months later they're selling out venues and have a record in the shops, We Throw Parties You Throw Knives a two minute distillation of their ultrasmart post-tweepop-rock. And since you ask, we can see where we got Heavenly from but not Orange Juice or Khaya. Nobody remembers Khaya in any case. Turning up almost as often in Weekly Sweeps so far this year has been Johnny Flynn, singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist who earns full points in any game of Sweeping The Nation Bingo: he's acoustic and folky, is on a cult indie label (Young & Lost), has connections to both Jeremy Warmsley and Transgressive Records and he makes proper money acting, which we mention as we like a musician with a small scale sideline. Tickle Me Pink is probably better in its demo form on his Myspace than the single version, but both are wistful country noir decorated by Flynn's own fiddle and way with words. Also on 7", Brakes' power chord myth-making of God and the devil playing cards Cease And Desist, the next name off the Swedish production line Tobias Froberg's God's Highway, another limited edition release to make the name of the much tipped Voxtrot in Trouble, a thirtieth anniversary repressing of the Damned's standout Neat Neat Neat and the Human Knives. Do you remember in 2001 someone calling themselves Different Strokes brought out an EP of polyphonic reworkings of Strokes songs? This is the next step forward, a limited edition 7" of MIDI and speech software reworkings of Young Knives songs under the excellent title Voices Of Buttons And Knobs by someone "anonymous and mysterious", according to Transgressive, or "who has their details on their Myspace", according to reality (don't worry, it's nobody famous). Old fashioned CD singles can't compete, unless it's the first salvo from James Murphy's productive imagination and record collection riffing, LCD Soundsystem's North American Scum. The album Sound Of Silver might just be better than their debut overall, but we'll come to that on 11th March. It's already in the top 20, but one last push should see The Gossip's Standing In The Way Of Control home, and then the media really will have a job on attempting to explain Beth Ditto's role in things. We've still not worked out where the Maccabees fit into the UK guitar scene but there's a definite fanbase on the march even if radio remains immune to the charms of About Your Dress. By that token radio has grown positively allergic to Idlewild despite the re-bared teeth of No Emotion. Meanwhile Charlotte Hatherley and CSS both release the wrong singles, I Want You To Know and Off The Hook, for first proper single from The Deep Blue and first single on WEA respectively.


And yes, we will give Yours Truly Angry Mob a cursory mention because despite this clearly being their Life As A Touring Rock Star Is A Bit Shit Really album, to a degree we still believe in the Kaiser Chiefs. Don't pretend those first two singles didn't get you going. In higher climes, while Lycanthropy was IDM folk fable and Wind In The Wires grandiose windswept storytelling, Patrick Wolf's third album The Magic Position has been characterised as his upbeat life-affirming record. Which it is, at least in comparison, being promoted as his shot at the pop firmament. Pop, however, would have to change a lot to accomodate all the ideas and inventive notions captured here, and given time this could make its way onto a few end of year lists. Sean O'Hagan is another auteur, if very different, who has set out his stall over the years in the field of intricately textured and arranged high grade music. Can Cladders, the High Llamas' eighth album, eases back on the Stereolabisms of the previous few to go all arch and classicist. Dean & Britta is Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips, formerly singer and bassist in Luna (and Wareham was before then in the landmark Galaxie 500), and the Tony Visconti produced Back Numbers sees their dulcet Mazzy Star meets Noughties Serge & Brigitte aura littered with 60s cover versions. Compilation of the week is Modular Records' Leave Them All Behind 2, one mixed disc, one proper, featuring Franz Ferdinand, the Go! Team, CSS, Mystery Jets, the Rakes, Malcolm Middleton and Simian Mobile Disco among others. Not the most famous but famously first in the punk wars, the Damned rarely used three chords where two would do on full throttle, Nick Lowe-produced debut Damned Damned Damned, which turned thirty last weekend and so has grown an extra disc. Among those listening in were four teenagers from Dunfermline, The Saints Are Coming: the Best of the Skids presumably out on the back of U2 and Green Day's The Saints Are Coming cover and to finance wherever the hell Richard Jobson's career is going next. Laugh if you want, turn off as you inevitably will, but we loved the Bluetones in their day, and while we're not among the still vocal Blue Army we do think we should get round to upgrading our cassette copy of Expecting To Fly one day. BBC Radio Sessions contains two apiece from Peel and Lamacq's shows, including a Webb Brothers cover. No Good Reason For A Re-Release But Good To Report Anyway corner: Ladytron's first two albums, 604 and Light And Magic, much less human than the more lauded Witching Hour and thus better, we say. Heatmiser were Elliott Smith's melodic punk band, also featuring Sam Coomes of Quasi, and their first two albums Dead Air and Cop And Speeder are also available for visiting.


Occasionally referred to as the best documentary on the subject, the semi-official The Beach Boys: An American Band was made at the start of their critical resurgence, and while it's light on the 80s upheaveals it contains some unmissable studio, concert, TV and rehearsal footage as well as then new interviews throughout.

The Weekly Sweep

  • Arcade Fire - Keep The Car Running [mp3 from Sixeyes]
  • Au Revoir Simone - Fallen Snow [mp3]
  • Bat For Lashes - Trophy [live YouTube] (Subject of our latest live The Art Of Noise live review and an album we've been listening to for the last couple of weeks. It's good, but **SPOILER** it's nothing on the live sound. Oh, and Prescilla is her/their forthcoming single but the re-recorded version almost ruins it)
  • Bishop Allen - Click Click Click [mp3]
  • Brakes - Cease And Desist [YouTube]
  • Cat Power - The Greatest [live YouTube]
  • Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Satan Said Dance [Myspace]
  • Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Thou Shalt Always Kill [Myspace]
  • Dinosaur Jr - Almost Ready [mp3 from Merry Swankster]
  • Feist - My Man, My Moon [mp3 from It's Hard To Find A Friend]
  • iLiKETRAiNS - Spencer Perceval
  • Johnny Flynn - Tickle Me Pink [YouTube]
  • The Kissaway Trail - Smother + Evil = Hurt [mp3]
  • Kubichek! - Nightjoy [Myspace]
  • LCD Soundsystem - North American Scum [YouTube]
  • Loney, Dear - I Am John [YouTube]
  • Los Campesinos! - We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives [YouTube]
  • Lucky Soul - The Great Unwanted [mp3]
  • Maximo Park - Our Velocity [YouTube]
  • McCarthy - Charles Windsor
  • Friday, February 23, 2007

    Plugging a gap

    Off out tonight and short of inspiration, so here's a lazy YouTube embed post. All of these songs are superb, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

    Wednesday, February 21, 2007

    Democracy in action

    Our impromptu Covermount vote has now closed. Thanks for your input, and Covermount 6 will be with you some time in March. If you missed the winning option, it's your own fault.


  • Someone was always going to 'do' Cliff Richard's Wired For Sound video eventually, and it might as well be the Wombats' new one Backfire @ The Disco.

  • After their sterling contributions to Songs To Learn And Sing, Gareth and Tom of Los Campesinos!, who we reckon aren't too bad as you may be aware, have saved a proper interview for Vanity Project.

  • Anyone - who the hell were Forget Me Nots? They turned up on The Vault's 1992 edition of Chart Show Classic on Saturday and we can't recall ever coming across that name before.
  • Monday, February 19, 2007

    Weekender : in the public domain

    FREE MUSIC: South By South West is coming up soon - March 14th-18th, for the record - and that means a new set of mp3s of showcasing bands went up this week. In among the chancers, the deadbeats, the emos and the plain dull The Kissaway Trail stood out. They're already signed to Bella Union in the UK, which makes sense as the Danish outfit deal in a Scandinavian version of the grandiose, multi-layered, slow-burning indie that we heard last year with the same label's My Latest Novel. Smother + Evil = Hurt sounds like countrymen Mew attempting to recreate Mercury Rev's Deserter's Songs to the accompaniment of Wolf Parade.

    HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: Anyone for indie singer-songwriterly electronica? A Million Billion is the project of Brooklyn's Ryan Smith, who's collaborated with Joan As Police Woman and the Fiery Furnaces and remixed Public Enemy and Bloc Party in the past. The first track on the Myspace is layered glitch-driven laptop melody; the second, apart from the aforementioned Like Eating Glass reworking, is driven by textured electronics something akin to Her Space Holiday meets Mercury Rev; the third intimate, fragile and piano-driven like a more wracked version of that Damon Albarn demos collection. Their EP came out last February on Exercise1, the label that debuted Jeremy Warmsley and released the 50 Minutes compilation, so keep an eye out for this one.

    VISUAL REPRESENTATION: Alright, let's go heavy on the Arcade Fire now that people less willing to wait and learn than ourselves have downloaded Neon Bible and made their minds up. So: hipness avatar David Bowie enlisting their help on Five Years and Wake Up at last year's Fashion Rocks; the latter in a foyer in London; joining U2 on stage to do Love Will Tear Us Apart; David Byrne wandering by to add to a cover of This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) and a live version with nobody else famous of My Heart Is An Apple from their EP.

    VIRAL MARKETING: There's a definite buzz, if not yet in the pop market he seems to be being aimed at, about Patrick Wolf's The Magic Position, although it might well be his inert performance on Newsnight Review has dampened it down. In any case he popped by the BBC Collective webmonkeys recently to chat about stuff and perform Bluebells and Secret Garden on ukelele and harp respectively.
    Meanwhile, Indie mp3 has the title track from Lucky Soul's soon come album The Great Unwanted.

    FALLING OFF A BLOG: Telly satirist of some repute Mark X of Broken TV has branched out into Broken FM, which has been slow of late but promises much entertainment. The amateur Mii versions of pop duos is particularly fine, even if he does bail out at three.

    EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: How does Pandora Radio work?

    IN OTHER NEWS: While we're on the subject of music feeds to your specifications, you may notice that over on the sidebar, along with the email (do get in touch), Myspace (do befriend us) and atom feed (do feed off us) links, we've linked to our scrobbladelica. Don't concentrate on ours, it's not hugely accurate what with CD players, Myspace, YouTube, unreadable promos (definitely get in touch if you have those to pass on), the sounds in our head... the reason we bring such self-flagellation up is we also want to keep track of just who reads this rot so we can remap our demographic accordingly and so forth. As such we've set up a Sweeping The Nation group. Do join, in your droves, and convince us that this isn't really a bad idea after all.

    Sunday, February 18, 2007

    In shops tomorrow: 19/2


    Didn't Cat Power's The Greatest come out last year? Yes. Yes, it did, on 7" in January, but to capitalise on the complete lack of reaction from the Brits School crowd in midweek it's coming out on CD. It's no less marvellous for such, of course, but surely it's all downloads now and it's been out on that for a year. Also in our top ten albums of 2006 was M Ward's world-weary folk Americana lament Post-War, from which comes an EP headed by Daniel Johnston cover To Go Home accompanied by three new songs featuring guest spots for Neko Case, My Morning Jacket's Jim James, Giant Sand's Howe Gelb and Saddle Creek avatar Mike Mogis. The Early Years' Kraut-shoegaze sonics have attracted a good deal of attention, and they take a step forward with four new efforts on The Great Awakening EP. Nick Cave's garage psychobilly...what would you call it? 'Side project' somehow doesn't seem to cover its intentions. Anyway, the almost frightening No Pussy Blues - subtle, too - is lifted from their eponymous album. Oh, you want pop, do you? Is it safe to admit our yen for Sophie Ellis Bextor's Catch You, given it's essentially Cathy Dennis channelling Blondie through the medium of our haughtiest vocal vixen? Oh. Alright. Au Revoir Simone, three girls with keyboards and a lovingly winsome synthpop approach. Fallen Snow is the 7" from their forthcoming UK debut album on Moshi Moshi.


    We mentioned our sneaking love of la Ellis-Bextor up there, and we've made the comparison in terms of ice cold diffidence inside warm vocals to Sarah Nixey before now. Not that we're making a direct comparison - Nixey, of course, knows exactly what she's doing when she elevates her vowel sounds, which makes it all the better. Debut solo album Sing, Memory, produced by ex-Auteur and most recently string arranger on A Weekend In The City James Banbury, goes the same way Black Box Recorder's presumably last album Passionoia was heading, less detached but still deep in the heart of sullen electropop, like Xenomania writing for adults. Lord alone knows who Bobby Conn writes for, King For A Day being the sixth release by the mildly disturbing Chicagan multifaceted glam-funk concept disturber whose Never Get Ahead used to turn up on VH1's Worst Videos Ever roundups alongside you Renee & Renatos and Black Laces. The best thing about this was it was never explained who or more likely what this was, just shown without context. Oh, and his drummer is supposedly behind that gay artist 'Bands to watch out for' spoof website that did the message board rounds a couple of weeks ago. Calling an album Yes, I'm A Witch would be something of a masterstroke for Yoko Ono had she not somehow just been deposed after all these years as Least Likeable Ex-Beatle Spouse. Still, the list of admirers adding new backings to Ono's old vocals is impressive - The Flaming Lips, Cat Power, Jason Pierce, Antony Hegarty Public Enemy's Bomb Squad general Hank Shocklee, Le Tigre, The Sleepy Jackson, the Polyphonic Spree, Peaches, Apples in Stereo, the Porcupine Tree, DJ Spooky and a few others. We're glad to see Trojan haven't made the same mistake in the first of their new series of celebrity playlist compilers made by the compilers of Motown Made To Measure, that is putting the selector's picture on the box as if it were their own album, which caused something of a start when Martin Freeman's picks opened proceedings. Jonny Greenwood Is The Controller is as irie as you'd hope and certainly not obscurists only, with Lee Perry and the Upsetters, Desmond Dekker, Gregory Isaacs, the Heptones, Scientist and Junior Byles among those included. Reissues: for us it's the lesser of his two fabled prison albums, and you could buy them together in a double pack last year anyway, but you'd have to do bloody well to deny the impact of Johnny Cash At San Quentin, now in something called a Legacy Edition which means it's grown a CD of rarities and a DVD of a 1969 Granada documentary. McCarthy were for a few years the great lost jangly satirical lefty political band, and then only really mentioned in dispatches as the band Tim Gane was in before Stereolab, but emerging with the not entirely Marxist forum of C86, but Nicky Wire's flagwaving ("the most perfect record, a Communist manifesto with tunes" he told Word) has helped see debut I Am A Wallet get a reissue with extra tracks and Bob Stanley on liner notes. One day Bob Stanley will write liner notes for every reissue, and then we can all rest knowing our jobs are being done well enough for us. The Undertones' True Confessions (Singles = A's & B's) slips back into print, proving that they were even great when they matured, and for no good reason at all beyond sense, a commodity not in evidence in the disputes over the last few years between Eric Idle and Neil Innes, the Rutles' 1996 album Archaeology is back out.


    It won't teach you a lot about where they emerged from or make you feel a lot more confident about their politicised cause, but the Clash's 1980 film Rude Boy is an intriguing historical curio, mixing a screenplay about a fictional roadie with live and studio footage and reportage. Narrative not great, footage very great. Interesting sidenote: the period covered includes the pigeon shooting incident for which Paul Simonon and Topper Headon were arrested and fined despite the defence counsel of David Mellor QC. The Tory minister/toe sucking/6-0-6 twat, yes, although no relation despite sharing a name with Strummer's brother.

    The Weekly Sweep

  • Arcade Fire - (Antichrist Television Blues) [mp3 from beat Lawrence]
  • The Bird And The Bee - I'm A Broken Heart [Myspace]
  • Brakes - Cease And Desist [YouTube]
  • Cajun Dance Party - The Next Untouchable
  • Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Satan Said Dance [Myspace]
  • Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Thou Shalt Always Kill [Myspace; live YouTube]
  • Dexys Midnight Runners - There There My Dear [YouTube]
  • Dinosaur Jr - Almost Ready [mp3 from Pitchfork's Forkcast]
  • The Dirty Backbeats - The Bop [Myspace]
  • Heaven 17 - (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang
  • I Was A Cub Scout - I Hate Nightclubs [Myspace]
  • Johnny Flynn - Tickle Me Pink [Myspace]
  • Kubichek! - Nightjoy [Myspace]
  • LCD Soundsystem - North American Scum [YouTube]
  • Loney, Dear - I Am John [YouTube]
  • Los Campesinos! - We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives [YouTube]
  • Lucky Soul - Add Your Light To Mine, Baby [YouTube]
  • Luke Haines - Leeds United [Myspace]
  • Sky Larkin - Somersault Notes [Myspace]
  • Sondre Lerche - Airport Taxi Reception [mp3 from Under The Rotunda]
  • Saturday, February 17, 2007

    Fuzzy warbling

    We like a cover version that comes out of absolutely nowhere except maverick bravado round here and so practically squealed when the existence of this was made aware to us, so we're making it available for a week just to prove that this did actually happen. From 2003, the much forgotten over here fourth peg in the Britney/Christina/Jessica emoting teen pop starlet explosion of 1999/2000 takes on a classic of British new wave with...scratching! And shouting at the start! And as clunky a key change as you like! And sounding a bit like the Go-Gos meets Hanson! She does The Whole Of The Moon on the album as well.

    Mandy Moore - Senses Working Overtime

    Thursday, February 15, 2007

    An Illustrated Guide To... The Fall

    This week saw the release of Reformation Post TLC (we know it says the 26th February there, but all other evidence points to it having come out on Monday), the 26th studio album, not to mention 60+ live albums, compilations and assorted selections of semi-official detritus, from Manchester's most inelegantly, frustratingly spectacular legends. Or at least legend, that of the irascible reactionary, genius lyricist and man about boozer Mark E Smith, who turns fifty in three weeks, about a decade after his facial features did. What is it that keeps us coming back to this most untrustworthy of frontmen, especially round a bass amp, and whoever he has with him and the missus to carry out and back these satirical/blase/curmudgeonly stream of consciousness cacophanies this week? It's the complete individualism, of the music he marshals as much as his approach, his ability no matter what situation the band finds itself in - and we're aware we're stating this in light of an album receiving mixed reviews, but keep with it - to pick itself up, dust itself down and start all over again, the qualities inherent in this most proletariat of men who has nevertheless collaborated in the fields of modern ballet and experimental theatre, not to mention the weird final tracks on some of those albums. We'll never properly understand him, perhaps not even after his autobiography-of-sorts Renegade: The Lives And Tales Of Mark E Smith is released in June, but we can give the music the once-over. This is going to be a long and involved effort, so strap yourselves in because the famed musician turnover is actually the most linear thing about them.

    Mark Edward Smith, born 5th March 1957 in Prestwich, wasn't allowed a record player until the age of fourteen and was actively discouraged from reading by his father, neither of which stopped him from building up a knowledge of the Stooges, the Groundhogs and Van Der Graaf Generator on one side and Philip K Dick, H P Lovecraft and Wyndham Lewis on the other. Although he'd already been formulating band ideas with girlfriend Una Baines and friends Martin Bramah and Tony Friel it was, like pretty much everyone else from Manchester who went on to record anything over the following ten years, seeing one of the two Sex Pistols gigs at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in mid-1976 that convinced them to make a proper go of it. Taking their name from an Albert Camus book - Smith has claimed they were briefly considering becoming Flyman And The Fall, with him dressed as a fly and ending every sentence "bzzzz" - the Fall played their first gig in May 1977 in a musicians' collective rehearsal space. The stand-in drummer became the first man to be sacked by Smith before the second outing. Early on they were considered a political band, Tony Parsons and Paul Morley marking them out as such in the NME, and despite Friel, who'd suggested the name, leaving at the end of the year over the influence of manager Kay Carroll, who believes she was brought in to speed up that process, things were promising, not least when a feature article in the year's last Melody Maker emerged. Baines departed in April after two nervous breakdowns and a hospitalisation just after the band had been filmed by Granada TV as what we'd now call hype developed. Yvonne Pawlett joined on keyboard and a fourth bass player was found in sixteen year old roadie Marc Riley. After signing to Step Forward in mid-1978 an EP recorded a year earlier featuring Psycho Mafia, Bingo-Master's Break Out and Repetition was their first proper release. Adrian Thrills quite brilliantly described Smith's live vocal style at the time as a cross between Johnny Rotten and Eddie Waring.

    Bingo Master's Break-Out

    A second single, It's The New Thing, railed, ironically, against the media chasing the latest craze before another member, drummer Karl Burns, departed. Rockabilly drummer Mike Leigh, who wore full Teddy Boy regalia onstage, came in. The first album, Live At The Witch Trials, was recorded in two days. Crap Rap 2 - Like To Blow set out their stall: "We are the Fall/Northern white crap that talks back", among the melodic cheap keyboards, scratchy guitars, jerky punk energy, guarded drug references, threatening and curious lyrical concerns and repetitive rhythms bordering on the avant-garde. They started, essentially, as they meant to go on.

    Bramah left midway through the album's promo tour to join girlfriend Baines in the Blue Orchids after another falling out with Carroll. Smith, already the only original member two years into the Fall's life, pulled Craig Scanlon and Steve Hanley out from the road crew. Pawlett then departed just before the band went back into the studio for three days to record Dragnet, mostly Smith/Riley co-writes and preceded by the spectacular careering valium dependency warning of a single Rowche Rumble. Dragnet, which features a thank you to the engineer "for his trust", is like a lo-fi Velvet Underground and in Spectre Vs Rector features the first lyrical flowerings of Smith's gothic horror obsession. The eighties opened with rockabilly post-punk single Fiery Jack ("the sort of guy I can see myself as in twenty years" averred Smith) before an ill-fated co-headlining tour with the Cramps convinced Leigh to go back to the cabaret bands from whence he came, replaced by Steve's brother Paul Hanley. Moving onto Rough Trade, live album Totales Turns (It's Now Or Never) became their first independent chart number one despite opening with the endearment "the difference between you and us is that we have brains" before two magisterial singles, July's How I Wrote Elastic Man, Smith's caustic portrayal of a writer torn apart by advancing fame, and September's ode to speed Totally Wired. Fourth album Grotesque (After The Gramme) came in November, refining what Smith was terming 'Country 'n' Northern' into furious rockabilly-influenced shouting of the odds, not least on nine minute closer The N.W.R.A., a cautionary tale about what might happen in the event of a northern uprising.

    April 1981's six track mini-album Slates, co-produced by Adrian Sherwood, Geoff Travis and longtime contributor Grant Showbiz, filled the gap with a better quality and more abrasive sound. Leave The Capitol would later be played by Jeremy Vine on Radio 2 to punctuate a debate on the congestion charge, forgetting about the swearing, Vine later reporting that a station production assistant pulled him aside after the show to mention "I think that was at the wilder shores of where we want to be musically". Arguments about promotion and distribution led to the band quitting Rough Trade afterwards for Kamera, a start-up of Saul Galpern, whose later label Nude handled Suede among others. Karl Burns then returned from session work for the likes of Public Image Ltd and John Cooper Clarke, primarily as a European tour stand-in for Paul Hanley and then as a second drummer. November single Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul was accompanied by Smith appearing on the NME cover photographed by Anton Corbijn. It didn't make him look a great deal better.

    March 1982's Hex Enduction Hour had a cover festooned with cryptic one-liners and featured an improvised track recorded in a studio in a cave in Iceland. Remarkably, legend has it that Motown were interested in signing the group a couple of years later, until they heard the first thirty seconds of opener The Classical. An astounding work, difficult to get into but impossible to leave be, such is the intensity and the tightly wound lyricism. The first Fall album to break the top 75, many have this down as the masterwork, if probably not the place to start your Fall collection. Frank Skinner, who was converted a couple of years ago and famously aided David Baddiel in covering How I Wrote Elastic Man at the end of an Unplanned, seems to have adopted this as his theme tune.

    Jawbone And The Air-Rifle

    Style cauterising single Look, Know followed a month later in the midst of a six month world tour of sorts that included a stopover in New Zealand, where Totally Wired had just gone top twenty. With little time to breathe, Room To Live emerged in October, a seven track mini-album that was heavily satirical, constructed in a more experimental way and didn't win a lot more fans. Smith had toyed with these being the last two Fall albums; they were definitely the last two with this line-up, as after a series of rows and a public fist fight in Australia Riley departed at the end of the year, releasing four albums with the quietly effective if not dissimilar Creepers before going into label running, plugging and finally radio tomfoolery.

    Kamera went bankrupt early in 1984, the Fall returning tail between legs to Geoff Travis at Rough Trade. There was also a change at the top as the rarely to be messed with manager Carroll, the woman often credited as an equal driving force behind The Fall's inability to stand still, was unceremoniously left behind in America. Single The Man Whose Head Expanded, about a man who believes his life is being reused for soap opera scripts, and a couple of live albums filled time while another woman was entering the equation - Laura Elisse Salenger, Brix to one and all, a Chicago-based student who met Smith in April and married him in July. The great modern football evisceration Kicker Conspiracy came in October and an appearance on The Tube, a condition of John Peel's guest presenting slot, followed a month later before December saw Perverted By Language, featuring Brix on additional guitar and an unspoken effect on Smith's writing that diverted the band's sound bit by bit towards the mainstream. Smith has disowned the recording process and reviews were mixed, but Eat Y'self Fitter is one of the great Fall album openers. The accompanying longform video Perverted By Language Bis is mad. Rough Trade were soon Fall-less again, all band parties unhappy with the promo budget and promised bigger vistas by Beggars Banquet, kicking off with 1984 singles Oh! Brother and C.R.E.E.P., both produced by John Leckie, and in November a Whistle Test performance of Lay Of The Land accompanied by avant-garde dancer Michael Clark's company. These all came from The Wonderful And Frightening World Of The Fall, their biggest chart hit to date (62) and ending with an almost proper ballad in Disney's Dream Debased. Smith's otherwise atypically reactionary hopes for 1985, as detailed to Melody Maker, included "twenty four hour TV", "friendly landlords" and "less careerists and more genuine purists". Instead he lost Paul Hanley - the usual reasons - which reduced the number of drummers back down to one but multi-instrumentalist Simon Rogers, who'd had a number 12 single in 1982 as part of panpipe-friendly outfit Incantation, kept the headcount steady. Odds and sods compendium Hip Priest And Kamerads filled the gap before another Fall landmark, This Nation's Saving Grace. With Leckie again at the controls, this is as accessible as they'd ever get, that is to say not very. As if to demonstrate, the accompanying single Cruiser's Creek's video featured Leigh Bowery.

    Couldn't Get Ahead

    Brix's own band The Adult Net (taken from Wonderful And Frightening World's Stephen Song) started in the same year, four poppy singles in two years featuring assorted Fall members, chiefly Rogers, and friends under pseudonyms. Karl Burns left again in June 1986, supposedly because Mark disapproved of his girlfriend, and was replaced by Simon Wolstencroft, who had previously been in The Colourfield with Terry Hall and non-recording outfits The Patrol with Ian Brown and John Squire and Freak Party with Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke. July's Living Too Late was an odd choice of single, obscure US garage cover Mr Pharmacist two months later more sure-footed, putting them into the Guinness Book Of British Hit Singles with a number 75 smash. Bend Sinister cracked the album top 40 in October but nobody involved looks back on it fondly, Leckie jumping ship afterwards claiming that the album's muffled sound was due to Mark insisting that the mastertape be a proper chrome Dolby C90. It's got US 80's-90's and Bournemouth Runner on it, so it's not a washout by any means. Simon Rogers also left shortly afterwards to embark on a career that enveloped Boy George's E-Zee Possee project, the Lightning Seeds, Terry Hall and Ibiza house production, Marcia Schofield promoted from the Adult Net as replacement just in time to see Mark and Brix participate in Michael Clark's 'fantasy documentary' Hail The New Puritan and then be given a role in the former's near impenetrable and not tremendously well received play Hey! Luciani, about the conspiracies surrounding the death of Pope John Paul I. Smith wrote part of the script on beer mats and delivered the final draft in a shoebox. Mark Lawson, reviewing it for the Independent, chose to compare it unfavourably to Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights, but then that's Mark Lawson for you.

    Something big nearly happened in April 1987 when a cover of R Dean Taylor's There's A Ghost In My House made it to number 30. It didn't get them on Top Of The Pops, but ITV's The Roxy came calling for storming October follow-up Hit The North, even if it didn't get past number 57. Mark's own label Cog Sinister was formed at the end of the year primarily for reissues, kicking off with 1980-1983 grab-bag Palace Of Swords Reversed, while a version of the Kinks' Victoria became a second top 40 breakthrough single the following January, followed by a number 19 album in the uneven The Frenz Experiment. Pretension be damned, Smith and Clark now collaborated on a full blown ballet, I Am Curious, Orange, taking the Glorious Revolution of 1688 as a very loose start point and performed in full in Amsterdam, the Edinburgh Festival and Sadler's Wells. The dance establishment hated it, the music press lapped it up. The Ian Broudie-produced I Am Kurious Oranj failed to make the top 40 or a lot of sense, a cover of William Blake's Jerusalem being the single, but was the better of the year's two albums despite its necessarily piecemeal origins. This track is as close as they come to an anthemic set closer these days.

    Big New Prinz

    It was during the I Am Curious, Orange performances that cracks emerged in Mark and Brix's marriage, the pair seperating in January, although she didn't officially leave the band for another six months, the same month the Adult Net's bubblegum summer pop album The Honey Tangle was finally released after being re-recorded under Ramones and Blondie producer Craig Leon with a band including Blondie's Clem Burke and fifth Smith Craig Gannon. Back at the Fall, the band's contract with Beggars Banquet ended as they stepped up to Phonogram. Back came Martin Bramah on guitar, Smith moving back to Manchester after spending much of the year finding himself in Edinburgh, and the nineties opened with a Coldcut collaboration single that found the groove in the Fall Sound and included a namecheck that Mark has since said he didn't realise was that of an Eastenders actress until much later.

    Telephone Thing

    Extricate, produced by Coldcut, Adrian Sherwood and Craig Leon, was the major label debut, full of subtlety and piledriving alike, the genuinely emotion wringing Bill Is Dead ending up top of John Peel's Festive 50. So obviously it was time to tear things apart again, new partners Bramah and Schofield were thrown out after Mark and Marcia fell out. The underrated High Tension Line followed a couple more covers as a Christmas single, accompanied by Beggars Banquet's 458489 A-Sides and B-Sides compilations. Next up, give or take Hip Priest's curious appearance in Silence Of The Lambs, was Shift-Work in April 1991, seeing Dave Bush join on programming, but the long hinted at dancier direction didn't yet come to pass, instead overall as tender as the band would ever be, Edinburgh Man especially. It made number 17, a best to date. "Notebooks out, plagiarists" Smith suggested in the sleevenotes, a year ahead of Pavement's Slanted And Enchanted. April 1992's Code:Selfish was previewed by the dance beats and trouble in free Europe hypothesising lyrics of Free Range, the Fall's third and last to date top 40 single, and was generally influenced by Bush's programming, opening with splenetic ex-manager attack The Birmingham School Of Business School. A first Glastonbury in ten years followed, accompanied by single Ed's Babe, before Phonogram were cast aside in a dispute over the schedule for the next album and failure to act on US releases, all but ending Mark E's lasting hopes of pop crossover success. Permanent Records' first release was Lee Perry-derived cover Why Are People Grudgeful? in April 1993, followed by The Infotainment Scan. Remarkably, the electro-intricate stew, including a cover of Lost In Music, a returning Karl Burns and on A Past Gone Mad the declaration "if I ever end up like Ian McShane/cut my throat with a garden tool", made number 9, the last Fall entry into the top 40. At the end of the year Behind The Counter made it to Radio 1's playlist, if not the large end of the chart. Smith was becoming ever more erratic live by now, except in March 1994 he got the opportunity to show off to a national prime-time audience, guesting on the Inspiral Carpets' thunderous number 17 single I Want You (another Festive 50 topper) in tuxedo reading the lyrics badly off a crumpled sheet of A4 on Top Of The Pops. 1994 also saw Smith's second divorce, women's magazine critique single 15 Ways, the not tremendously great Middle Class Revolt in May, a series of onstage fights and in August the last thing anyone expected, Brix Smith's return.

    Cerebral Caustic is another one Mark doesn't have much time for, feeling it too reflective of his own troubled life at the time. It was less technologically minded then the recent output, which led to Dave Bush's departure, joining Elastica for the tortured last few years of their existence (Mark later contributed to their comeback How He Wrote Elastica Man EP). He was replaced by Julia Nagle, who had previously been a sound engineer tutored by Martin Hannett and who'd worked on Bend Sinister. The Twenty Seven Points was, of all things, a double live CD, plus home demos and out-takes, apparently not enough for Mark, who led the band off Permanent and onto Receiver Records after a dispute over the volume of releases. As if to prove the point 1996 opened with four seperate live/rarity albums in four months, none of much use, and Smith would later disown the idea. By this time Scanlon had already walked out after being singled out for Mark E's own special relationship, the press release claiming it was for "failure to maintain amps and slovenly appearance". Mark E Smith, as Mark Radcliffe noted at the time, sacking a band member for their slovenly appearance. Smith would later admit that Scanlon is the only ex-member he regrets losing. Somewhere amid all this was the underrated if all over the shop The Chiselers single, followed by The Light User Syndrome in June, another mish-mash with only Cheetham Hill really worth the journey apart from the single. An October tour saw Brix quit after a fight during a soundcheck (she returned for the tour closer in London before permanently resigning), two last minute cancellations and a show in Worthing that led to the fee being withheld, the PA company withdrawing its products and the tour promoters abandoning involvement after Smith threw the mike and stand into the audience, disappeared for a stretch and then collapsed two songs after reappearing.

    1997 started better, Brix replaced first by Adrian Flanagan (now electropop loon Kings Have Long Arms) and then Tommy Crooks, who'd also designed the work The Twenty Seven Points' cover was based on. Burns quit again and then returned again after Wolstencroft quit for good. Artful Records, home of many an amateurish live album, was new home for Levitate, which saw the return of lead keyboards and even the odd breakbeat, becoming the first in a long line of albums to be described as "the best Fall album since Extricate". The year's only complete band temporary sacking came in Belfast in November. The NME Brat Awards, which younger readers may like to know did once mean something, gave him the Godlike Genius gong the following February, the same month as the single of Masquerade featured a B-side co-written by and featuring on guitar an unknown Damon Gough, who Smith had met while drunk thinking Gough's car was a taxi and leaving a jacket and false teeth behind. Then, in a March/April 1998 US tour, it fell apart, Smith receiving a black eye after an altercation with Nagle and a phone receiver on the day of the first gig, being abandoned mid-song by his band in Philadelphia and then in New York picking fights with Burns and Crooks onstage. The following morning Smith was arrested on third degree assault and harrassment charges relating to Nagle, eventually bound over for anger management and alcohol treatment programmes. Burns (supposedly at the ninth time of asking), Crooks and Hanley (the longest serving Fall musician ever, at 19 years) all cut their losses, later forming Ark with Paul Hanley, the brothers last seen together in ex-Inspiral Carpets singer Tom Hingley's band The Lovers. A London Dingwalls gig went ahead with Nagle, who had attempted to get the New York charges dropped, drummer Kate Themen and backing tapes, Smith having shortly beforehand coined the famous quote "if it's me and your granny on bongos it's a Fall gig". Guitarist Neville Wilding, bassist Adam Helal and full-time drummer Tom Head filled out the ranks (Smith in the Guardian: "I can walk down the street in Glasgow and get nineteen year olds...I don't go through the chords with them, I just brainwash 'em") while Smith released spoken word album The Post-Nearly Man. The new line-up made its debut with pounding future Vauxhall Corsa advert soundtrack Touch Sensitive followed by The Marshall Suite, both transitional and better than most of the recent output. Plain sailing? Of course not - Smith appeared at the Reading festival with a bloodied nose after fighting with Wilding and with Chemical Brothers co-manager Nick Dewey an emergency replacement behind the drumkit after Head was 'dropped off' on the way (he rejoined a day later). Grant Showbiz returned for the first time since Grotesque for 2000's The Unutterable, a return to proper form with furious riffing, inventive twists and turns and prime oddball lyricism.

    Dr Buck's Letter

    Head's acting commitments meant he had to sit out for a while, replaced by Intastella's Spencer Birtwistle, before Wilding and Helal left over money disputes, replaced respectively by Ben Pritchard, the first Fall member not to have been born when Live At The Witch Trials was released, and Jim Watts. This led Nagle to resign, Birtwistle following her out just after hugely underwhelming Are You Are Missing Winner, outdone by A World Bewitched, a compilation of singles, rarities, B-sides and Mark's work with others. 2002 was quieter - Totally Wired - The Rough Trade Anthology compiled the best of some of the band's best moments, a US tour was cancelled when the manager forgot to renew the band's passports in time, Pander! Panda! Panzer! was Smith's second entry in the spoken word market, and the present Mrs Smith Elena Poulou joined on keyboards. Jim Watts was sacked for the usual lack of a decent reason in March 2003, replaced by Simon Archer, just before the release of Country On The Click. Or not - after it leaked onto the Internet a furious Smith re-recorded and remixed part of the album and retitled it The Real New Fall LP, another recent high water mark. A re-recorded Theme From Sparta FC came out as a single the following spring, the accompanying tour seeing Smith break his hip slipping on ice in Newcastle, performing some gigs from a wheelchair and some sat behind a table. Archer left to join PJ Harvey's band, Steven Trafford coming in, while Pritchard was busying himself - after Smith walked out of a US tour blaming the band and tour management he got sacked, then reinstated, then resigned due to "irreconcilable differences", then reconciled them. Somewhere in the middle Jim Watts returned on guitar rather than bass, only to depart again six months later, while Spencer Birtwistle returned to the drumkit. Somewhere in the middle the Smith-curated 50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong: 39 Golden Greats, the cover also spoofing the similarly titled Elvis compilation, drew everything released on every label together for the first time.

    The Fall's biggest fan passed away in October 2004, and all 97 tracks from 24 sessions were compiled the following April on The Complete Peel Sessions 1978-2004. October saw the first new material release on Sanctuary records, home of the travelling showmen, Fall Heads Roll, another strong set buzzing with energy and, well, buzzing guitars. It earned them a spot on Later With Jools Holland, Smith and co choosing to wave at the camera rather than participate in the opening jam. More bizarrely, Smith would later turn up on the BBC's Score Interactive to relay the final scores of November 19th, Sparta FC, which had been the final Peel Festive 50 winner, having been co-opted as its theme. Even the musical trends of the day seemed to be turning their way, although Smith cautioned "If I could afford a lawyer, I just might pull an injunction on them mentioning our name". Then, inevitably, it all collapsed again. During a gig in Phoenix, Arizona in May the singer with openers The Talk got into a fight with Smith after throwing a banana peel at him during a song, Mark deciding to settle matters in the car park regardless of the inconvenience of his being halfway through a song. Pritchard, Birtwistle and Trafford all resigned in protest, their American label hiring a set of labelmates for the rest of the tour who Smith decided to take on permanently - Tim Presley and Rob Barbato of Darker My Love and Orpheo McCord of The Hill. It is this version, the 53rd lineup incorporating 56 members by one count, that appears on the new album. This almost certainly will not be the end of the matter.

    Wednesday, February 14, 2007

    A Friendly Chat With... Katie Harkin of Sky Larkin

    Leeds trio Sky Larkin are, it's fair to say, going places. Beneficiaries of much circulated mp3s and Myspace presence, they've spent the last year sharpening their angular pop craft, being voted hottest UK band of the moment by Nothing But Green Lights' panel and supporting many a fine band. They released their debut 7" on Dance To The Radio last month and in a couple of weeks they're heading off on a UK music blogger's wet dream of a bill supporting Los Campesinos! Before that their singer/guitarist has a few questions to answer...

    How would you describe yourselves?
    33.3% blonde ape, 33.3% Welsh low frequency hair, 33.3% banshee.

    Take us through the story of the band to date.
    I went to study in london, started writing songs that would become Sky Larkin early 2005, did some demos with Nestor around my 19th birthday (Traits And Traitors is from this session), Lindsay joined and we had our first gig September 2005. 2006, gigged when we could (I've been at uni in London, the others are in Leeds). Summer 2006 Doug joined (Lindsay left to concentrate on her other band Mother Vulpine), we played at Leeds Festival and with Howling Bells, Broken Social Scene and as part of the ¡Forward Russia! Leeds residency. Autumn 2006 played with The Gossip, recorded single with Andy Sterolab. Single came out January 2007, also in January we were asked to play in Stockholm with the 1990s. We love pear cider; we love Sweden. March we tour with Los Camp, April we will have new material coming out on a Dance To The Radio compilation, May I have exams, and June perhaps another single coming out... Sorry if that sounds confused!

    Is Dance To The Radio's increasing presence a sign of a healthy scene in Leeds?
    Absolutely, and the compilation they're putting out in April reflects that.

    How do you write songs?
    As I'm in London until I finish my degree this year, I write whilst I'm away from the boys and bring the songs home to them. We then work out what they're supposed to be when they grow up.

    You're showing signs of becoming a hype band, both through NME notices and the love of music bloggers - something to welcome or fear?
    For me a 'hype' band is one that's thrown at people and has something externally imposed on them - I think we've had a much more organic journey than that. I welcome any outlet with which we can communicate our music with people - that's why we're opening our mouths in the first place. It's a strange kind of reverse snobbery to shun the opportunity to do so because of what you think a publication stands for. We're thankful for the warmth we've got so far and especially from the Internet as for the most part it's people writing for free and reading for free.

    What did you grow up listening to, and what have you been liking recently?
    In terms of childhood Doug grew up listening to a lot of folk, Nestor grew up listening to a lot of dub and I grew up listening to a lot of 80s rock. The most recent gigs I've been to have been Joanna Newsom, Bloc Party/Metric, Sarah Williams and Napoleon IIIrd. I've rediscovered my love of M83 this week.

    Many thanks to Katie and by extension her band. Sky Larkin have a Myspace, obviously. Tour dates with Los Campesinos!, who we may have typed a couple of things about in the past: March 1st Nottingham Social, 2nd Birmingham Barfly, 3rd Glasgow Capitol, 4th Manchester Late Rooms, 5th London Spitz.

    Monday, February 12, 2007

    Weekender : not centaurs

    FREE MUSIC: A doozy, frankly, when this turned up for download - the steel pan-friendly single mix of Peter Bjorn & John's Let's Call It Off as adapted from our 21st favourite album of 2006 Writer's Block.

    HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: While the NME starts considering whether they didn't shoot their bolt a bit early with the whole Horrors thing, it's good to know some people have a quieter but far more effective and original handle on psych-garage. The Dirty Backbeats, for instance, who we saw far too early on the Sunday of their local festival Summer Sundae in 2005 and were consequently mildly confused by. They've since caught the ear of Mark Lamarr (they're in session on his Friday/Saturday overnight show next month) and Marc Riley among others with a highly ear-pricking stew of mad Beefheartian swamp blues and Nuggets-esque scrappy psychedelic rock of the type that pre-empted punk.

    VISUAL REPRESENTATION: We're still on the odd TV performance rounds with a song to remind people who've heard the new Madness single that there was a time when Suggs didn't just lend his name to anything. There are many fascianting things about his cover of Suedehead on Danny Baker After All in 1993 - the slip into Our Frank towards the end, the washboard player, the possibly ironic shades and the fact relayed on the credits, some way before current Grauniad scribe Jacques Peretti's researcher namecheck, that that's your actual Mark Kermode off The Culture Show and Simon Mayo on 5 Live on double bass. Feel free to add "compared to Hundred Reasons' version of How Soon Is Now this is Citizen Kane" where necessary.

    VIRAL MARKETING: In the week a Schla La Las video turned up on UKNova, we're instead covering something that isn't a forthcoming album at all, unless they're planning a live set, but we had to find room for it - the Decemberists and Robyn Hitchcock covering the latter's Madonna Of The Wasps this week in London. Damn you all for getting to one of those gigs where we didn't! (Actually, the Decemberists premiered the 16 Military Wives video as a torrent, didn't they?)

    FALLING OFF A BLOG: As well as being responsible for the beats half of this year's first proper breakout cult single, Thou Shalt Always Kill, Dan Le Sac has an occasional podcast and musical thoughts area.

    EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: Clearly written in an age before widespread broadband, a Dexys Midnight Runners audio archive featuring Kevin Rowland covering Thunder Road and some soundalike moments from soul history set against Dexys classics.

    IN OTHER NEWS: Never mind the Dixie Chicks, they're rubbish no matter who produces them or who they rail against. Hats off to some of the lesser newly minted Grammy statuette owners: the Flaming Lips won their second Rock Instrumental Performance for The Wizard Turns On..., Peter 'Sonic Youth is in my cooler' Frampton got Pop Instrumental Album, the fussily titled R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals was a cover of Family Affair by John Legend and Joss Stone, the Jazz Instrumental Solo and Large Jazz Ensemble Album champeen was Michael Brecker's Some Skunk Funk, Here It Goes Again was inevitable Best Video, Wings For Wheels: The Making Of Born To Run was best long form video wherever that boundary is set, a James Taylor song written by Randy Newman for Cars was the best for a film, Enya apparently now qualifies as New Age, Jacques Lu Cont's reworking of Coldplay's Talk was top remix, and never mind the cross-channel hilarity engendered by a category rewarding polka (Polka in Paradise by Jimmy Sturr And His Orchestra, if you must), Wolfmother won something (Hard Rock Performance). Wolfmother.

    Sunday, February 11, 2007

    In shops tomorrow: 12/2


    A lull after the last couple of frenzied weeks, only especially notable for the Decemberists' inevitably excellent O Valencia coming out on 7". Dammit, why couldn't we get to see them on tour last week? ¡Forward Russia! make a sojourn into actual track titles with the sprawling eight minutes of Don't Be A Doctor on limited edition 10", a very late 7" single, Empty, is sprung from Metric's album, and amazingly some people do still release singles on CD, Liam Frost and the Slowdown Family's luscious She Painted Pictures getting another go.


    In the week of release of an album called A Gothic Acoustic Tribute To Evanescence we perhaps need The Fall more than ever. Peel may have gone, Mark E may be a month away from the fiftieth birthday he's looked like he's been well past for the best part of a decade, but number 27, Reformation Post TLC, finds them on familiar form - opaque, pisstaking lyrics over rockabilly-influenced full throttle reptitive grooves by some people who weren't in the band on the last album. There's more than a touch of Fall about Tokyo Police Club's lyrically dystopian non-sequiturs and raw pre-punk approach, eight tracks in eighteen minutes A Lesson In Crime also introducing us to their Strokesian sinewy guitars and clattering neo-futuristic garage. Another winner from Memphis Industries, by and large. Kevin Barnes's latest set of playful multilayered electrodanceindiepop as Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?, delicately conceals a dark lyrical heart reflecting Barnes' depression and seperation and is very much a grower. Soul Jazz Records, for some reason, are behind Do It Yourself: The Rise Of The Independent Music Industry, which kicks off as only a 1970s DIY compilation can, the Buzzcocks' Boredom, and progresses through among others Scritti Politti (another outing for Skank Bloc Bologna), the Fire Engines, Swell Maps, Throbbing Gristle, Patrik Fitzgerald, Blurt and Mick Hucknall's first group The Frantic Elevators. (And before you pull out that Observer interview, lest we forget Hucknall has provided a business model from scratch for self-releasing material in the post-Internet age, was at the first Sex Pistols Lesser Free Trade Hall gig, helped form Blood & Fire records to reissue his favourite obscure reggae and his company manage Stina Nordenstam and invest in DrownedInSound, so let's not judge him entirely on Stars.) Where were we? The Triptych: Mixed By Fred Deakin is a typically obtuse mix selection from half of Lemon Jelly which veers across three CDs between the Selecter, BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Pete Seeger, Japan, Mama Cass, Thin Lizzy, Siouxsie & The Banshees, N.O.R.E., Supergrass, Saint Etienne, Jesus & Mary Chain, Bernard Cribbins...and CDs two and three have a decent range on too. If you find a better run anywhere than CD2's P Funk Allstars/George Michael/The Seeds/Sounds Orchestral/Pentangle, do get in touch, if you're that desperate to pass the information on. The only good thing about Stiff Records' name being revived just for releasing records by The Enemy (who describe it as a "punk label" on their press release, which doesn't cover a tenth of its story) is that Warner, who bought it off Universal, who bought it off Island, who bought it off Dave Robinson and Jake Riviera, neither of whom would have given The Enemy a second hearing, is that should mean a set of reissues are on the way. Certainly here's the marque being used, even if Amazon briefly made our head really spin like Linda Blair in an owl sancturary by crediting it to ZTT, for a debut CD issue of ultracaustic rock'n'roll singer-songwriter Wreckless Eric's 1980 LP Big Smash which, as with some versions of the original, features an earlier material odds'n'sods second disc.


    Even if it all contradicts itself, interview compilations from classically caustic singers are always worthwhile, and few have obfusticated their mythology in so much tale telling and scene-setting over the years more than Tom Waits. Innocent When You Dream covers thirty years of chats, reviews and profiles including input from Elvis Costello, Charles Bukowski and Jim Jarmusch.

    The Weekly Sweep

  • Brakes - Cease And Desist
  • Chris T-T - A To Z [Myspace] (And about time too - it's been a while since the boiling over folky intelligence of 9 Red Songs, and it's good to hear he's slowly going, if not mad, then certainly very wrong again)
  • Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Thou Shalt Always Kill [Myspace]
  • The Early Years - Say What I Want To [Myspace]
  • Emmy The Great - Two Steps Forward [Myspace] (Not entirely certain what it is yet, or if it's the Moshi Moshi 7" she speculated about in our Friendly Chat, but we note Fyfe Dangerfield has arranged her next single, which Jeremy Warmsley's also contributed to. Speaking of whom...)
  • Fireworks Night - When We Fell Through The Ice [Myspace] (Johnny Flynn, Noah And The Whale and The Mules are in their top friends, so on they go to our ever evolving Pete Frame-esque Jeremy'n'Emmy Rock Family Tree)
  • Future Of The Left - Fingers Become Thumbs! [Myspace]
  • goFASTER>> - She Starts Monday [Myspace] (And so 2007, The International Year Of The Extraneously Punctuated Band Name, continues with speedy Liverpudlian spiky pop)
  • Johnny Flynn - Tickle Me Pink [Myspace]
  • Kubichek! - Nightjoy [Myspace]
  • LCD Soundsystem - North American Scum [YouTube]
  • Los Campesinos! - We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives [YouTube]
  • Lucky Soul - Add Your Light To Mine, Baby [YouTube] (At least one person we know is in this. It's also following the traditional Lucky Soul/STN path of being the least good thing we've heard from them on first listen, which means that by April we'll be listening to little else in the same way as we've been endlessly playing Ain't Never Been Cool over the last fortnight)
  • Mint Royale feat. Lauren Laverne - Don't Falter [YouTube]
  • Patrick Wolf - Bluebells [YouTube]
  • Rumble Strips - Alarm Clock
  • Sky Larkin - One Of Two [YouTube]
  • Stereolab - French Disko
  • Untitled Musical Project - Beards And Drugs [Myspace]
  • Vic Godard and the Subway Sect - Ambition (great off-beam 1978 punk, even if heavily tinkered with by Bernie Rhodes - no video, but a version of it starts this documentary rehearsal and interview footage)
  • Thursday, February 08, 2007

    This Is Not An mp3 Blog #2

    And this wasn't meant to be a weekly feature either, but there you go, that's the pace at which new music runs these days. Everything up for seven days only, we've got a new Illustrated Guide to post next week and will need the space for that.

    Cajun Dance Party - Colourful Life
    There really needs to be a term coined for this current crop of spiky, spiteful under-18 bands that are the subject of broadsheet pieces about the youth-led democratisation of modern music or somesuch. No doubt these are the leaders of whatever it'll be termed, south London sixteen year olds now signed to XL, sounding here like the Cure meets Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, luckily not also resembling either band's singer.

    Sons And Daughters - The War On Love Song
    This typically fraught, untypically dusty offering from the few more dark Glasgwegians comes from Ballads Of The Book, a project inaugurated by Roddy Woomble in which Scottish poets and writers provide text for assorted acts to turn into songs. Released on 5th March on Chemikal Underground, Also featuring are Norman Blake, Emma Pollock, Aidan Moffat, Malcolm Middleton, Vashti Bunyan, James Yorkston, Aereogramme, King Creosote, Karine Polwart, Alasdair Roberts, the Trashcan Sinatras among others, with Ian Rankin, AL Kennedy and Edwin Morgan among those weighing in on the poetic side.
    Pre-order Ballads Of The Book

    Wiretree - Notion
    Wiretree is singer/multi-instrumentalist Kevin Peroni of Austin, Texas, whose album Bouldin showcases a power-pop delicacy as much inspired by the La's and Posies as Jellyfish and the Beatles, with snatches of Shins and Elliott Smith to drag it very much up to date. Indeed, this track does remind us of a slightly more robust take on the continuing slew of Australian indie dreamers. Keep an ear very much out.

    Tuesday, February 06, 2007

    Another quality item

    It occurred to us yesterday that, and here's a thermometer reading we don't really need, it's ten years today since Mark Radcliffe and Lard stepped out of the Radio 1 Graveyard Shift.

    We really don't think, at least in the sphere of music broadcasting, anyone's even got near to the barely reined in ridiculousness of that show. Oh sure, amusing zoo radio exists with your standups on podcasts, but a show that encompassed cult films and books (the latter briefly helmed by a pre-everyman Will Self), running jokes of the utmost stupidity, The Bedsit Guide, old US radio serials, John Martyn, poetry (there can't be a Graveyard Shift listener in existence who didn't raise a wry smile when Simon Armitage was linked with the Poet Laureate position last time it was up), the mysteries of the hand fart noise, pisstakes of existing Radio 1 trailers, sprawling discussions on small ads and trade magazines, prime Britpop and and the catchphrase "cod, fish, battered, balls, ho-ho!"... nobody would commission that now, not without a post-modern nostalgia listener quiz and a couple of low grade stand-ups as assistants. The same jokes in a different order, as Radcliffe would say, but what orders they were in - Uncle Tony's Catalogue Corner; Stuart "veritable smorgasbord" Maconie's Sad Small Ads; Rock, Bill Bailey and Sean Lock's, um, rockumentary on the comeback tour of the former singer from prog legends Taunton; Andrew Collins' teenage diaries long before anyone thought of putting them into book form; ripping the Wormleigh Guest House, Totnes' leaflet to metaphorical shreds ("Wormleigh has ample private parking, and within easy walking distance there are a number of hotels?!" "Yeah, I'm planning on parking there and going somewhere else"); Cyril Dorricot's The Patheological News ("frankly, I have no idea what it's about" - standin John Peel); Mark, Lard and Stuart Maconie extending the outside broadcast franchise by waving out of the window; Edward Barton's Slap Belly; the Mark E Smith Microphone; The Kraftwerk Story!; Shit Agent; the David Bowie Erection Sound Effect; Tony McCarroll's Classical Gas; The Tindersticks Party Album; Mark's love of the word 'bobbins'... halcyon days when Radio 1 wasn't so narrowly focused that you could get away with this stuff.

    Oh yeah, there was music to. Right from the start there was an implicit belief underpinning all, less common than you'd think, that the music came first, and consequently, despite their claims to have a reverse Midas touch on everyone they played, they foisted a wide range of musical delights upon us all, from such hardy perennials as French Disko and Fanfare through to the 60s beat revivalists and French ambient folk that you'd never hear anywhere else. And in the middle, the discoveries: Belle & Sebastian, the Divine Comedy and most famously White Town's Your Woman. And then there were the musical parodies later collected together under the Shirehorses banner (whose 1997 universities tour saw support from Peter Kay), a longed for highlight on many an occasion. We can't be alone in boldly stating that some of the records he played changed a good portion of our musical habits, perhaps reflecting the all-inclusiveness that much of Matthew Bannister's reign at the station urged ahead. Breakfast neutered him to a certain extent*, afternoon got stuck in an albeit tremendously offbeat rut and the current Radio 2 show, while still great, is more the Mojo edit of the original blueprint (although Marc Riley's Brain Surgery on 6 Music continues an impressively opaque playlist policy), but any slip-ups can be forgiven when set against these people being responsible for one of the great music shows of national British radio.

    You may like to play Tindersticks' Tiny Tears at this point.

    * Although two things we always loved about their breakfast tenure - as pointed out by our showbiz pal Steve Williams of TV Cream, while those either side of them, Evans and Ball, colonised television during their own morning spells Radcliffe's big telly gig during those fraught eight months was Schools Challenge, a Thursday teatime Granada-only series which was apart from the obvious exactly the same as University Challenge, on the same set with the same rules; and when they were scheduled to guest on the National Lottery Live but pulled out in protest when Camelot's directors gave themselves a massive pay rise Teletext's report included the quote "the breakfast show pair described Camelot's decision
    as 'bonkers'."