Morrissey – Margaret On The Guillotine
I think it’s fair to say that few musicians are as polarising as ex-Smiths lead singer and long time soloist Morrissey. There seems to be relatively little middle ground – people either love the guy or think he is a piece of shit. This is from his first solo LP “Viva Hate”, released in 1988 when Margaret Thatcher was still Prime Minister, and really sums up what a substantial part of the British population felt at the time. And probably still do. It’s not a great song, but then I get the feeling it wasn’t meant to be.
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Billy Bragg – Richard
Following recent electronic explorations it’s Back to Basics with perhaps the best songwriter of the 1980s. Billy Bragg appeared in 1983 with the extraordinarily titled mini-LP Life’s A Riot With Spy vs Spy on ex-Pink Floyd manager Peter Jenner’s Utility records, repackaged with second album Brewing Up with Billy Bragg on the soon-to-be-ironically titled Back To Basics a couple of years later, in which form it remains available. Soon to be ironic because Bragg was – and is – partial to a left-wing song; whereas the phrase “Back To Basics” was taken up in the early 1990s by the UK’s Conservative Prime Minister John Major, with farcical results.
The first two Bragg albums feature just voice and electric guitar – with songs recorded just as he played them in his one-man live set of the time. With the sound stripped down that far, everything hinges on whether the songs are any good, and fortunately Billy had some of the best ones going: pretty much everything on the debut is a classic – “The Milkman Of Human Kindness”, “A New England” (covered soon after by Kirsty MacColl) and “The Man In the Iron Mask”. The next album went ever better IMHO with songs like “It Says Here” (an attack on the Murdoch-dominated right-wing UK press), “Love Gets Dangerous”, “From a Vauxhall Velox” and “This Guitar Says Sorry”.
So why “Richard”? Mainly because the skeleton found in a Leicester car park has been identified fairly conclusively as that of the infamous King Richard III of England, whose death brought to an end the Wars of the Roses and led to the formation of the Tudor dynasty. Richard was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, but outrageously, historians never realised before that the battle was fought in a car park. But now we know better.
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David Bowie and the Lower Third – Can’t Help Thinking About Me
As a long-term David Bowie fan, the last few years have seen pretty lean pickings. Bowie had a hectic schedule in the early 2000s, with two pretty good albums in quick succession – Heathen and Reality, and a lot of touring. That era came to an end after he suffered a heart attack backstage after a gig in 2004, and since then he’s hardly been seen in public.
So it was a pleasant surprise, to say the least, when I heard that Bowie had released a new single, “Where Are We Now?” It’s a pleasant enough downtempo listen, very much in the mould of his 1999 LP “hours…”, but I wanted to take you back almost 50 years to Bowie’s first ever solo release under the Bowie moniker (previous to that he was recording under his real name David Jones but was suffering confusion with Davy Jones of the Monkees). For this release, inexplicably, he’s backed by “The Lower Third” – what kind of a name for a backing group is that? Sounds like a school class.
“Can’t Help Thinking About Me” is probably the best 1960s single not to become a hit, although there is stiff competition from the High Numbers (aka The Who)’s debut single “I’m The Face”. Classic mid-60s pop and very economical with it, clocking in at under 2-and-a-half minutes. He even namechecks himself, ferchrissakes… “my girl calls my name… Hi Dave!” and also “Question Time” is mentioned, 13 years before the programme actually started on the BBC. This is a bloody time traveller record, and a stunning debut. Sadly Bowie abandoned the mid-60s pop-mod sound soon afterwards, although he continued to be informed by the mid-60s all through the 70s (most obviously on Pin Ups, although arguably the whole Ziggy Stardust thing was just mid-60s beat group rock with the guitars turned up well loud. But then all the best early 70s glamrockers were in that zone (Bolan, Slade, etc.)
Not sure if this is currently available on CD but it’s pretty easy to get 2nd hand or with a Spotify search. My copy came with one of those free CDs that you get with Mojo magazine – this one was called “Maximum ‘65” and was just about the best CD that Mojo has ever put out, worth several times the cover price of the mag in my book. Probably appearing at a charity shop near you as we speak.
More unusual Bowie gems and related stuff over the next few weeks. Dust off the pinstripe suits…
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Paris – Religion
2012 saw far too many great musicians kick the bucket, and one of those was ex-Fleetwood Mac lead guitarist Bob Welch. Welch
held Mac together between its two most commercial periods – the late-60s blues-rock phase with Peter Green and the late-70s mega-successful California phase with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. He was on 5 Mac LPs between 1971 and 1974 but then left because he felt the group wasn’t getting anywhere and he wanted to try something with a heavier sound – and promptly formed the hard-rock trio Paris with bassist Glenn Cornick (an early member of Jethro Tull) and drummer Thom Mooney.
Paris’s eponymous 1975 debut LP owes a huge debt chucks out the soft-rock stylings that Welch had spent 4 years cultivating with the Mac and instead presents a studio-slick approximation of the Led Zeppelin sound, although with less raucous vocals. It’s an all-time classic, which was not well received by the Rolling Stone Record Guide (1979 edition):
“Paris was raucous, monotonous heavy metal… self-righteous songs and noisy playing.”
But remember that this was the same publication that gave the first 4 AC/DC albums zero out of 5 stars and you’ll realise just how wildly off-beam these guys were.
Paris sadly only lasted 2 albums (and their 2nd LP, the bizarrely titled Big Towne, 2061 was a lot less heavy than the debut, although still good) but at their best they were up there with Zeppelin, Sabbath, The Groundhogs and UFO as fine practitioners of 70s metal. Pass the Flying V! And RIP Bob Welch – a sadly missed rocker.
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New Order – ICB
Apologies for such a long time since my previous posting… only just getting back into some semblance of normal work/life balance after working flat out for about 6 months.
It was this week’s publication of the interim report from the Independent Commission on Banking, chaired by Sir John Vickers, that spurred me into posting action after a long layoff. I realised that the acronym for the commission, “ICB”, was the same as a song off New Order’s first album Movement. I have posted before from Movement, which is a much underrated album, and insofar as I can understand the lyrics (which are mixed low) they don’t seem to have much to do with banking, but here it is nonetheless.
For many of us, New Order’s 1984 single “Thieves Like Us” is perhaps a more appropriate ode to the commercial banking sector… but that is perhaps more an argument for a political blog.
If they ain’t got ya one way, they’ve got ya the other.
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The White Stripes – “We’re going to be friends”
A short post to mark the happy and blessed occasion of the birth of our second baby daughter last Friday morning.
She weighed in at 9lb 10oz, but Mrs Alboy made short work of the labour, putting in a champion performance once again.
We’re all just settling in and getting to know the not-so-little one. Havent got as far as a name yet, but it’ll come…
In the meantime, please enjoy this sweet dedicatory number from the White Stripes, which featured as the opening theme tune to a favourite movie of mine- Napoleon Dynamite- and serves well as the opening theme for life with our new little girl…
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Bon Iver- “Flume”
Myself and P Rice, accompanied by a number of friends and families, had the pleasure of attending the rather lovely Croissant Neuf festival in the lush valleys of Monmouthshire in Wales the weekend before last.
Croissant Neuf is an off-shoot of the longest running area at Glastonbury (besides the main Pyramid stage), and is a solar powered and chilled zone they have apparently been running since the 60’s. Unlike it’s mothership festival, it thrives on being small and sustainable- the organisers reckoned there were only about 1500 people there, and these of all ages and pursuasions.
Rather than getting in the big name bands to bring hordes of punters and ramp up the entry fee (eg this year’s festival was headlined by the Magic Numbers), C9 features a diverse range of sounds of generally high quality- I dont think I saw a programme as such, so no one really knew what was good and when it was playing, so instead we found ourselves pleasantly surprised to hear good music fairly regularly.
The site itself is beautifully located- there’s views across the Welsh valleys, and an Iron Age fort nearby- and because it’s so small, you cant lose your tent and you dont have to pack for the day out or trudge for half an hour to go from home to where the action is at.
Add to this a range of arts and craft type activities (I am the proud owner of a lamp I made out of twigs and some hairy string), circus types showing and sharing their skills, a nice selection of wholesome foodage and an amusingly named bar (the “Stumble Inn”) situated in an old barn selling only cider and real ale (neither of which I particularly like, mind) with real spit & sawdust on the floor, good friends and a nice break in the Welsh weather, and you’ve got a really good festival experience.
And to the ode- I was introduced to the track here by one of our campers who played it nice and loud on the last day as we were about to start packing up. It’s a bitter tune that fitted the end of a good time very nicely, lifted from an album called For emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver, who at the time the album was written, consisted of just one chap- Justin Vernon.
The album was conceived and recorded in a cabin in the mountains of Wisconsin, where Vernon had decided to isolate himself for the winter season in 2007, following a particularly difficult year where he suffered the break up of a relationship, his band and a severe bout of glandular fever:
“I left North Carolina and went up there because I didn’t know where else to go and I knew that I wanted to be alone and I knew that I wanted to be where it was cold.”
The resulting music is really achingly beautiful, featuring lots of rich guitar work, found percussion and overdubs of harmony and melody that are just stunning.
Not news to many, but news to me- thanks Rhys!not usual fare for DC, either, but it’s so lovely I thought I would share…
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For the Green Party:
New Order – Everything’s Gone Green (extended “Substance” mix)Going on the movements in the polls over the past week, “Everything’s Gone Yellow” would have been more appropriate, but this was the next one I had cued up in a sequence of four, so here it is.
The Greens are reportedly doing well in Brighton and Norwich so could pick up at least a couple of seats this time round…
But in any case, this is a good excuse to post some early New Order. I think I may have posted a track from their 1981 debut LP “Movement” some time ago… “Everything’s Gone Green” was a single released the same year as “Movement” but there was no overlap between the “Movement” tracks and the 7” or 12” versions of “Everything’s Gone Green.”
The 7” single featured the B side “Procession” which also made it onto the 2nd CD of New Order’s excellent 1987 singles compliation “Substance”. The 12” single also featured “Mesh” (which made it onto the “Substance” CD) and “Cries and Whispers” (which was criminally omitted from the “Substance” CD, but is on the cassette version). Sorry… this is all very spoddy, trainspotting stuff.
Some of the tracks on “Substance” had to be rerecorded in 1987 because New Order (or Factory, their label) had lost the master tapes – at least I think that’s the reason, it could just have been that the band didn’t like the original versions. In this case I think it is the original 1981 recording but I’ve never owned a copy of the 12” single so I don’t really know for sure.
But whatever, it’s quite simply an early techno-pop classic. Strange whoop at about 4 minutes in and all.
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Grinderswitch – Pickin’ The Blues
Really not been a lot of activity on this blog recently – many apologies for that. People have surely been very busy out there.
Now I know all you speed jocks out there could do with some mid-tempo, mid-seventies Southern rock, so here’s the old John Peel show theme tune. Over 5 years now since John left us… just so sad.
I knew from somewhere long ago that this was by Grinderswitch but I had no idea who or what the hell Grinderswitch was. It sounded like a sort of new wave/punk name for a band but in fact I was looking in completely the wrong place. Turns out they were from Georgia (the US state, not the country) and very much an early seventies straight-up southern rock outfit… kind of the Jimmy Carters of the US rock scene.
I got reacquainted with ‘Pickin’ The Blues’ when a compilation called “Straight Southern Rock” (Capricorn Records, 1976) turned up in a local charity shop along with several other 70s classics by the likes of Golden Earring. It’s the kind of record that should be listened to with a large glass of Maker’s Mark in hand, with several slabs of ice. Which is just fine…
That compilation had about 3 Grinderswitch tracks on it. I don’t think these guys have been re-released on CD in the UK (I don’t even think that much of their stuff was out on vinyl in the UK in the first place) but fortunately that inexhaustible repository of the weird, wonderful and deleted, emusic, has the entire back catalogue available for download. Enjoy.
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Grizzly Bear – “While You Wait For The Others”
Had to post something from these guys, as they’ve been solidly on my playlist ever since I was somewhat randomly introduced to them on Halloween, when I saw them play at the Barbican with the London Symphony Orchestra. Random happenstance caused by a longtime associate of german/greek extraction, given to equally random and happenstance appearances.
Never been a massive fan of fusion experiments, and the rock/orchestral combo didnt do a lot to change my mind, but it was interesting listening. The band drowned out the orchestra a fair bit of the time, and given there’s already a good deal of harmonies and depth to Grizzly Bear’s tracks- and the fact that their one-man-band bassist plays everything from the bass to some weird kind of sax whilst singing flawless falsetto- there wasnt a lot the orchestra could bring.
It’s like if you have a band that pretty much make a wall of sound type sound, there’s not much point in putting another wall of sound behind it. And cumulatively, the effect was likened by my associate to being spoon-fed heroin.
Anyway, it was a memorable night for various reasons, and I found myself caught on a number of their tracks over the next few days, leading to me buying their latest album Veckatimest which is pretty awesome. And also is on Warp Records a long time personal and DC label of choice.
So here is a good example- an off-kilter somewhat soul-enfused number off their latest long player. Worth checking more- and especially the video for Two Weeks, linked below…
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