Sunday, November 02, 2008

Weekender : blogland's mix of the high and lowbrow, leaving lewd messages on the phone of Oliver Sacks

- Nothing of real use in the new releases, but just look at what's been anthologised in bulk - a little overlooked unit based in London W9 that to this day makes men of a certain electronic musical persuasion swoon and faint clean away. The BBC Radiophonic Workshop was inaugurated in Maida Vale in 1958 to produce sound effects and musical stings, and instead invented all sorts of musique concrète and tape manipulation techniques, and at the taxpayer's expense, which they'd never be allowed get away with now. Their most famous work was the Doctor Who theme, written by Ron Grainer and realised by the legendary Delia Derbyshire, and on hearing it for the first time Grainer was openly shocked at what had happened to his work and later parents wrote to the Radio Times claiming it frightened their children. Nowadays the BBC Trust would hold an enquiry which would culminate in the sacking of Derbyshire, Verity Lambert and the head of the BBC Drama unit. ***SATIRE*** John Birt shut it down in 1998 but had its library catalogued and archived, and for the fiftieth anniversary Mute have slung together 107 classic, extremely rare and previously unavailable sounds and musical pieces from the likes of, well, Who, obviously, but also the Goon Show, Quatermass, Blake's Seven, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and so on for The BBC Radiophonic Workshop - A Retrospective. Also released, with titles that could confuse a stupid person, are The Radiophonic Workshop and BBC Radiophonic Music, the former full length musical pieces, the latter more effects based. BBC Radiophonic Workshop by the Magnetic Fields isn't on any of them.

- As usual these days we're a week late with this, but it's the kind of thing we'd naturally be all over. I'll Give You My Heart I'll Give You My Heart: The Cherry Red Singles Collection 1978-1983 documents the first five years of Iain McNay and Richard Jones' influential independent label on just the eight discs and 185 tracks. And what waifs and strays are collected here: the Dead Kennedys (and not some latter day panto version, proper Holiday In Cambodia era), Felt, the Monochrome Set, Everything But The Girl as well as Tracy Thorn's The Marine Girls and Ben Watt's preceding solo work and collaborations with Robert Wyatt, Courtney Love/Kathleen Hanna influencing girl rock pioneers The Runaways, underrated awkward Brummies the Nightingales, some posthumous Marc Bolan rarities, punk poet Atilla The Stockbroker and a last disc of odds and sods including Ivor Cutler, John Otway, Robert Fripp, George Melly (!) and a track called The Compassion And Humanity Of Margaret Thatcher. We think we can guess.

- So, singles. We don't know whether we've picked up some sort of reverse Midas touch, but a lot of the bands we assumed were going to be all over the place as soon as the pressing plant got into action remain resolutely under the radar. Broken Records, for instance, swooning string aided Celtic greatness onto third single Lies and still without a solid album deal. Come on, labels, sort yourselves out. No such publicity problems for Mumford & Sons, who have earned themselves a neat place among the nu-folk young shavers with their communal hoedowns as on second EP Love Your Ground. Meanwhile a band who arc between both outlets, the Decemberists, get to the second and third good of their Always The Bridesmaid series of 7"s, Days Of Elaine.

- The Virgin Book Of British Hit Singles isn't some fly by night, it's the Sky Sports Football Yearbook-style rebranding of the Guinness Book of such. Gambaccini, Read, Rice and Rice were unavailable for comment. Inside, the usual endless joys of chart positions, Weeks On Chart tallies, those little symbols nobody understands, timelines, factoids and such.

COMING SOON: Shrouded in mystery, the Brighton Port Authority has long been rumoured to exist but until now there has been little evidence of the legendary collective. Found recently in a dusty cardboard box during the development of a Brighton dockside warehouse, a collection of old reel-to-reel tapes have proved to be the Holy Grail for the few who...ah sod it, The BPA is a new project by Norman Cook and his longtime engineer/accomplice Simon Thornton. The frankly not good Toe Jam you'll already know, if only for the celebrated "is there an uncensored version? What do you think?" video, but some other mp3s of their album, out some time before we all die, have surfaced which bode better. Not least because Seattle is a gloriously tripped-out piece featuring our favourite vocalist for hire and yours, Emmy The Great. Weirder is the Iggy Pop fronted disturbing psychedelically tinged cover of the Monochrome Set's He's Frank. Bid could never have seen what they've done to his song coming.

MYSPACE INVADERS: Stars Of Sunday League is Euan Robinson, originally from Edinburgh. There's something about the Scottish accent in singer-songwriter business that makes it sound more honest and touching, we reckon, and Robinson's simple yet rich in charm songs, occasionally featuring the aforementioned Ms Emma-Lee Moss (he's also in her band), are just that. File next to the Fence collectivists and well inside the interconnected modern folk school of excellence.

VISUAL AID: In a cultural void that seriously considers that Lily Allen parodies might affect the proper Allen's chances in future, we thought we'd demonstrate to the kids that there was once an art to the pop hit comedy rewrite. Alright, maybe not an art, but a certain craft nonetheless. You wouldn't get anything like this now, certainly. Is that a good thing? Who can say. Presenting for the teenagers, then, the Barron Knights, fifty years' service next year in the service of extended storyline-based parodies of the hits of the day. Their own first hit, 1964's Call Up The Groups, imagined pop groups being conscripted for the services to tunes including I Wanna Be Your Man, Twist And Shout and Bits And Pieces. Follow up Pop Go The Workers commandeered Little Red Rooster and Baby Love in imagining singers finding jobs. We don't know if that audience is real or not, but Frankie Boyle never got such laughs. That Christmas it was time to pull out the pro-am Jagger of Satisfaction on Merry Gentle Pops. The format was still fresh, as much as it ever would be, in punk's 1977, Live In Trouble using You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, Brotherhood Of Man's Angelo and Float On in very much the humour of the time. Did we mention these were all top ten singles? Oh, and to prove how broad a church YouTube is, the provision of space to upload a home video of a man playing bass along to cube tribute of 1982 Mr Rubik must have been just what Tim Berners-Lee had in mind when he legged it down the patent office. And then there's the thorny issue of the Oasis to the Barron Knights' Blur, the Grumbleweeds, the Northern (Yorkshire) counterparts to Bedfordshire's BKs. More of a sketch troupe, it's true (and anyone who can point out the finer details involved in doing a straight impression of purposefully over the top fictional characters Dame Edna Everage and Les Patterson, please let us know), but they liked a good musical turn and could pull off an ELO impression if the occasion served. And two of them are still going! With impressions of Ozzy Osbourne and Lou & Andy and Ali G and Anne Robinson, and everything! Ahh, variety.

* Truth be told, we'd like to see how Graham and Robin, those being their names, would tackle a musical impersonation of Johnny Foreigner (clearly drafting an extra in to be Junior, we dunno. Look, give us time to work this through, we're sure there's enough to work with) For raw material, they might like to study a full vidcast of their recent set at almost exotic for Londoners club night New Slang in Kingston upon Thames, including new songs, as supplied by, which also features sets or parts thereof from Tubelord, Dartz and some people we've never heard of doing spoken word. With the right hairpiece and costume the nearly bald one could carry off Alexei, no sweat.

* Matador Records are this week's free label sampler providers, Intended Play Fall 2008 including tracks from the soon come Pavement Brighten The Corners: Nicene Creedence Ed. and Belle & Sebastian BBC Sessions albums, plus new Shearwater, Fucked Up, Times New Viking, Mogwai, AC Newman, Jay Reatard and live Lou Reed. Meanwhile, bloody hell, listen to this even though you'll never fully experience it in the same way - a decent enough quality for what it is bootleg from My Bloody Valentine's set at last month's NY ATP. Also, TV Cream has done a musical podcast. We're not ashamed to say it scares us slightly.

* News from Bob Stanley: "Well, the share value of Universal appears to have affected the release date of London Conversations. Either that or a fire in their Dutch East Indies depot. So it looks like it'll be in the 'shops' in January... News on the dates for Foxbase Alpha et cet deluxe editions as and when, but hopefully sooner than Xmas. In the meantime I'm trying to get my head around early 40s r&b for educational reasons. Something I've enjoyed a great deal is This Record Is Not To Be Broadcast, a collection of pre-rock things banned by the BBC. Ella Fitzgerald's 6 minute version of Bewitched is, umm, racy. Racier than Racey. Rock, you sinners. Bob xxx" Can't say fairer than that. (Well, you can, he could have said London Conversations hadn't been delayed *again*)

* One quick final thing - we went through our blog list with a fine tooth comb this week making additions and deletions, which got us to thinking about the traditional end of year album UK blogger poll. In the shell of a nut, what regularly updated and music based UK blogs are we missing down/across there? Let us know via the usual comment/Myspace/email channels and maybe you/they too can take part in the poll.

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