Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sweeping The Nation Covermount 2: Reasons To Be Cheerful

Thanks to everyone who downloaded Covermount 1 Be My Babies - it should still be downloadable through that link for a couple of weeks yet. Onwards, though.

To Covermount 2, the art of the list song, a category for which the full shortlist was more than twice as long as could be fit onto a single file (sorry, Hillman Minx, A, the Psychedelic Furs and Nilon Bombers especially). What is it about a list song? It seems at times like the easiest method of songwriting there is, but really you have to get the names right and keep up with the melody, especially if you're delivering them at rapid fire pace. Plus, it's just a fun concept, especially when, as with these twenty examples, they actually get the mix right. As last time, it's a 74-minute compilation for home burning, downloadable after clicking on 'Free' at the bottom of the first screen and then waiting for the download ticket. Again, it's a ZIPped up file with a Winamp-only playlist, but those the brokes. Tell you what, instead of just thinking you'll already know the songs in advance like last time, we'll give you a proper tracklisting too.

Sweeping The Nation Covermount 2: Reasons To Be Cheerful (99 Mb)

Ian Dury & The Blockheads - Reasons To Be Cheerful (Part 3)
LIST TYPE: Things Dury finds amenable
BEST NAMECHECK: "Being in my nuddy"
AFTER THE FACT: This was the subject of Dave Gorman's first full-length show
WHERE TO FIND IT: Reasons To Be Cheerful: The Best Of..., seemingly now going for a fiver, which is spectacular value by anyone's measurements.

Max Wall - England's Glory
LIST TYPE: Things Dury finds amenable, in someone else's voice
BEST NAMECHECK: "Stafford Cripps"
AFTER THE FACT: An old Kilburn And The High Roads song also demoed by the Blockheads, as heard on the deluxe reissue of New Boots And Panties
WHERE TO FIND IT: The If It Ain't Stiff cherrypicked label compilation

The Beloved - Hello
LIST TYPE: People, some mates, some famous
BEST NAMECHECK: "Little Neepsie"
AFTER THE FACT: Jon Marsh won nine straight episodes of Countdown in 1987 and then lost in the series semi-final
WHERE TO FIND IT: Best of The Sun Rising

The Church - Welcome
LIST TYPE: Aussie psych-rockers do the name thing, apparently all considered odd in their field
BEST NAMECHECK: "Magilla Gorilla"
AFTER THE FACT: Previous album Priest=Aura got its title from singer Steve Kilbey's misreading of a Spanish fan's English vocabulary notes
WHERE TO FIND IT: 1996's Magician Among The Spirits

A House - Endless Art
LIST TYPE: Dead pop culture icons
BEST NAMECHECK: "Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse"
AFTER THE FACT: After it was much noted that none of the names were female, the band wrote More Endless Art, an all-woman list on the B-side of the single
WHERE TO FIND IT: I Am The Greatest

The Divine Comedy - The Booklovers
LIST TYPE: Authors, with a brief vocal summation of their characteristics
AFTER THE FACT: The chorus quotes Horace's Ode To Man, Scott Walker was a fan of the song and Sean Hughes provides some of the voices

Tom Lehrer - The Elements
LIST TYPE: The periodic table to the tune of Gilbert & Sullivan's Major General's Song
BEST NAMECHECK: "ytterbium"
AFTER THE FACT: KT Tunstall credits Lehrer as an influence

The Remains Of Tom Lehrer

Le Tigre - Hot Topic
LIST TYPE: Female/feminist pioneers
BEST NAMECHECK: "Valie Export"
AFTER THE FACT: Johanna Fateman used to run a fanzine called My Need To Speak On The Subject Of Jackson Pollock
WHERE TO FIND IT: Self-titled debut

Half Man Half Biscuit - Irk The Purists
LIST TYPE: One of Nigel Blackwell's thousands (possibly) of list songs, a decidedly non-rockist list of bands
BEST NAMECHECK: "Husker Du, Du, Du"
AFTER THE FACT: Of course it's had a blog named after it!
WHERE TO FIND IT: Trouble Over Bridgwater, which like everything they've ever put out is unmissable

Johnny Cash - I've Been Everywhere
LIST TYPE: Showing off how many towns he's been to
BEST NAMECHECK: "Amperdello"
AFTER THE FACT: Written by Australian Geoff Mack in 1959, and covered in its original parochial form a year later by Rolf Harris
WHERE TO FIND IT: The second of his American Recordings series, Unchained

Billy Joel - We Didn't Start The Fire
LIST TYPE: World history from 1949 to 1980, as laid out here inaccurately (there's a reason why 'British Politician Sex' is also referred to as the Profumo Affair, sir)
BEST NAMECHECK: "Brooklyn's got a winning team"
AFTER THE FACT: Number 44 on VH1's 50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever
WHERE TO FIND IT: Piano Man. Or here

Billy Bragg - A13 Trunk Road To The Sea
LIST TYPE: A road map from Wapping to Southend
BEST NAMECHECK: "Shoeburyness"
AFTER THE FACT: Bragg provides his own guide to the route on his website. Officially unreleased...
WHERE TO FIND IT: ...until the special edition third disc of Best Of Must I Paint You A Picture

Queens Of The Stone Age - Feel Good Hit Of The Summer
LIST TYPE: Stimulants, legal and otherwise
BEST NAMECHECK: "C-c-c-c-c-cocaine"
AFTER THE FACT: Josh Homme, inevitably, claims he wrote it the day after his three-day Millennium party. It has two chords, and Rob Halford's on it

Mary Lou Lord - His Indie World
LIST TYPE: Lo-fi figureheads
BEST NAMECHECK: "Kim and Kim and Kim and Kim". Gordon, Deal, possibly Thayil (Soundgarden) and who?
AFTER THE FACT: Lord, who continued busking on the Boston subway long after being signed, ended up apologising to many of the artists mentioned, who she is actually fans of
WHERE TO FIND IT: Her self-titled EP

Lemon Jelly - Ramblin' Man
LIST TYPE: After three and a half minutes, a list of places worldwide
AFTER THE FACT: The interviewer is Fred Deakin's father, the main voice acclaimed character stage and film (The Eagle Has Landed) actor John Standing
WHERE TO FIND IT: Lost Horizons

Daft Punk - Teachers
LIST TYPE: Thomas and Guy-Manuel's heroes and influences
BEST NAMECHECK: "Boo Williams"
AFTER THE FACT: Soulwax's 'cover' changes all the shout-outs

Saint Etienne - Girl VII
LIST TYPE: More places
BEST NAMECHECK: "Tooting Graveney"
AFTER THE FACT: June 4th 1989, which kicks off the list, was the date of the Tianamen Square massacre
WHERE TO FIND IT: Foxbase Alpha

Kraftwerk - Numbers
LIST TYPE: Numbers, in assorted languages
BEST NAMECHECK: "Ichi, ni, san, chi"
AFTER THE FACT: The tour for this album featured Wolfgang Flur playing an electronic 'drum cage' activated by arm movements towards laser beams
WHERE TO FIND IT: Computer World

Mylo - Destroy Rock And Roll
LIST TYPE: Right-wing religious type condemns a series of mid-80s pop stars
AFTER THE FACT: The sample was previously used by Negativland. Contains elements of Steely Dan's Aja
WHERE TO FIND IT: The same titled album

Blackalicious - Alphabet Aerobics
LIST TYPE: Gift Of Gab runs through the alphabet in a series of alliterations
BEST NAMECHECK: "jheri curls"
AFTER THE FACT: The Blackalicious duo were originally members of the Solesides Crew with DJ Shadow, Lateef The Truth Speaker and Lyrics Born

All mp3s are for evaluation purposes only - please support the artists in this compilation by buying their records.

Oh, and tomorrow that Songs What People Like (title TBC) feature starts. Do tell your friends, because it's going to be good.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Weekender : optionless and turkey-free

CHART OF DARKNESS: Funny, isn't it, how while girl groups have by and large been allowed to freewheel and take their sound and style off in all sorts of directions boy bands are stuck on two default settings, The Jaunty Fast One and The Meaningful Slow One. McFly, who did quite well all told with the latter on their last album, are back to workaday Someone Thinks The Monkees Sound Like This power-pop on Star Girl, which debuts at 1 having notably not been preissued on downloads, something you'd think more labels would do. Fedde Le Grand's Euro-themed house, which now goth is allegedly back must be the land's least amenable genre, is at 2, Girls Aloud's chart jinx strikes again at 3 and Beyonce and Amy - the difference between American and British solo female singers there - climb to 5 and 7 respectively. Bodyrox are in at 11 on downloads with a track that sounds more rave than the whole of New Rave put together, needlessly added to with a vocal from one Luciana. We imagine the label would like you to believe that Luciana is a fresh new attitudinal dance-punk grrl. In fact, some years ago she was parachuted into Crush with Donna Air after the other Byker Grove girl left just as the track took off on American dance radio, and was later in hopeless MTV-advertised 'electro''punk' outfit Portobella. Cassie, who even her own family probably don't recognise, is at 12, The View (15) outdo the Kooks (20) in both position and uselesness, the new law of second album diminishing returns nearly strikes the Magic Numbers at 15, Rihanna runs out of steam at 17 and the Raconteurs have a second wind at 22. Now, let's again discuss the Long Blondes. As we said last week we don't quite understand ourselves why we don't completely fall for them, but regardless they're a band who were supposed to be huge by now - NME award winners at the start of the year, one time Best Unsigned Band In The Country tag, working their arses off up and down the land, Kate Jackson all over the place - yet radio hasn't gone for their hardly unsellable sound at all and the two Rough Trade singles have charted at 28 and now 30. We wouldn't bet against the album, especially given its word of mouth, but you wonder where this leaves their possibilities. MTV really must drop the Totally banner as after Totally Scott-Lee failed to get her back into the top ten Totally Boyband left Upper Street only six places above an absolute humiliation. 35 is one above the Cooper Temple Clause, and we had no idea they were back at all. The non-download lower entries are an interesting bunch, the osmosis-aware Mumm-Ra at 45, the still unlikely Folk Blunt candidate Seth Lakeman at 47, the much loved by the video channels Nylon at 64 and New Rave tailgaters Shitdisco at 73.
We bet Rudebox's sales of 147K - relatively some time after the single and tour, lest we forget - is used to demonstrate that Robbie has lost it. Obviously Robbie has lost it, or at the very least is playing a massive cosmic joke on us all under cover of 'he can do whatever he wants with that many sales' - you've heard the King Of The Bongo cover, right? - but we'd like to sell that many in a week. It's enough to see off a massively game field which sees entries at 2, 3 and 4 for My Chemical Romance, Meat Loaf (who also gets a spoiler Very Best Of at 23) and Rod Stewart's latest pointless covers album. He's moved on from The Great American Songbook, a nefarious concept in terms of Americans, let alone a bloke born in Highgate, to 'rock classics', a term now big enough to encompass I'll Stand By You and Father And Son. This actually sold 184,000 copies in its first week in America thanks to an appearance on Dancing With The Stars, and here was backed up with a slot on The X Factor. We think we've spotted how the label's running with this one. John Legend makes a surprise appearance at 10, five ahead of the Ordinary Boys' travelling showbiz freakshow. Lemar climbs 13 to 17 for no good reason. Mugs of the week, finally, are those who shelled out to keep the Kooks' Inside In/Inside Out at 18, days after Luke Thingy declared "listening to the first album reminds me how not to make the next one. We were just wrecked all the time and it shows... I wrote tracks like Naive when I was 16. I've improved so much". You degrade the quality of the album when you're heavily promoting its follow-up, not when shilling another single from that same LP, you stupid-accented pillock!

FREE MUSIC: Do remixes where the singer re-records the vocal still count as remixes? Surely then it becomes them covering their own song with someone else's backing, which isn't to say that the results aren't more often than not something really strong. For example, Spank Rock's remix of CSS's Let's Make Love And Listen To Death From Above, where the uberhipster strips the rhythm and bass back and away from each other, borrows a post-disco drumbeat and gets Lovefoxxx to calm down a bit.

HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: Omnichords, then. A few years ago Sean Dickson from the High Llamas was much given to touting his around as if it was this wonderous thing he'd discovered, now every second sonic adventurer has one as a matter of course. It's what you do with it that matters, and what Pagan Wanderer Lu does with his, and the rest of his one man band electronic boxes, very much matters. Wryly seething lyrics are married to lo-fi keyboards that smash up pop melodies and attempt to wire them back together in a skewiff fashion, reminding at times of the long lost Experimental Pop Band or at least making sense of the claimed influences from Pavement, Aphex Twin, the Fiery Furnaces and Magnetic Fields. Also, Our New Hospital Sucks is surely pop's first song about PFIs.

VISUAL REPRESENTATION: Part two of our Salute To Indie, and now we're largely past C86 it goes a bit all over the place. Actually, McCarthy were C86, but their lefty-Motown-jangle is a real keeper, so here's Keep An Open Mind Or Else from 1989, when even one time post-ironists during the irony age the Pooh Sticks were going modern on the likes of The World Is Turning On. The Darling Buds even made it to Going Live. Of course the scene patron saints were still very much underground, cf the Wedding Present's Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now?, the Pastels' Worlds Of Possibility and Heavenly's Trophy Girlfriend, but even Bang Bang Machine ended up on a major, Geek Love remaining glorious. A couple of strays to finish this selection, a Heavenly Records promo video from 1991 - watch for the rehearsal room Manics footage, and indeed Nicky Wire's hair - and, because we stumbled across it a couple of weeks ago and fondly remember Mark and Lard playing it to death on Radio 1 in 1999, the Zuno Men's Stay In With Me. For the record, this was found via Spearmint accomplice and current Scritti Politti Treacherous 3 member Rhodri Marsden's Livejournal, and their singer Keith John Adams is still going with good, wry stuff, accompanied live, we believe, by Ant of this parish's comments boxes. Be honest with us, is this more information than you ever needed to know?

FALLING OFF A BLOG: Trying to file away Baltimore/Austin based Instrumental Analysis as a straight mp3 blog or whatever is tricky. It is that, true, but the effort that goes into imagining and sourcing everything around the downloads explains why it's quickly progressed to a blog that turns up regularly near the top of The Hype Machine's referrers. According to their Myspace "Our absolute favorite (music) is your original band that we have not heard of yet." That's the spirit!

EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: This week AKA Hands Off, Google! And also, Nice Movement, Mr Dangerfield! Demo keys on keyboards are of course magnificent, since when we were playing with them in music labs at school they were usually either programmed to Just The Way You Are or Rick Astley's Together Forever. Wonder what the proper shop-bought presets are these days?

IN OTHER NEWS: We'd never heard of MOG until the other day - it's a music-centric social networking site with elements of last.fm - and even then it was only because of Frank Black's presence. He likes a list, we'll say that for him. However, look under his name in 'My Digital Music Collection' and notice a surprising folder...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

In shops tomorrow: 30/10


Lots to be getting on with this week, so let's crack on. So no, nothing in New Rave sounds like it would be played at a rave or is immensely new, and the NME can (again) hang their heads in shame for trying to co-opt The Knife into it this week - come on, Shitdisco barely qualify, let's not run before we can crawl - but even pushing instant genre to one side we stand by our assertions that Klaxons are turning into a band to follow, precision tooled to sound great hurtling down a near-empty motorway long after nightfall, never mind in a mid-sized club venue behind a load of 17 year olds with neon glowsticks. After an opening which suggests a clipping from the Clinic logbook Magick does it again, flat out and working to no youth cult agenda but its own. Corking Simian Mobile Disco remix too. The wiles of even the greatest of independently run labels sometimes defeat us, as here comes the Young Knives' ever ace The Decision again with no noticeable increase in the amount of exposure outside their natural reach. Maybe they wanted to show off their new B-sides. The Gossip created something of a surprising stir on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross a couple of weeks back - unsurprisingly it turns out militant feminist Beth Ditto wasn't entirely comfortable with the Ross patter - doing hard slamming Standing In The Way Of Control. Big pair of lungs etc. Peter Bjorn & John have produced one of the real growers in terms of debut albums this year, although Let's Call It Off isn't the most obvious second single. Apparently the band we're all calling The Good The Bad And The Queen don't officially have a name, that's just the album title, says Albarn, the big cock. Apparently the album's all over the place, which might explain why limited edition Herculean is pitching somewhere between Demon Days and Think Tank. The knowing retro revival continues apace with the first of that little group of out-of-place acts to come to wider attention, the newly signed to EMI and fresh from storming TOTP2 - the studio audience even danced! - Vincent Vincent & The Villains. Johnny Two Bands (hope they update that cover) is unapologetically about Charlie Waller, former second in Villain command who nearly split the band when he went off to concentrate on Rumble Strips, although we hear he and Vincent have since met and patched things up, which is a slight bugger. Sounds a bit like the Housemartins to us, this, which is no bad thing. In actual revival corner come the Slits - no Palmolive or Viv Albertine in this version but Ari Up and Tessa Pollitt are present for Revenge Of The Killer Slits EP along with backing from Marco Pirroni, Paul Cook and, er, Miquita Oliver. Incidentally, like we couldn't guess but can anyone enlighten us as to the actual reason why we've been having occasional Google hits recently through 'miquita oliver paul epworth'? We'll mention Babyshambles and Friends' Janie Jones as it's for charity, Strummerville, and also because among the Friends are a lot of our favourite people, although we can't actually make many, if any, of them out on the gang vocals, and we'll mention Hayseed Dixie's Halloween EP, led by reliable old Monster Mash, even though surely the joke's been done by now. In the 7" racks you'll find Cat Power's Could We, the second single from the unjustly maligned The Greatest, and Bat For Lashes' skewiff romantic intrigue of Trophy.


Shall we get it out the way quickly before anyone clocks it? If they've not George Lucas-style messed with any of it in retrospect as the Sugababes have done, The Sound Of Girls Aloud is mostly a tremendous pop album for the ages. We say 'mostly' because of course the covers that Xenomania reckon they have to do to keep their chart hand in are rubbish because nobody liked I'll Stand By You and See The Day is their lowest charting single to date (and, oh god, does that new track really say What A Feeling?) but Sound Of The Underground, No Good Advice, The Show, Love Machine and especially Biology sound like nothing else that's produced for gyrating girls to appear on kids' shows to. Bands with no affixed personalities who mad genius producers can shape in their own electronic image - that's what pop needs! It's hardly the Clash, but that's not the point. Speaking of whom, here comes an 19-CD box set of their Singles, each one with original B-sides and rarities plus liner notes by a veritable musical alumni: Shane McGowan, Tony Parsons, John Squire, Irvine Welsh, Nick Hornby, Carl Barat, Tim Burgess, Jimi Goodwin, Steve Jones, Damon Albarn, Ian Brown, Sharleen Spiteri (!), Danny Boyle, Bobby Gillespie, Richard Archer, Anthony Roman (Radio 4), Bernard Sumner, Pete Townshend, Bernie Rhodes (Knows Don't Argue) and, as a special treat for America, Stuart Pearce. He's been assigned Complete Control. "They said sign a decent striker/But we didn't want him on the payroll/They said, fly to the JJB/The people laughed as the defence went mad" etc. Luke Haines once slammed his own record label with the epithet "they think the classic pop song is Complete Control." You'll know by now that we consider Haines a cut above most people in Britain so you'll know already about the fuzz-glam-disco cynical heart of Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop. As he recedes fast it's well overdue that he start wearing white suits and mildly disturbing facial hair. Johnny Bramwell of I Am Kloot has no small past deposit in the prickly songwriter bank himself, the BBC Radio 1 John Peel Sessions providing an in on his stripped back in all senses world. Mogwai amuse themselves, after a fashion, with Zidane: a 21st Century Portrait: Original Soundtrack. We mentioned the Decemberists' The Crane Wife, what, three weeks ago, since when Rough Trade have announced a January release date and then stuck it on online stores for Monday regardless, so watch out. Our points from then stand, ie it's great if hard work at first. Someone get us guestlist at the Nottingham gig in February, would they? Our compilations and Other category is led by 50 Minutes, a set benefitting The Medical Foundation For The Victims Of Torture. The concept is simplicity itself - 50 bands, one minute each, all new songs - the personnel a rich crop including Daniel Johnston, Jeremy Warmsley, Emmy The Great, Piney Gir, Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies, the Hot Puppies, Ladyfuzz, the Bobby McGees, MC Lars, Grand Mal, Headland, Roland Shanks, the Playwrights and Pacific Ocean Fire. See the website, join the Myspace. And buy the record, obviously. While Peter Perrett works out what to do with his mobile phone advert income source the Only Ones get an emergency Best Of-ing, inevitably titled Another Girl, Another Planet, while we'd also like to point you towards the reissue of Milwaulkee sarks the Violent Femmes' 2000 live retrospective album Viva Wisconsin, because it's recorded on mikes inside the guitars so sounds great and we've put this album's version of Blister In The Sun on many a CDR.


Videos, interactive bits, rarities, animatics and everything else left on Jamie Hewlett's spare CDRWs gets collated onto Gorillaz: Phase Two - Slow Boat To Hades; extended versions of Channel 4 album-selling documentaries aren't supposed to be worth the effort but when it's The Pet Shop Boys: A Life In Pop you know it's going to be all-inclusive and feature a lot of sense being talked (despite Robbie Williams' presence); on a slightly different musical sphere, Listen With Pain - 20 Years Of Einsturnzende Neubauten; in 1993 Ranking Roger, Neville Staples and Horace Panter formed a 2-Tone supergroup called the Special Beat - do you see what they've done there - and a 1993 Japanese gig is immortalised on Enjoy Yourself. Now Hall and Dammers have been DJing together recently, what did happen to that mooted Specials reunion Simon Jordan was brokering?


Hold up, David Hepworth's been here? We've genuinely just spotted this, and the most odd thing about this is that, as keen observers of retro culture talking heads and especially those covering 80s pop, we usually can tell the difference between Hepworth and Mark Ellen's voices. We'll say we were busy and admit at the same time that we really should have mentioned The Best Of Smash Hits by now. Mark Frith's edited it, which while no Ellen or Hepworth is a wiser choice than his later Heat stewardship would suggest, and if you can't raise a cup of milky tea and a cream horn to a collection of the best of imperial phase Smash Hits, including Tom Hibbert's Mrs Thatcher interview and Morrissey/Pete Burns collaboration, there's precious little hope. It's tremendous fun and something that when we come to power will be available on the NHS.

The Weekly Sweep

  • Band Of Horses - The Great Salt Lake [YouTube]
  • Ben Folds - Songs Of Love (Divine Comedy cover from his new EPs compilation)
  • Brakes - Spring Chicken
  • The Decemberists - The Perfect Crime 2 [mp3 from T-Sides, who's very, very wrong about Picaresque, but we suspect they know that by now]
  • Final Fantasy - Song Song Song [mp3 from Shoes Are For Work]
  • The Flaming Lips - It Overtakes Me
  • The Hellset Orchestra - To Outsurvive A Vulture [Myspace]
  • The Hidden Cameras - Awoo [mp3 from Good Hodgkins]
  • I'm From Barcelona - Treehouse [mp3 from Into The Groove]
  • Interpol - Evil [YouTube]
  • Jeremy Warmsley - 5 Verses [mp3 of earlier version (fairly sure it is, anyway)]
  • Klaxons - Magick [YouTube]
  • Luke Haines - Freddie Mills Is Dead
  • Pull Tiger Tail - Animator [YouTube]
  • Teddybears - Yours To Keep [mp3 from The Yellow Stereo]
  • Tilly And The Wall - Black And Blue [live YouTube]
  • Tokyo Police Club - Nature Of The Experiment [mp3 from Instrumental Analysis]
  • Yello - Bostich [YouTube]
  • The Young Knives - The Decision [YouTube]
  • yourcodenameis:milo - I Remember The Summer Isles (The Ross Millard track from Print Is Dead Vol.1, which unfortunately isn't the album we hoped it'd be bar two superb track, this and Field Music's contribution)
  • Saturday, October 28, 2006

    Go and do something else

    While we prepare stuff both part of and to run alongside The Song Write-Up Feature We've Still Not Settled On A Name For - if you're reading this and have signed up, we hope you're preparing too - plenty of other stuff of interest is happening across some of our favourite offcuts from the music blogosphere (gnnh). The Indie Credential has had a sparkling redesign, Jamie's Runout Groove continues its Manics discography with an upload of the Sleeping With The NME discussion on the Richey 4 REAL photos that was on the B-side of Suicide Is Painless - plenty of future media hitters in there - Indie mp3's latest podcast revives C86 to mark the CD86 release and anniversary ICA gigs*, Nothing But Green Lights is giving away signed Sky Larkin artwork and The Daily Growl uploads the best of the hugely unlikely at one time concept of a Queens Of Noize folk compilation.

    Also, as an addendum to the Luke Haines Illustrated Guide that's only just come to our attention, John Moore has his own blog, which is as singularly quasi-eccentic as you'd expect.

    (* Speaking of which reminded us to dig out the also held on Indie mp3 graduate thesis on what C86 all meant)

    Thursday, October 26, 2006

    Actually, tell you what you should be reading...

    Fyfe Dangerfield's tour diary on Drowned In Sound, which is ace.

    Other current addiction: this clip of a post-Hoots Mon Lord Rockingham's XI, for, well, everything: the drummer's curious fake laughter, the extraordinary chord sequence on the double bass, the presenter leading the sole vocal interjection with accompanying arm movements and the fact it's all done in 50 seconds. 47 years old and still more alt-rock than the Fratellis.

    Teutonic inefficiency

    Another of our occasional visits into the international singles markets is afoot, this time around based on ironic pop culture lateral thinking - if Hasselhoff's having hits in Britain, who's having hits in Germany?

    20 Vibekingz feat. Maliq - Like The Wind
    They like their dance remakes in Germany, this being based on Patrick 'Patrick Swayze?!' Swayze's She's Like The Wind. Further down the top 100 we find a remix of Kim Wilde's You Came, DJ Otzi Junior (good lord) reworking I Am The Music Man with horrors we can only imagine, the Jan Hammer Project Featuring TQ's Crockett's Theme and, most excitingly, Shaun Baker Vs Laid Back's Bakerman. Oh, you do, it was the chilled Eurodance one from the start of the 90s with the skydiving video. Now, if Laibach had ever been reworked in a dance style...

    19 Robbie Williams - Rudebox
    Tomorrow Victoria Newton will exclusively reveal that Rudebox contains some cover versions.

    18 Liza Li - Ich Könnte Dich Erschießen
    A lot of these German language hits are on YouTube, which is how we can state with some accuracy that this seems to be the Deutschland Amy Studt.

    17 Rapsoul feat. Vanessa Jean Dedmon - Sonnenschein
    "You're a Dedmon, Vanessa!" Sorry. Rapsoul pretty much give the game away with the name and that kind of rapping that went out of fashion everywhere else when PM Dawn gave up.

    16 Gnarls Barkley - Crazy
    Still? After making two videos for their first two singles Gnarls have now issued two videos for seperate tracks on the album, one of which will be the single, but they don't seem sure which one that will be yet. It befits their split personality persona, we suppose.

    15 Marquess - El Temperamento
    One day the world will tire of Spanish guitar-led faux-sunshine pop with a hugely obvious chorus lead-in a la Mysterious Girl. One day...

    14 Nelly Furtado - Promiscuous

    13 Soccx - From Dusk Till Dawn (Get The Party Started)
    Come on, what do you think it sounds like? Actually, no, it's seemingly a German shot at the Pussycat Dolls formula, with TV support and Swedish production to go.

    12 Chamillionaire - Ridin'
    Weird Al Yankovic's White And Nerdy is somehow on The Box playlist. Good luck, pop kids!

    11 Lemon Ice - Stand By Me
    We really are running out of band names fast, aren't we? At least this one has gone to one of the worst things we've ever heard, which seems to be Ben E King covered in the Another Level style. German urban pop - where it's always going to be 2000.

    10 Xavier Naidoo - Danke
    Been around for years on the continent, has the Naidoo, but over a distinguished if localised career he can surely have never stooped as low before as - and we promise you, this is true - a tribute to the German World Cup team. A team that finished third, you may recall.

    9 P Diddy feat. Nicole Scherzinger - Come To Me
    From Press Play, an album that features everyone in the world as guests.

    8 Fergie - London Bridge
    Her included. It'd be quite good if she'd been kept away from writing any of it, this, wouldn't it?

    7 Yvonne Catterfeld - Erinner Mich Dich Zu Vergessen
    A name that screams secretary but in fact belongs to, yes, a former soap actress. At least it's not uptempo dance.

    6 Juli - Dieses Leben
    Proving that female fronted soulless faux-rock may be America's actual greatest export. Although there's a man dressed as Napoleon in the video, which always counts for something.

    5 Justin Timberlake - Sexyback
    Surely sexy was already here.

    4 Pink - U + Ur Hand
    Text messaging is destroying subtlety.

    3 Rihanna - Unfaithful
    Look on and despair, Blu Cantrell.

    2 Scissor Sisters - I Don't Feel Like Dancin'
    Like Bush in reverse they're making a tiny impact in America long after going stellar this side of the water. Who'd have thought in the land of Dave Matthews that this wouldn't immediately catch on, eh? Elton John, meanwhile, has apparently moved on to touting Breaks Co-Op as his band of the days.

    1 Silbermond - Das Beste
    Like a German Evanescence without the effort of going full-on, it's a rock power ballad par excellence that definitely reminds us of something that was a big female-fronted rock power ballad hit from the early 90s, the guitar solo coming in at 3:55 in a 4:30 song. Brilliant singer name, mind: Stefanie 'Pony' Kloß. That's the Chalets' gag you've nicked!

    Monday, October 23, 2006

    Weekender : it's sad that you think we're all just scenesters

    HOUSEKEEPING: Last call for volunteers to write about the song they love - we're nearly there but have a few gaps at the end of the month to fill. Also, if you haven't already downloaded it may we plug our Be My Babies Covermount. Leave us your thoughts because we think it's all ace and if there's demand there may well be another one (not on the same subject, obviously) before this month is out.

    CHART OF DARKNESS: My Chemical Romance - now a punk band, according to the BBC - remain at one, sales only 4,000 down which suggests something more than the fanbase only sales you might have expected. Girls Aloud were a reported downloads 34 in the midweeks but enter at 5, the first British act to have a download only top ten entry. Nothing fishy there, certainly. Meat Loaf, as he apparently now insists on, enters at 6 proving he can only sell records when they're called Bat Out Of Hell, the Ordinary Boys employ ultra-irony at 10 and Jamie T grows into 13, ahead of Beyonce and Amy Winehouse's download entries. As if to prove getting Diane Warren to write a song for them was a bad idea Numb becomes the second worst charting record of the Pet Shop Boys' post-West End Girls history at 23. Rogue Traders' idea of badly recreating old riffs and hoping people recognise Izzy stalls already at 33. The Goo Goo Dolls hardly prove the worth of early download promotion, or indeed sticking an old commercial radio hit on a double A side, as they climb from 42 to 39. Coolio is back at 67. Has he died?
    Last week's album top three is the same as this week's, the highest entry being, curiously, P Diddy and everyone you've ever heard of in R&B at 11. Badly Drawn Boy is at 17, his lowest entry position and one ahead of Deacon Blue's hits album. Are they fondly remembered? What did the girl actually do? Roy Orbison compilations lapped original albums some time ago, number eleven at 20, while even Roxette make it to three at 22. Lest we forget, the first was called Don't Bore Us, Get To The Chorus!, a title we still employ for private jokes. Cradle Of Filth, a private joke of their own, are at 46, while the American immigrant market remains high, which is surely the only explanation for John Mayer at 58.

    FREE MUSIC: New Jersey's Danielson are part of something we'll artlessly label the Indie Christianity movement, or at least when a movement actually arises, which it won't. But there's a lot of this sort of thing about nowadays, from Daniel Smith's mate and occasional collaborator Sufjan Stevens' faith references to Page France's more covert references. Did I Step On Your Trumpet is many things but spiritual is not one of them. From an album, Ships, that features contributions from personnel of Sufjan, Sereena Maneesh, Deerhoof, Why? and Steve Albini, it features a whistleable melody, a singalong chorus and as far as connection to straightforward indiepop goes that's about the size of it. Yes, the voice does take some working towards, but stick with it.

    HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: There's something definitely happening in Sweden at the moment. They've always sent over quality janglers and sunkissed indiepoppers in dribs and drabs before but the last few months have seen a slew of them, and up among the most prominent names are Suburban Kids With Biblical Names (a Silver Jews lyric, if you're keeping score). Johan Hedberg and Peter Gunnarson by name, they enjoy a good time, reminiscent of a less introspective Kings Of Convenience meets a stripped-back Stephin Merritt fiddling with electronic instruments and odd rhythms - listen to Funeral Face's attempt at inventing twee Afrobeat. Bonus track: Rent A Wreck.

    VISUAL REPRESENTATION: With this CD86 compilation out today and twenty year anniversary gigs at the ICA next weekend, one of which is curiously being headlined by the Magic Numbers, we thought we'd devote this and next week's YouTube experiences to what we like to call Trad Indie - that is to say, scratchy guitars, bowl cuts, Oxfam clothes as a statement and DIY videos. Isn't there a certain something about all of this sorely missing today? This was the sort of scene that calls among its progenitors Orange Juice's Falling And Laughing, the Jesus & Mary Chain's Never Understand and of course Talulah Gosh, those last two coming courtesy of someone we may marry one day who uploaded the whole of a period Shelter-supporting video to the site, without which a slightly disturbing number of people would have been denied memories of Stump by Buffalo. The Television Personalities had come from the back end of punk to delve deeper and darker with the likes of The Painted Word, while the unashamedly literate Monochrome Set's Jacob's Ladder found space in Peel's record box next to the enthusiastic Shop Assistants' I Don't Want To Be Friends With You and the briefly feted June Brides' In The Rain, apparently uploaded here by Phil Wilson himself. And then there's the ever individual Lawrence Hayward, who went from Felt's Stained Glass Windows In The Sky to Denim's Middle Of The Road, but that era is another story...

    FALLING OFF A BLOG: As we were saying last week a great gobbet of music blogs new to us have emerged in the last couple of weeks, but just this weekend we found out that TJ Worthington, one of our very favourite music and popular culture scribes, is dabbling in the black art. Just the three posts on The Memorex Years so far, but given they're about the Cardigans, Nancy Sinatra and Pete'n'Dud and contain far more detail then you ever thought you wanted, it's pretty much picking up where Is This Music? left off.

    FALLING OFF A BLOG EXTRA: We've plugged The Art Of Noise on here before, but it's worth a revisit as this week sees the start of a continuing series called In The Dock, in which contributors put cases for and against mainstays of musical culture and invite readers - that's you, hopefully - to cast the deciding vote. To start with, inevitably, the Beatles. Less inevitably, we understand the next few weeks will deal with the Levellers and songs with associated dance moves.

    EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: They email us enough, so we might as well plug Daytrotter, a magazine whose USP is specially recorded session tracks, recently inviting in Bonnie Prince Billy, Two Gallants, Cold War Kids and Page France with Tilly And The Wall and Beirut promised shortly.

    IN OTHER NEWS: Downloader and provider of many a free mp3 for this section Insound recently launched a full album service, marked by Save The Album, in which Bloc Party, the Walkmen, Colin Meloy, Devendra Banhart, Mountain Goat John Darnielle and Les Savy Fav's Tim Harrington pontificate on the significance and greatness of the long player. Smart positioning.

    Sunday, October 22, 2006

    In shops tomorrow: 23/10


    It's funny how occasionally things happen and emerge which make us feel slightly out of step with our UK blogging compadres. The Long Blondes, for instance, a band guaranteed to leave swooning and begging bloggers and professional writers in their wake but who we've never really 'got', or at least not since the tremendous Appropriation single. It's not even something we can put down to any one thing - we know we should like them on our musical history evidence, we appreciate their evident glamorous star quality, but the songs leave us unmoved somehow. As Someone To Drive You Home leaves even more enraptured we're in danger of getting left behind. Anyway, we can say Once And Never Again (we know it says 6th November on that link but we're going by their own official site, which should know, and that's the album release date in any case) is the best thing they've done since the Angular Recording Corporation days. At least their Female-Fronted Pulp reputation gives you an idea of what to expect - even though you could bracket his first two albums loosely as electro-folk, it's never wise to try and second-guess Patrick Wolf's intentions. The boy genius turned windswept dark storyteller has seemingly decided to lighten up a little, which is where a big glam-electro brassy pop song called Accident And Emergency comes in, technically a duet with Edward Larrikin although close investigation reveals he gets all of one line. God knows what it all means for next year's The Magic Position album, mind. Maybe it's a diversionary tactic. Is it just us who's reminded by it of Good Morning Britain by Aztec Camera and Mick Jones? And while we're in a self-questioning mood, are we allowed in polite company to admit a sneaking respect for Amy Winehouse? And we mean from back when she was being widely dismissed as nu-jazz-lite, when she was walking that clever/ballsy fine line and giving actually critical/newsworthy quotes the sort of which you thought had long been ironed out by major label interview training teams. Rehab again neatly sidesteps the genre pigeonholes Radio 2 would create for her and finds its groove. Must say, though, in the very indie way we have of being put off records by their attendent press we do question the machinations of this return, first with the mid-market papers going on about her weight seemingly out of nowhere two years after her previous single, then the broadsheets all running pieces about her album well in advance at the same time, and most notably the stock line about this single that it recalls 60s girl groups - we're willing to admit that it recalls the 60s girl group sound better than Lightning Bolt do, true, but we're detecting more Stax grit than Spector sound. Oh, and stop quoting the opening line, it's not really that meaningful. You know where you are with Joan As Policewoman, even if she/they do(es) take you on an emotional rollercoaster of its own. Christobel would be the rockiest one off the album if we were at all comfortable with such descriptions, but regardless it shows off Joan Wasser's impressive voice well. The 7" shelves are graced this week with someone you might have worked out we quite like, Luke Haines, with the Richard X-produced title track from forthcoming album Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop. There's always been a discopop element to his creepy misanthropy. Long serving garage rocker and everything else Billy Childish is meanwhile putting his Buff Medways to bed with an EP, The Last Of The Buff Medways. He's already got a new band together, called Billy Childish and the Musicians of the British Empire. Well, what else would a Billy Childish band be expected to take name inspiration from?


    The odd thing about this week in album releases, apart from just how many big name albums are out (and being ignored here), is that the really outstanding stuff is in the form of compilations and reworkings. So let's deal with new material first, and quickly. Transgressive's never-quite-making-it outfit Battle were supposed to have released an album called Break The Banks by now - it leaked and everything - but between finishing the album sessions and release they wrote and recorded a whole slew of new, they thought better songs, so that was scrapped and a full length is due in 2007. Before then, Back To Earth emerges, a seven track mini-LP featuring most of their family favourites. Being the trailblazer for DC hardcore is all very well and good but we all have to move on some time, so while Fugazi remain on hiatus Ian MacKaye releases his second stripped back album as half of The Evens, Get Evens. Given we posted two free mp3s of theirs in Weekender recently it's remiss that we've still not got round to hearing +/-'s Let's Build A Fire but hopes are high for their electronically enhanced dreampop. Simple Kid was the Irish Beck a couple of years ago, before he wilted under the strain and went to work in a record shop for six months. SK2 marks his return. Right, that's new thrusting goodness out of the way, let's look at the repackaging. Well, that's not strictly fair, as in the week of the second anniversary of John Peel's passing there are five new Peel Sessions compilations out, most forensically Pulp's The Complete Peel Sessions, and by complete they mean their November 1981 session right through to the one ahead of We Love Life, plus a second disc of BBC live recordings. PJ Harvey's association was similarly thorough, even if The Peel Sessions 1991-2004 isn't a complete set of her five visits, unlike Siouxsie & The Banshees' Voices On The Air: The Peel Sessions, which not only features all five of their sessions but also Paul Morley on sleevenote duty. The House Of Love made six, The Complete John Peel Sessions, carefully split into Terry Bickers era and post-Bickers, while Gene made it to three, padding out the second CD of John Peel Sessions 95-99 with live gubbins. Three versions of As Good As It Gets! We barely needed one! Oh, and there's also Classics From John Peel's All Time Festive Fifty creeping out. Why they couldn't have given it a point and put all fifty from the millennial poll on we're not totally sure, especially as it doesn't include the number one. Now, you know we like our borderline unforgiveable mid-80s indie here at Sweeping The Nation, so of course we've made room in our hearts for CD86, not unfortunately the hoped for C86 reissue but 48 tracks that defined a certain independent ideal. This compilation is being put out by Sanctuary and has its own Myspace, admittedly, but that's nostalgia for you. And they've picked the wrong Loft track and missed out assorted actual C86 acts, but that's by the by. Popjustice finally brings out its '100% Solid Pop Music' mix CD, mixed by bootleg type McSleazy, which features Annie next to Girls Aloud, Ladytron, the Thin White Duke Killers remix and ends with Biology followed by a Biology remix, and is thus all you want. Apart from Monster being track two. We don't care if it is a remix, it's still The Automatic's base materials. The Pet Shop Boys are on it and reputedly are using it as their warm-up music on tour, which brings us suspiciously nicely only Concrete, their first live album documenting their Mermaid Theatre concert with the BBC Concert Orchestra in May. Nothing Has Been Proved is on it, excitingly, while Trevor Horn and Anne Dudley take up positions in the band and Rufus Wainwright turns up (as does Robbie Williams, but hey). Finally it's Mercury Rev's turn at a Back To Mine, an expectedly eclectic compilation including David Bowie, Terry Jacks, Galaxie 500, Billie Holiday, Nico, Spacemen 3, Suicide and Randy Newman.


    It's the season for autobiographies well before the time when the subject has much of interest to say, that you'll be aware of, but at least Gorillaz can make it all up. 'Co'-written by Cass Browne, presumably the one from the Senseless Things and Delakota given he's in the live band, Rise Of The Ogre features scores of new and work in progress graphics from Jamie Hewlett and team. There's going to be dolls released for Christmas too. Well, of course there are.

    The Weekly Sweep

  • Art Brut - Nag Nag Nag Nag [Myspace]
  • Absentee - You Try Sober
  • Band Of Horses - The Funeral [YouTube]
  • Beck - The New Pollution [YouTube]
  • Brakes - Margherita
  • Clinic - Animal Human
  • Dartz! - St Petersburg [YouTube]
  • Final Fantasy - Many Lives -> 49 MP [mp3]
  • Grizzly Bear - Knife [mp3 from Macktronic]
  • I'm From Barcelona - Treehouse [mp3 from Into The Groove]
  • Jeremy Warmsley - The Young Man Sees The City As A Chess Board
  • Klaxons - Magick [YouTube]
  • Luke Haines - Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop [YouTube]
  • Patrick Wolf - Accident And Emergency [YouTube]
  • Pooh Sticks - On Tape [mp3 from Hearsay] Ah, self reverential mid-80s indie! Why can't we have that now? No, don't respond to that
  • Pull Tiger Tail - Animator [YouTube]
  • Sparks - Dick Around (We're sure we've seen the full version on a video site, but no linking luck so here's the part performance for Jonathan Ross regardless - note Tom White on guitar)
  • Tilly And The Wall - Rainbows In The Dark [YouTube]
  • Tokyo Police Club - Nature Of The Experiment [mp3 from Instrumental Analysis]
  • The Young Knives - The Decision [YouTube]
  • Saturday, October 21, 2006

    An Illustrated Guide To...Luke Haines

    Luke Haines once told the BBC that his career had been "a rollercoaster romp of good slapstick entertainment". He always did have a curious sense of humour, though. Categorised as Britain's most misanthropic songwriter, a man who revels in a certain aura of self-confidence set against the dark heart of Britain, one who definitely has a sense of humour but it's just none more black, it's worth noting that Haines' core methods at heart tap into a lineage of English songwriting and pop awareness and only started scratching at the cynical seam once it seemed he was destined for footnote status in the modern history of what we shall term Britpop. With his third proper solo album on the way, it's high time we had a catch-up session.

    Born in October 1967 in Walton-on-Thames, the Surrey town whose Jonathan King attracting nightspot the Walton Hop is commemorated on the new album, Haines moved to Portsmouth aged 14 and after short spells at art school and the London College Of Music joined David Westlake, classist songwriter recently of C86 alumni the Servants, to first put out a 1987 album under the Westlake name and after many record label wrangles and a period with ex-Housemartins drummer Hugh Whitaker a Servants album, Disinterest, in 1990 (video for single Look Like A Girl). The Servants split a year later, but piqued by Westlake's songcraft and a Go-Betweens infatuation Haines started writing songs and formed three-piece the Auteurs, including girlfriend and Servants bassist Alice Readman. Supposedly signed by Hut records on the basis of one demo and three gigs, incessant gigging made their name and debut single Showgirl marked their territory of caustic, literate, very parochial guitar pop. The following March, preceded by a Melody Maker cover, came New Wave, mining a more cynical version of Ray Davies' lyrical, mildly satirical storytelling in a way that hadn't been evisaged during the previous couple of years' grunge onslaught, although Haines has claimed it was more inspired by the Modern Lovers, and was shot through with references to stardom, subtle melodic touches - James Banbury's cello was well used - and a singular worldview that won it rapturous notices.

    VIDEO: Showgirl
    Junk Shop Clothes

    There were signs of the truculence to come - Idiot Brother was a veiled attack on Clive Davis, whose Fire label put out Disinterest - but the return to classicism made the album a student bedsit favourite and won it a nomination for the second Mercury Prize, where it lost out by a single vote to Suede's self-titled debut. Haines responded by tracking down a judge and subjecting him to much the same verbals as he was to give Matt Johnson of The The from the stage, hastily ending a tour support slot.

    With press interest still high and Britpop starting to take much of the raw materials of New Wave for itself - Haines has long held a grudge against Damon Albarn for what he sees as the co-opting of his idea for Modern Life Is Rubbish, even though the Blur album came out just two months later - Hut pressured the band into recording a second album. The result was Now I'm A Cowboy, the only album that Haines will publicly disassociate himself from, claiming it was a structured attempt to create a populist record, right down to a failed attempt to recruit Vanessa Paradis to duet on New French Girlfriend. It's louder but without a great deal of movement on from New Wave, although certainly this idea of populism was an interesting viewpoint, as the first two singles were Lenny Valentino and Chinese Bakery, the former an envisaged cross between Lenny Bruce and Rudolf Valentino (the namechecked John Judnich was Bruce's live album engineer), the latter an attack on a perceived class tourist apparently based on a singer-songwriter who'd supported the band. The singles charted at 41 and 42. That was about as lucky as Haines would get for the next six years.

    VIDEO: Lenny Valentino on Later With Jools Holland
    Chinese Bakery

    As a remix album, Auteurs vs U-Ziq, in which IDM mainstay Mike Paradinas completely reworked three tracks from Now I'm A Cowboy (Paradinas claims Haines loved it, Haines has begged to differ) filled a gap incessant touring and chart pressures were by now getting to Haines, who ended up breaking both his ankles in Spain late in 1994. Two years later he confessed to Alternative Press "I jumped off a fifteen-foot wall at a particular low point in our touring, in a bid to finish the tour and get the insurance... It gave me a chance to slow down and take stock. Sometimes you need to bring yourself into reality... I really wanted to get out of the whole thing without doing anything really dramatic. So it was kind of a cop-out. I probably should have just killed myself." Confined to a wheelchair for two months, Haines found his songwriting muse re-emerging and that it was darker than ever, perhaps as a result of his musing that his act was "irrational... The tour had even been going all right, but I was just kind of fed up with the situation as it was, playing the same old rock and roll crap that everyone goes through, the general moaning when you really should be grateful that you don't work in the checkout counter at the grocery." Finding Britpop overtaking all by the March 1996 release, Haines also decided that one way out of the morass would be to employ Steve Albini to record the band at Abbey Road Studios in a live, abrasive fashion that suited songs about child murder, alcoholism, abuse and fantasy bombing alongside the usual takes on England's glamour and fickle fame, loosely based around a theme park concept and lyrically recalling Elvis Costello at his guilt-and-revenge angriest while providing a handy antidote to the day's radio playlists. The press and public didn't know what to make of After Murder Park, which was probably half the idea. When we saw Haines at Summer Sundae last year he observed that a quarter of the tent emptied during this song.

    VIDEO: Light Aircraft On Fire
    Unsolved Child Murder

    Incidentally, the only Amazon reviewer not to give this five stars does so because "the mixer should have been shot for thinking a guitar gritch was more important than a clean vocal track that can be heard & understood by Americanos." Perfect understanding of Haines' sound, there.

    At the time Haines claimed he was only listening to "trashy Belgian techno", although in the same interview he also claims "the next album will be lighter". The next album was a concept album about terrorist plans under the name Baader Meinhof. Apparently boasting the working title This Is The Hate Socialist Collective, Baader Meinhof the album took the Auteurs template and gave it a funked up electronica reworking and an even more nihilist attitude that the music press found hard to swallow at the time, the NME supposedly refusing a review on morality grounds, although Back With The Killer Again was a third top 50 single. On reflection this would seem to be the bridge between the Great British Songwriter In Waiting and the observer confusing years, as well as making clearer his debt to the 70s.

    Meet Me At The Airport

    Around this time he met John Moore, one time Jesus & Mary Chain drummer and Expressway leader who was at the time importing absinthe and helping out nascent band Balloon. Briefly toying with a noise project, they instead hired Balloon's 24 year old Dorset-born backing vocalist Sarah Nixey, a former drama student whose cut glass accent appealed to the two men. Moore claims they saw themselves as a classic songwriting to order partnership, but inevitably England Made Me was nothing of the sort, sinister slo-mo Velvets guitars and effects underpinning blackly comedic lyrics, Nixey's sweet/sour nothings on kidnap, suicide and ennui, famously declaring on first single Child Psychology "life is unfair, kill yourself or get over it", mixed in with a curious version of Uptown Top Ranking. Some called it depressive, and missed the point entirely.

    VIDEO: Child Psychology
    VIDEO: England Made Me
    Girl Singing In The Wreckage

    Intended as a one-off, Haines returned to the Auteurs name in 1999 with How I Learned To Love The Bootboys, an album that was supposedly originally "a concept album about feral gangs of telekinetic youths" but instead ended up making his fascination with the decade that he grew up in and his disillusionment with the populist reductionism of the day's nostalgia explicit. 1967 was sung from the point of view of his father, The Rubettes, to which Nixey and Moore contributed, referenced Sugar Baby Love against deliciously wry period commentary, and Some Changes and Future Generations ("And of course I love the old songs, from New Wave to Murder Park/The next generation will get it from the start/It's the ending of the modern age
    and I know I'm just a sham") assessed his own place in history to come, all over retro guitar sounds and cheap glam production. Inevitably, Haines posited that this was his most accessible work, although he also suggested it was "an incendiary device in a car boot sale".

    VIDEO: The Rubettes

    Still, the pop bug was there, and a year later it exploded in style with a Black Box Recorder single Haines says was intended to sound like Billie's Honey To The Bee. As usual he got it wrong - everyone claimed it resembled All Saints instead - but The Facts Of Life, mixed by Pete Craigie whose CV also features the Sugababes, Atomic Kitten and Liberty X, made Radio 1's B-list and charted at number 20, getting the trio onto Top Of The Pops. The album, also The Facts Of Life but originally titled Children Will Be Conceived To This Record, was advertised by Haines as "sounding like nothing else on Earth" but in fact was a progression in the BBR sound onto a sourer, seductive St Etienne, with flecks of Serge Gainsbourg, more death marches and a return to off-kilter storytelling.

    VIDEO: The Facts Of Life
    VIDEO: The Art Of Driving
    The English Motorway System

    In 2001, while Moore and Nixey went off to get married (rumour has it they split this year) and B-sides, remixes and videos compilation The Worst Of Black Box Recorder kept its placeholder Haines was keeping himself busy. First in June came Christie Malry's Own Double Entry, the soundtrack to a film version of cult experimental novelist B S Johnson's final novel about a man settling his scores with society via double entry book-keeping - never a soundtrack job meant for Ronan Keating, at a guess - that starred Nick Moran. The soundtrack found Haines taking matters at hand with relish and musically all over the place, from acoustic to electronica to fuzzy guitars via a spooked-out version of Nick Lowe's I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass. This was followed within two months by The Oliver Twist Manifesto, stripped back but up to Mark E Smith levels of curmudgeonliness - the tracks we've picked out don't perfectly illustrate this, we're aware - taking the hacksaw to pop culture and excess (opening lyric: "this is not entertainment") on the likes of YBA-fantasising The Death Of Sarah Lucas. Ever the individualist, Haines declared a National Pop Strike for the week of its release, his call for a cessation of all musical activities getting him a slot on the Today programme but not proving tremendously successful, although judging by his recent No Music Day declaration Bill Drummond remembers it well.

    How To Hate The Working Classes
    Never Work

    2003 saw the third and probably final Black Box Recorder outing, the uneven electronic outing Passionoia which saw cudgels taken up against all manner of pop (Being Number One, Andrew Ridgeley) as well as the previous disenfranchisement/sexual mores themes. (Aside: John Moore ploughed much the same mordantly funny/wretched furrow on his 2005 solo album Half Awake, while Nixey's solo debut is expected in 2007, in collaboration with ex-Auteur and now half of Infantjoy James Banbury, following single The Collector) In fact Haines seemed to be putting everything to bed in 2003, Das Capital, subtitled The Songwriting Genius of Luke Haines And The Auteurs, being a curious reworking of various favourites plus three new songs in a light orchestral style, apparently because he thought it'd be more rewarding than a straight compilation. Yes, of course he toyed with calling it Mein Kampf. Not that he couldn't do that, 2005's Luke Haines Is Dead being a 3 CD, 63 track cherrypicked overview with typically overarching Haines sleevenotes and typically obtuse Paul Morley ones. Since then it's been the occasional acoustic tour before Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop, released on 30th October. We haven't heard it, but apparently it's quite eclectic and retro-cauterising, and Richard X produced the title track single (video). There are also reports that the soundtrack to abandoned musical Property, featuring Nixey, will see the light of day.

    So, how to sign off this most wilfully angular of bristling British songwriting talents, labelled "music's Graham Greene" by Word and not without merit? With the introduction to the programme of Saint Luke At St Luke's, the church-based launch gig for Das Capital: "It is my pleasure and duty to welcome you to my inauguration into the rock'n'roll hall of fame, here, tonight, live at St Luke's. Of course, being of a modest disposition, I shall not be mentioning it during tonight's performance and would be grateful if you, the audience, make no reference to this momentous event. This is, in many ways, a homecoming. After three arduous years of pop strike, with only a dozen or so Black Box Recorder-related scabbing incidents, I do hope you will forgive me for any light-heartedness or ebullience. I am now, after all, a free man. On the subject of freedom and forgiveness, I have only just noticed that there are no 'original' Auteurs amongst my backing band. But as some of these so called 'original' Auteurs were dismissed on the grounds of diminished musical responsibility, I feel the present arrangement works very favourably."

    Tuesday, October 17, 2006

    Sweeping The Nation Covermount 1 : Be My Babies

    So this promised new feature, then. We've been toying with the idea of some sort of occasional downloadable compilation, because god knows we have to fight back against the mp3-touting tyrant blogs somehow, and we're also invenerate musical listmakers. So what'll happen is every so often we're going to use a popular download filesharing service to house a 74-minute compilation, perfect for home burning, on a particular theme or running strand. Your hard drives can take it.

    We're starting with a thought that actually came to us almost by accident a few weeks ago, that in this 50 year history of pop music no single drumbeat has had the cultural impact of the four-beat Wrecking Crew seconds of intensity that kicks off the Ronettes' Be My Baby. (Alright, Funky Drummer has its fans, but that's more for its intricacy and the fact it's had the song named after its fill.) It seems resonant of an era, a genre and a possibility all at the same time, and with its comparative simplicity that even the most amateur of garage band skinbeaters can copy it's no wonder it's been co-opted so often in much. Once we'd got the obvious in as track one we found a good 35 or so songs that featured the beat in some way, shape or form, eventually cutting down to

    a trim 21 replicants, all of which feature it in its purest form and use it at the start or near enough. Not all are attempts to take on the sound of the time, but nobody falls into the underpinning beat without knowing about it and it almost always brings about a feeling of knowing well-being when it crops up, we've found. It's interesting to ascertain why it's used too - some as a way of reinforcing the message of desperate love, some to turn that notion on its head, some to recapture the wistfulness at the original's core, some to blow that ideal apart. A lot actually utilise it a lot more than the original, and there's quite a bit of castanet use going on too. So, have we included your favourite? Yes, probably. Download it (click on 'Free' at the bottom of the first screen and then wait for the download to become available), unzip the file and listen in.

    Sweeping The Nation Covermount 1 : Be My Babies

    (Liner notes added February 2009)

    The Ronettes - Be My Baby
    Well, where would you start? Pitchfork's sixth greatest song of the 60s, Rolling Stone's 22nd best of all time, Brian Wilson's favourite song of all time, Hal Blaine, supposedly the more recorded musician in history, is your man starting the legend here. Plenty of Best Ofs if you want a fuller story.

    Billy Joel - Say Goodbye To Hollywood
    About as close as we'll get to a straight up musical tribute to Be My Baby, written as a tribute to Ronnie Spector, who actually covered it in 1977, a year after the original came out. It's on Turnstiles, deemed the album that saw Joel move into the pop songwriting big league.

    The Magnetic Fields - Candy
    Not Stephin Merritt's only attempt to channel the Wall Of Sound on a budget and not even the only one of his songs to feature trace elements of Blaine, but probably the most intriguing, from The Wayward Bus, Merritt's 1989 debut and impossible to find until reissued packed with Plastic Trees in 2004.

    El Perro Del Mar - Oh What A Christmas
    Timely. El Perro Del Mar is the solo band name under which Sarah Assbring of Gothenburg works, playing nearly all the instruments and mixing her Spector with Birkinesque French chanson pop to great effect on her European debut eponymous solo album. Later development into SMiLE territory is in truth less successful. As far as we can tell it was only ever been available as a free Christmas download from her once UK label Memphis Industries.

    Camera Obscura - Eighties Fan
    The oddly tender track that introduced many to Tracyanne Campbell and co's gorgeously bittersweet post-indiepop, from 2001's Stuart Murdoch-produced Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi, here with the metaphorical arm round the shoulder of a younger sibling. Must be something in the Glaswegian day air.

    Lucky Soul - Give Me Love
    Only to be found on the club night How Does It Feel To Be Loved?'s compilation The Kids At The Club, the swoonsome Greenwich sextet come on as Dusty In Memphis With The Shangri-Las. They run own Ruffa Lane label, a setup which makes you wonder how they can afford this enormous a string sound.

    The Pipettes - Sex
    We've already heard the lineup that fronted We Are The Pipettes referred to as 'the classic line-up', not tricky given the two since have at the time of writing not released anything. One of Rose's, this, apparently.

    Kenickie - Millionaire Sweeper
    We will, as stated many times before, go down fighting for At The Club and generally Kenickie's good name as brittle, acutely observational teen thrill providers - Lauren Laverne and Marie du Santiago were both eighteen when this came out as a single.

    Johnny Boy - You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve
    It actually reached number 50 in August 2004, but it's still a continuing source of pleasant wonder to us to find so many people just adore this James Dean Bradfield-produced track to this day. Took them nearly three years after this to licence the self titled debut album in the UK.

    Manic Street Preachers - Everything Must Go
    Despite statements made earlier in their career in fact Bradfield is by all accounts something of a Motown aficionado and the work on Sean Moore's drums on the number 5 single, their attempt to wipe the slate clean of their divisive past, actually does approach the original source's enormity even before he switches to the kettle drums. Title track of the 1996 album that sold them to Mondeo man.

    Mercury Rev - In A Funny Way
    They looked set to become major players on the back of Deserter's Songs but by the time The Secret Migration came out in 2005 Jonathan Donahue's old band the Flaming Lips had conclusively stolen their woozy Americana fire. At least they retained the bowed saw.

    British Sea Power - To Get To Sleep
    Never a band to take the easiest lyrical route, on the face of it this Open Season cut is a song about the effectiveness of sleeping remedies, namechecking Nytol and melatonin. Inevitably, it's not a song to fall asleep to.

    The Jesus and Mary Chain - Just Like Honey
    Ah. We wonder how many of the above have been unthinkingly referred to as borrowing a drumbeat from Just Like Honey, so era defining to a certain generation was Psychocandy. Bobby Gillespie, of course, on louche standing-up drummer duty here making the original's visceral thrill sound like intimidating sludge.

    Shimura Curves - Just Like Friends
    We're not entirely sure they're still going, but in their day somewhere amid innumerable lineup changes with their sub-pro-am live show and universal description as "Stereolab do the Pipettes, perhaps literally" they were quite something.

    Depeche Mode - A Question Of Lust
    From their electro-goth menace phase, 1986's none more black Black Celebration to be exact, bleakly sounding as if it was recorded in a storage warehouse. We imagine a lot of synths were ordered in for this. Lyrically it's about the vulnerablility of love and jealousy that comes attached, so you can see where they're coming from at least.

    Clinic - I.P.C. Subeditors Dictate Our Youth
    An example of a song that starts with the drumbeat just because it can. Now that Clinic are onto album five you wonder what anyone could have made of this mania, their first single from 1997, rootless as it often seems. An NME single of the week, ironically. Find it on the self-titled 1999 compilation of their first three singles.

    The Long Blondes - New Idols
    Now they're pinned down in memorial as a post-teen angst female Pulp who had a disco phase at which they lost it, it's worth remembering how offbeat their earliest material was as much as their early manifesto-ing. This was their first proper single, like dancefloor Blondie doing the Shop Assistants, and is now to be found on "Singles". Obviously.

    The Dictators - Teengenerate
    Using the template against itself - and no, it doesn't directly start with the drums, but near enough - the NY junk culture proto-punks comment with a small covering of irony on rock'n'roll itself, or something like that. From 1975 debut The Dictators Go Girl Crazy!

    Guided By Voices - Ha Ha Man
    From the mod-ish recesses of Robert Pollard's overactive songwriting hand, it's exactly what you want from them - it sounds like an indie Who, it's got Tobin Sprout on it, the lyrics nearly make sense and it lasts 79 seconds. Find it on their first out-takes box set - it is GBV, after all - Suitcase: Failed Experiments And Trashed Aircraft.

    Hefner - The Weight Of The Stars
    As with, we subsequently discovered, many others Hefner were 'our secret' for a portion of the late 90s, gravitating towards Darren Hayman's picking apart of the human condition to what he called "urban folk". What can we say, we thought he spoke to us. This is on 1999's The Fidelity Wars or The Best Of Hefner 1996-2002.

    ballboy - Avant Garde Music
    They'd prefer it if we were to typograph it like that, apparently. Gordon McIntyre's wryly funny tales of love, loss and love that never came so it could be lost make him one of Scottish pop's best kept secrets, from inception through 2002's standout A Guide For The Daylight Hours to date.

    Smog - Permanent Smile
    Closing with a bang? Not when Bill Callahan's involved, at least certainly around 2000's Dongs of Sevotion, although listen to those drums, seemingly recorded in an underground cave in North Korea. Over an ever looping backing Callahan sings about the permanence of death at heart, which by Callahan standards is remarkably cheery.

    Monday, October 16, 2006

    Weekender : recovering from the harvest festival season

    PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Our Songs You Need To Hear, or whatever we're calling it, feature for November is about half full now, but that's still half a month short. Read up on it, invite yourself along.

    CHART OF DARKNESS: Run for your lives, Daily Mail, the emos are taking over! My Chemical Romance finally land it properly in the midst of the populist arm of youth culture as Welcome To The Black Parade, behind Razorlight in the midweeks, end up 5K ahead. This is probably supposed to be the Queen-indebted end of your eyeliner-doused, asymmetrically haircutted, wallet chain sporting, nasally vocalled genre. Rites Of Spring wouldn't have approved. Beatfreakz, whose video has been on B4 24-7 over the last couple of weeks - do you see? It's a bit like Thriller! Nobody's ever done that before! - is at 7 and James Morrison scares us all with a late change of single not hindering a number 20 on downloads. Hot Chip do what they couldn't do without about the same amount of airplay and reach 27 with Over And Over, Corinne Bailey Rae reaps MOBO rewards at, um, 32, two above where it charted the first time around, while Badly Drawn Boy seems done for in terms of widespread popularity despite what he admits is a calculatedly more pop sound at 38, outdone by old stagers Placebo and The Ordinary Boys on downloads. Preston, incidentally, is now claiming his Big Brother appearance was an act of satire. Chris Morris rests easy. Apart from pointing at Blazin' Squad at 54, we can only worry about next week's charts judging on this week's download contenders, as Meat Loaf is at 43 and the Goo Goo Dolls are a place above due to their label cleverly affixing a forgettable new single onto a double A side with Iris, a song that was everywhere in 1999 and indeed ever since on commercial radio despite never topping number 26. The race is on!
    As expected Sam's Town is still number one despite a Scissorlight pincer movement, but again on populism's blindside we find not-nu-metal Trivium at 7. Bailey Rae is back in the top ten, Luther Vandross' fifth hits collection is at 12 and Connie Fisher off How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? can be satisfied at 14 even if it's erected a pedestal for her right next to a handy collection of boulders. At 24 we find Songs From The Labyrinth, otherwise known as Sting's Lute Album. That's a lot of novelty birthday presents for one week. In fact, on further investigation, Gordon is also being credited for his work on the 'archlute'. The vilest of all the lutes! Milburn, who must have fans somewhere but we've never met one, are at 32, Chris De Burgh can't heal the chart ills at 38, Lloyd Banks (see Milburn) enters at 40 and supposedly popular bearded semi-crooner Ray Lamontagne is at 73, one ahead of the Albert Hammond Jr Non-Bootleg.

    FREE MUSIC: Tokyo Police Club are from Ontario but have just signed up to the reliably eclectic Memphis Industries roster (they've also just signed ex-Myspace pick Bricolage), where Nature Of The Experiment will be released on 7" on November 20th. We do keep stumbling across cut-and-thrust North American bands who touch base with Sonic Youth, the Strokes and Built To Spill, darkly melodic with an Interpol rhythm section over tightly wound hooks. Also, David Monks sounds like not unlike a calmer Canadian Andy Falkous. Oh, hang on, does he namecheck Up The Bracket at 0:56? Ah well.

    HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: The Hellset Orchestra, from Nottingham, fulfil that cliched bass/drums/vocals-organ/violin/violin/cello/sax line-up. They also like a long title. Inevitably, god knows where you'd start trying to surmise them properly without just listing bands and hoping someone's paying attention, although their top 8 includes Eels, Mars Volta and Electric Eel Shock, which seems a decent enough place to start. There's a definite Sparksesque spread out vitality and theatricality about it, somewhere akin to the Misty's Big Adventure ballpark but more gothic and showbizzy. Only showbizzy in their own cracked minds, obviously.

    VISUAL REPRESENTATION: Don't know how many other readers saw BBC4's tremendous documentary last week about the Yorkshire Jacques Brel that was Jake Thackray, but it did give us a theme for this week - British, if not exactly eccentrics, then certainly singular figures who add to the gaiety of the nation in various ways. So here's Thackray doing On Again!, sporting what Danny Baker accurately pinpoints as one of the great opening lines, on Neil Innes' still-no-sign-of-a-DVD series Innes Book Of Records. Neil Innes was of course the previously featured Vivian Stanshall's second in Bonzo command, which we mention because we've just discovered superb prime live footage from German TV, and went on to invent the Rutles, but somewhere in between he was a regular on Eric Idle's post-Python project Rutland Weekend Television, from which we take Slaves Of Freedom. In other news, an astonishingly rare clip of Ian Dury reading his poetry to Anthony H Wilson, a clip you can safely turn off about 23 seconds in as John Peel introduces himself to Top Of The Pops viewers before introducing Theatre Of Hate, Terry Wogan (he's got dual nationality, sit down) manfully copes with a live TOTP vocal on The Floral Dance and Billy Bragg teams up with Bill Bailey at Glastonbury to perform the latter's Unisex Chipshop.

    FALLING OFF A BLOG: After a short period of dryness blogs are coming to our attention at a decent rate now. The musically inclined bits of The 15-Minute Hipster reminds us of, well, us, if we actually put some thought into talking up the new and live music we love rather than two-sentence dismissals on Sunday afternoons.

    EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: Never turn down the opportunity to plug an online cultural magazine, that's our motto. Floatation Suite's been there for a while, but even if some may be put off by the idea of a fiction section it's worth a look as they've built up a decent interview and live review archive.

    IN OTHER NEWS: Didn't Domino release a Josef K anthology a couple of years ago? Maybe they thought people had forgotten. Anyway, there's a new one out next month, and in what must be a rare opportunity even for when the band were together Paul Haig talked to the Scotsman.