Saturday, March 31, 2007

We did have a proper post planned for today, honest

But we didn't get round to it. And we've just realised we've deleted the mp3 we were going to post to Corporate Anthems tomorrow. Don't you often feel levity and professionalism are over-rated?

We suspect this won't make it to Monday, but it's very good nonetheless. Look at the menu!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Rip Rig & Panic suddenly seems a long time ago

Neneh Cherry's doing a cooking show.

Some points:

a) How long has Andrea Oliver been styling herself 'Andi' for?
b) Who really calls Nigel Slater their hero?
c) Why would you watch a programme in which her that did Manchild and her that used to do that Channel 4 thing with Ice-T cook Sunday lunch, given the long and varied history of actual chefs cooking Sunday lunches on television?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

We're getting you to make a decision for us again

...and the STN readership has spoken. We'll try and get the people's choice for Covermount 7 up before Easter, and then we'll come up with some finalised ideas of our own for once.

In the meantime, enjoy a new Half Man Half Biscuit song.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Weekender : still quite unable to believe the Classic Chart Show shown on The Vault on Saturday

...which featured an Indie Chart from which it picked out to show to kids first thing on a weekend morning the effects-heavy videos for My Bloody Valentine's Swallow and Spacemen 3's Big City.

FREE MUSIC: Chapel Hill, North Carolina married couple The Rosebuds seem to have earned a bit of post-SXSW blog buzz for their apparently comparatively recent move towards New Order territory, more Lowlife era than the really dancey Ibiza/Arthur Baker period. There's a definite leaning towards the trusty disco hi-hat on Get Up Get Out, which doesn't make it any less earcatching. And while it's British synth influenced, at least it's not in the same way the Killers are.

HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: It's not as if we've wanted for Montreal bands of late, but even in their crowded scene Land Of Talk deserve your ears, especially as they're coming our way in May. Some attention in the usual set of influential blogs (Colin Meloy has been vocally supportive too) for the trio, who being female led will inevitably lead to its own particular set of comparative parameters and eventually criticisms, was garnered by last year's EP Applause Cheer Boo Hiss, which variously brings to mind a slightly more linear Blonde Redhead, a less electronic Metric, Kristin Hersh doing Sonic Youth or PJ Harvey in the New Pornographers, and indeed if you want a quick STN-friendly pinpoint that in terms of sweet/sour girl abrasion they might be the North American Sky Larkin.

VISUAL REPRESENTATION: More Of The Monkees was number one in America this week forty years ago, and we've always had a yen for what they were doing. Not in the conceptual 'manufactured' before manufacturing sense (although have you seen that Bel's Boys? Bloody hell, come back North And South, all is forgiven given you're not doing old Sean Maguire songs.) It's a shame that kids of today will never see the series over summer holiday BBC1 mornings, and have you seen how much the DVD box sets are? Let us instead rely on the power of the upload for our fixes of Last Train To Clarksville, actually about lovers torn apart by the Vietnam draft, and Goffin & King's Pleasant Valley Sunday, while noting that even Randy Scouse Git, released as Alternate Title in the UK and titled by writer Micky Dolenz after a phrase he'd heard on Til Death Us Do Part while on business in Britain, had to get the multicoloured backdrop/ethnic design tabard treatment. The series only actually ran for two seasons, still 58 shows, and by the end with the four in open rebellion against their paymasters Michael Nesmith, a singer-songwriter pre-Monkees who'd already sold Different Drum to Linda Ronstadt (the Lemonheads later covered it), started inviting his mates onto the show, which explains the mind-screwing moment when Frank Zappa and Nesmith impersonate each other. The very final show ended not with some sort of farewell Monkees song or montage but with Tim Buckley debuting Song To The Siren three years before the recorded version came out (and note that he's perched on the hood of the car Nesmith and Zappa lay into at the end of the previous clip). A year later came the completely whacked-out film Head, which featured Porpoise Song, and then there was really nowhere else to go. Nesmith, the musical one, didn't rest on the knowledge of his Tipp-Ex inheritance, though, inventing MTV and going solo with psych-folk like Rio, which did for the American pop video market what Bohemian Rhapsody did for them in Britain.

VISUAL REPRESENTATION EXTRA: The year will have to be doing well to beat this as its most surreal televised musical happening. Ladies and gentlemen, Ms Church vs Mr Wolf.

VIRAL MARKETING: Feist's The Reminder, released April 23rd, is getting a lot of attention at the moment and it could finally provide the Canadian chanteuse and former flatmate of Peaches with that one push into a wider audience. A cover of Nina Simone's Sea Lion Woman has been pushed onto YouTube with illustrative studio and live footage.

FALLING OFF A BLOG: We didn't realise when we picked The Video Villain for spotlighting this week that they'd just posted that Buckley/Monkees clip too, so more power to them. It's a YouTube embed blog which means it's forever chasing a) the odd stuff and b) the Terms Of Service monster. It ties in with 7/12" digitising service The Vinyl Villain, which if we've not mentioned on here before is something of an oversight.

EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: Among the US radio stations at SXSW was Cincinnati's WOXY, which took a plethora bands in during the four days for specially recorded live sets all downloadable as mp3s. Among the Lounge Acts: the aforementioned Land Of Talk, the Rumble Strips, Foals, 65daysofstatic, 120 Days, the Little Ones, Snowden, the Manhattan Love Suicides and, as usual, quite a few bands we've never heard of.

IN OTHER NEWS: From the drawer marked Very Low Potential Interest, Kev Hopper, formerly of Stump, has made all his avant garde solo recordings available for free. The Sound of Gyroscopes got on the ITV Chart Show, as we recall. One of the albums here is entirely played on prepared bass.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

In shops tomorrow: 26/3


Let's first mention that Lucky Soul's Add Your Light To Mine Baby is even more difficult to find then we suggested last week if its physical release date is moved forward. So yeah, go and buy it this week instead. A great leap, and about six and a half extra minutes, away we find the majestically stratospheric latest offering from Leeds' brooding post-rock mavericks iLiKETRAiNS. Spencer Perceval at least helps our cause by naming their latest historical subject in its title, the only British prime minister to be assassinated. Somewhat less indebted to swirling noisescapes and more three minute skanking party are south coast bundles of energy Sixnationstate, who release Where Are You Now. Producer Iain Gore has previously worked with Brakes, Rumble Strips and Larrikin Love, which actually explains what it sounds like better than our prose can. Cwmbran's Gethin Pearson must be sick of people telling him how much he sounds like Conor Oberst, but it's all we can do for the moment while he's still in the file marked Up And Coming, debut EP Hang On... Hang On... showcasing his own tremulous barbed indie-folk. Speaking of which, cult (ah, here we go) anti-folkers Herman Dune follow a Richman-meets-Sufjan line of least emotional resistance on I Wish That I Could See You Soon. Vinyl? Plenty to go round - suave indie-loungecore storytellers Friends Of The Bride (as featured on a full page in Metro this week, bizarrely) bring us Buckle Up, Sunshine! through the mostly reliable (ie we'll let them get away with the odd Libertilike) Young & Lost, the Archie Bronson Outfit attempt to prop up all that advertising time Domino bought for them on MTV2 last year by reissuing the thundering Dart For My Sweetheart, Fields plough their own dreampop path again with Charming The Flames and the ragged folky glory of the Mules makes it to both 7" and 12" with We're Good People, the former harbouring a CSS remix.


A slower week in the middle of frenzied release activity - well, we weren't about to plug Kelly Jones' low-key solo album about girls' names. The Apples In Stereo have always been a trifle overshadowed, firstly by the co-operatives in the Elephant 6 movement they pretty much started, then by being the last out of the blocks when the Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev et al made for the mainstream, and even now New Magnetic Wonder is being sold more as the first release on Elijah Wood's own Simian Records with attendant press pieces astonished that he's heard of some music not in the charts. Polymath Robert Schneider's offkilter Beatles/Beach Boys melodies are still in working order regardless. Brett Anderson's solo debut is in one way not a surprise - he's always been his own man with his own obsessions, after all - and in another way an interesting move given he's always relied to an extent on having people around him to feed off, or at least to do the work while he feeds off the stuff he bought round the corner. Going, interestingly, the non-major route via DrownedInSound, it's all brooding, introspective balladry round these parts now. A combination of the daughter of the singer from Little Feat and Lily Allen's occasional producer shouldn't work in the slightest, but we're attracted to Inara George and Greg Kurstin's bristling bossa nova tack-sharpness as The Bird And The Bee - think a jazzpop Feist. One band that's never really been paid their due in the two and a half years of post-Peel commemoration has been the Wedding Present, whom John only had in nine times but were nevertheless a fixture of playlist, Festive 50s and appreciative Gedge communication. The Complete Peel Sessions 1986-2004 rounds everything up in a remastered fashion, and by everything we mean the covers (Altered Images, Orange Juice, the theme to White Horses), sets from Phoenix and Reading festivals and Leeds Sound City, studio interviews, the live set at Peel's fiftieth birthday party and the infamous Ukrainians session. A handful of albums by sardonic late singer-songwriter Warren Zevon have been remastered and expanded, your first port of call ideally being his biggest seller Excitable Boy as it's got Werewolves Of London on it. Inspiral Carpets A-sides/B-sides/DVD disc compilation Cool As is back out, Skatalites compilations such as the 2CD Anthology need treading carefully around due to the myriad of lineups and rights holders but what the hell, it's the Skatalites, and Babylon's Burning is an extraordinary chronological four CD punk box set to tie in with a recently released history of the scene book featuring - and here comes some major league padding out - the Modern Lovers, New York Dolls, Suicide, Patti Smith, Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, Rocket From The Tombs, Pere Ubu, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Radio Birdman, the Saints, Dr Feelgood, Kilburn & The High Roads, the Sex Pistols, the Buzzcocks, the Damned, Wreckless Eric, the Subway Sect, Slaughter & The Dogs, the Lurkers, X-Ray Spex, Wire, the Adverts, the Slits, the Only Ones, Alternative TV, Penetration, the Rezillos, the Fall, Alberto Y Los Trios Paranoias, the Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers, the Ruts and possibly the least punk bandname we've ever seen, Dave Goodman And Friends. Apparently it was a Paul Cook and Steve Jones side project.

The Weekly Sweep

  • Arcade Fire - Black Mirror [mp3 from Hits In The Car]
  • Au Revoir Simone - A Violent Yet Flammable World [mp3 from Music For Robots]
  • Battles - Atlas [mp3 from I Guess I'm Floating]
  • Blonde Redhead - 23 [mp3]
  • Cajun Dance Party - The Next Untouchable [Myspace]
  • Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Thou Shalt Always Kill [YouTube]
  • ESG - Dance (Beth Ditto and the other two know A South Bronx Story very well, we'd wager)
  • Foals - Hummer [YouTube]
  • Gindrinker - Hey! Greengrocer [Myspace]
  • Goodbooks - The Illness [Myspace]
  • iLiKETRAiNS - Spencer Perceval [YouTube]
  • Jetplane Landing - Lungs Of Punk [Myspace]
  • Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch [YouTube]
  • Low - Breaker [mp3]
  • Lucky Soul - The Great Unwanted [mp3 from Skatterbrain] (And to prove a little loss of blogging dignity can get you anywhere, we now have an advance copy of the album, released April 9th. We won't tell you what we think of it, because you can already guess.)
  • Maximo Park - Our Velocity [YouTube]
  • Maps - Don't Fear [mp3 from these foreign people]
  • Modest Mouse - Dashboard [YouTube]
  • Squeeze - Slap And Tickle (No video for this online, but here's something we've seen in the flesh, Glenn Tilbrook's acoustic cover of Voodoo Chile)
  • Throwing Muses - Counting Backwards [YouTube]
  • Friday, March 23, 2007

    Has it come to this?

    Still reeling from an evening spent trying to decipher the Stop Peter Bjorn & John website, a campaign that not only appears not to be as tongue in cheek as frankly it should be but also one based around a quote that claims they are "not a significant band" (and if you've ever heard a more attempted highfalutin, smug term of musical criticism not written by Paul Morley or found in Revolution In The Head, do get in touch), we found a piece about BBC2's latest ignored reality series The Underdog Show which stopped us dead in our tracks.

    Huey from the Fun Lovin' Criminals is in it.

    Now, Huey and his band are clearly not as tabloid attracting or as unselectively supported as they once were, redolent as they are of the gentleman hoodlum image prevalent in the immediate post-Lock Stock days which is why they've seemingly spent the last few years playing student union balls and the Bulldog Bash alone. Never successful in America, of course, largely due to their having enough pretend New York gangsters of their own, and last we heard they had relocated to Dublin possibly to work on the restaurant they've been discussing for what seems to be most of our lives. But a dog training reality show? What sort of low ebb in coolness has he hit now?

    Thursday, March 22, 2007

    Stone cold Austin

    Last year we posted about the odd amount of UK press surrounding what is, after all, a fairly specialised event, South By South West. The Rakes were even on the BBC 6 O'Clock News, you may recall, and Victoria Newton filed reports that only praised the British bands. All this is fair enough to an extent - there's nothing else like it, and previous years have shown that careers can be made at the flick of a ballpoint.

    And this year, in this age when every man and his junior reporter has a blog, what importance are we placing on SXSW? Very little, it seems, as by comparison it seemed to pass by with hardly a reporter excitedly reporting seeing a man doing circus tricks on a street corner and seeing a local band not even the local scenesters have heard of. Dermot O'Leary and Steve Lamacq were out there for Radios 2 and 6 Music but that was about it. Perhaps the reason, as well as the oft-quoted commercialisation of what was an important A&R scrum opportunity into a media meat market, is precisely that - we already know what these people are like, and coupled with the Arctic shelf-like disintegration of the traditional major label structure it's for twenty people to enjoy music and the rest at the back on their phones. As far as we can tell from the review press the big breakout star was adjudged to be Amy Winehouse, and given Rehab and You Know I'm No Good were both mainstream radio favourites and Back To Black has entered the Billboard chart at number seven, its highest debuting album ever by a UK female, at the end of a week that started in Letterman's studio this hardly seems to be pushing the boat out. Mind you, last year's breakout stars were supposedly Cold War Kids, and nobody really heard any more from them for a few months afterwards. Actually, it seems to be the Brits who've come best out of this, but again the ones who've already got interest running - Lily Allen (Alright Still already top 20), Mika (hyped in a lot of start of year magazines, much as here), the Fratellis (top 50 album entry this week) and The Good The Bad And The Queen (it's Damon, c'mon) all had plenty of mentions in dispatches, along with recent US radio favourites Peter Bjorn & John. Maybe this is the issue in this information heavy, everyone-has-access days - everything's been snapped up before you can say Web 2.0.

    Tuesday, March 20, 2007

    A Friendly Chat With... Max Cooke of GoodBooks

    The NME called GoodBooks "the best new band in Britain" before their first proper single had been released. The paper may have moved on to bands with more hair but they remain a hugely exciting proposition only two singles on - you may remember our Truck Festival coverage last year saw us risking hypothermia to gladly laud their electro-influenced, left turning jagged pop. Their second major label single is out next month, and in advance singer/guitarist Cooke gave some time over to our usual set of badly worded queries.

    How would you describe yourselves?
    Eager to try many things. Unwilling to sit still.

    Cliche would have it that you were in the middle of an A&R scrum before signing to Columbia. What's that sort of thing really like?
    It seems to be the way things go for most bands that go on to sign a deal; most of the A&R men just have to follow a band up so they can report back to their boss that they were onto it and chose not to sign, rather than that they missed it. And for us it was pretty easy to tell who was personally into what we were doing and who was just covering their back.
    You can milk it if you want to though - dinners/drinks etc. I read about the Twang taking the labels for everything they could get, which does sound like a laugh! But a lot of the labels we met was just a beer and a chat; that's much more important, what they say, rather than what they buy you. And the way they say things was important to me; every label wants to do similar things with you and for you, so each individual's take on the standard speech was how I formed my opinions of who I wanted to work with.

    How do you write? More specifically, is there a purposeful storytelling element in your lyrics?
    I write as automatically as I can. If I'm doing a song with a story or a point then I'll collect lyrical ideas together beforehand, including 'research' if necessary. But then it's a case of head down, and trying to get as much of the song as you can in one writing session, as it's always harder to finish it off later, and it'll be a much more unified song if it's all written at the same time. That said, the change in mood can be a good thing too.
    The storytelling-type song just grew out of a frustration with boy-meets-girl songs, which I'd been writing since my 11th birthday. And the first song 'like that' that I wrote was Passchendaele, and I knew it was something that felt right. But for years I've wanted to be able to say "this is a song about..." I think that's important, whatever you're writing about.

    There was a fair amount of music press hype around before Walk With Me. How do you react to that sort of build-up in general?
    I tried not to, but it was a severely exciting time. We were in Cambridge at the time, so we could practise whenever Leo didn't actually have a pen on the page trying to finish his degree. And the NME was writing about us for the first time, and we'd buy that each week and laugh at silly pictures, and we were mentioned pretty heavily in a Times article on Transgressive. It was amazing to see that people had actually bought the single when it came round to the April tour.

    As the tag's been bandied about, would you class yourselves as an electronic band?
    I don't really like labels for any music, but there's certainly an element of our sound that is electronic, so as long as it wasn't the only tag I'd be happy with that. But I wouldn't call us a guitar band, even though I play guitar in it; 'electronic' and 'guitar band' for me both conjour up very clear preconceptions of what we might be like before you've heard the music. And I hope that neither of those preconceptions would be accurate.

    Does Holly Willoughby keep in touch? (it was Willoughby - you know, her off Dancing On Ice - who gave them their name)
    Now and then. I suspect she'll pop up again around festival time!

    What have you been listening to recently?
    Uffie. It's like she's making love to your ears.

    What's next?
    There's The Illness, out on April 30th, then the album at the beginning of July. But we're obviously a couple of months ahead of that, so we're doing video and B-sides for the next single at the moment. And there's a huge tour in April/May, which we can't wait for.

    Thanks to Max, GoodBooks and their assorted people. As the man said The Illness is on the way and is now streaming on their Myspace, and they have proper web presence too. If you're reading this within a week of publishing, get over to Corporate Anthems for a quite intriguing tie-in mp3.

    Monday, March 19, 2007

    Weekender : a Falstaffian rampart of beef

    FREE MUSIC: Brooklyn-based Dirty On Purpose might be the first band who we can fully compare without fear of contradiction or outright mocking to Ride, such is their mix of harmonic melodies and dreampop fuzz. No Radio, from last year's PLUG Independent Music Awards nominated album Hallelujah Sirens, is like Boy With The Arab Strap Belle & Sebastian produced by Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo. With a mariachi trumpet.

    HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: Answer to the first overhanging question when introducing The Bobby McGees: Brighton, and no, they aren't actually from there (indeed, like the similarly unique Prolapse before them their singer's Glaswegian and they met in Leicester). Now, the details. The somewhere between two and four emigres will, in common with many of the bands who come out of there these days, make some of you want to kill people, so - oh, let's, they seem not to mind - twee/cutesy is their homebrew short attention span antifolk reminiscent of the Vaselines. Have to be seen live to be fully believed, by all accounts.

    VISUAL REPRESENTATION: YouTube is very well served for Talking Heads, testament to their and Byrne's visual nature as much as their influential status. As proof of both, look no further than the full eight piece live version performing I Zimbra on Letterman, David in full rubber man mode. Stop Making Sense is currently there or thereabouts in full, and you wouldn't credit how well the stripped down version of Psycho Killer works on mixtapes. There's also a live concert in Rome from 1980, Cities pulled out for your benefit, Life During Wartime both from 1982 cut into a documentary format and from their 2002 Rock'n'Roll Hall Of Fame induction reunion.

    VIRAL MARKETING: Pretty much the whole of the UK music scene is now geared towards Favourite Worst Nightmare, so let's join in with D Is For Dangerous from their recent secret gig in Leicester and Flourescent Adolescent in Barcelona. They're playing a new song in front of you, mate, don't talk all over it!

    FALLING OFF A BLOG: Provided you can get Wikiupload to work you'll find much to enjoy about Hey Charlie!, and we're not just saying that because we're fairly sure we helped inspire its creation. Now showing: Au Revoir Simone, Misty's Big Adventure, Chris T-T, the Broken Family Band and all points west.

    EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: Indie rock karaoke! But of course! A gap you never knew needed filling, and they've done a decent enough job recreating the backings with only an old PC to hand (check Helicopter, it's got soundalike backing vocals and everything), it's based in Germany so a few of the songs offered will make your head spin language wise, and even then the idea that you can finally gather friends around to follow the bouncing ball to Fugazi's Waiting Room, let alone the Kills, Stephen Malkmus and Adam Green, may make you physically nauseous.

    IN OTHER NEWS: Some may remember the Evolution Control Committee's The Whipped Cream Mixes, an inspired pre-mashup melding of a Herb Alpert instrumental and Public Enemy's Rebel Without A Pause. That came from a 1994 copyright flouting sampledelica cassette album called Gunderphonic, which picked up where the likes of Negativland left off in collaging unlikely bits of found sounds and pop cultural history, including Led Zeppelin, U2, Donovan and the inevitable George Bush (Snr). And, yes, they've now put it all online.

    Sunday, March 18, 2007

    In shops tomorrow: 19/3


    Let's get it over with first, because were it not such a teethgrindingly dreadful phrase the Proclaimers' 500 Miles would be one of our guilty pleasures alongside Glass Of Champagne and Kon Kan's I Beg Your Pardon ( don't?), and given this is The Proclaimers feat Brian Potter & Andy Pipkin's (I'm Gonna Be) 500 Miles we're all going to be sick to the back teeth of it by June. If the label re-releases I'm On My Way next somebody will have to pay in blood. Onwards and upwards, and as good as it is that they're going the self-released route through Ruffa Lane, we can't help feeling Lucky Soul would be all over the place were they being distributed through a household name, such is the immediate pull of their retro-modernist DIY soul. Add Your Light To Mine Baby makes it four swooningly cracking singles out of four, the one before the album in fact (craven memo to anyone passing by from the band or their associates - promo, plz. Oh, and play a UK gig outside London at some point), and the video features an acquaintance of ours' hand for about four seconds. The new Maximo Park album takes some getting used to, having lost some of the quirky New Wavities and grown a set of teeth, but then A Certain Trigger was a proper grower too, so come back to us later. Our Velocity is a great way to kick part two of their career off, regardless. The Rumble Strips' surefire march to advance stardom seems not to have quite kicked off, despite the full-on Prozac Dexys stomp of Alarm Clock being a Scott Mills record of the week, but we can only keep on hoping. The gaping post-Gorky's Zygotic Mynci gap marked 'Welsh oddball' looks finally to have been filled by the not all that dissimilar Radio Luxembourg, whose EP Diwrnod Efo'r Anifeiliaid shows no end of indie-psychedelic promise. On a multilingual tip, remember how Diplo was going to bring Brazilian favela to the masses three years ago? That may never have escaped the style pages but his label have signed baile funk popsters Bonde Do Role (although licensed to Domino here), responsible for the party sound of Solta O Frango, allegedly 'release the chickens' in English. That's spoilt the global pop village lingua franca image, hasn't it?


    Such slim pickings in this area this week that we were very briefly tempted to include the Bananarama back catalogue which is being remastered and reissued. Come on, it's consummate eighties pop before SAW signed them up and ignored the tight twisting of the format's ground rules that made them what they had been. Instead we have in terms of brand new releases the inventive beats of Brooklyn Company Flow veteran El-P on I'll Sleep When You're Dead, Newcastle powerhouses Kubichek!'s Not Enough Night and the Rakes' so far distinctly underwhelming sophomore effort Ten New Messages. Atlantic have found a new reason to throw out a load of their soul back catalogue, including Stax and Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia, it being their sixtieth anniversary this year. Platinum Collections all round, then, for the extraordinary Stax house band Booker T and The MG's, second division but ever promotion contending (pre-Blues Brothers) ex-gospeller Solomon Burke, Otis Redding's spotlight-suggesting protege Arthur Conley and Philly soul one hit wonders Archie Bell And The Drells. Somewhat less of an anniversary occasion sees a 2CD tenth anniversary version, featuring B-sides, demos and live tracks, of Pioneer Soundtracks (actually released in 1996, but nobody's counting) by out of time and hence undervalued ambitious louche romantics Jack. Produced by Scott Walker's recent sideman Peter Walsh, its four singles were all Melody Maker singles of the week, and this being the modern day here's videos for two of them, White Jazz and Wintercomessummer.

    The Weekly Sweep

    Now trying desperately not to include anything posted on Corporate Anthems in case of conflict of interest

  • Arcade Fire - No Cars Go [mp3 from Say Anything Syndrome, at the bottom after a spectacular collection of live Final Fantasy covers including this very song]
  • Bat For Lashes - Prescilla [mp3 from Leaky Sparrow]
  • Battles - Atlas [mp3 from I Guess I'm Floating] (Wh...what is *this*? We mean, we're aware of Battles' art-mathrock-jazz-avantgarde reputation, but the Suzi Quatro beat's a new one. Admire John Stanier's ridiculously high crash cymbal in the video, like anybody's going to play even a four minute edit on the radio)
  • Blonde Redhead - 23 [mp3]
  • Bonde Do Role - Solta O Frango [YouTube]
  • Cajun Dance Party - The Next Untouchable [Myspace]
  • Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Thou Shalt Always Kill [YouTube]
  • Gethin Pearson and the Scenery - Shatterproof [Myspace]
  • Gindrinker - Hey! Greengrocer [Myspace]
  • Gruff Rhys - Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru [YouTube]
  • Hello Saferide - Highschool Stalker [Myspace]
  • Help She Can't Swim - Hospital Drama [YouTube]
  • iLiKETRAiNS - Spencer Perceval [YouTube]
  • Jetplane Landing - Lungs Of Punk [Myspace] (JPL get the funk! We know Jamie had a cowbell to play at Truck last year, their only UK gig in the last two years, but going this far into it wasn't as expected)
  • Jonathan Richman - That Summer Feeling
  • LCD Soundsystem - Get Innocuous! [mp3 from Audiversity]
  • Lucky Soul - Add Your Light To Mine, Baby [YouTube]
  • Maximo Park - Our Velocity [YouTube]
  • Radio Luxembourg - Mostyn A Diego [Myspace]
  • Sondre Lerche - The Tape [mp3 from Both Sides Of The Mouth]
  • Saturday, March 17, 2007

    A better Comic Relief incentive than that bit at about 1.30am last night with Patrick Kielty, Jimmy Carr and Chris Moyles all together

    Little to do with the subject at hand, this post, but everything to do with charitable generosity - Shaggy Blog Stories, put together and onto the virtual shelves in seven days by Mike from Troubled Diva. It's self-selected humorous contributions from 100 bloggers - not us, we found out about it too late and nothing we've ever done could be described as remotely funny - including Richard Herring, Andrew Collins, TV's Emma Kennedy, Green Wing writer James Henry, Girl With A One Track Mind, the Guardian's Anna Pickard and a lot of people you'd never previously heard of. It's just under nine quid, just under five of which goes to Comic Relief.

    Friday, March 16, 2007

    Brock Idol

    American Idol's just picked its final twelve, and while we all hope one day reality pop show contestants will get to sing something unexpected, we didn't quite mean like this:

    Why not use Modest Mouse's actual new video as some sort of pop diuretic?

    Wednesday, March 14, 2007

    Neon Bible: the STN review

    Good album, that.

    Oh, you want expansion, do you? Well, the Springsteen comparisons that everyone's made do stand up but not overly so, by which we mean its particular bombast is of a very Canadian Scene bent, that is to say less to do with the open roads and escape and more anchored in internal monologue, paranoia for what will become of us all and possibilities of redemption only through everyone changing rather than just yourself. It does mean some shirking on the lyrical front, the sensorial imagery replaced by somewhat portentious outward posturing, but then the vocal mix turns down the wide-eyed determination of Funeral anyway. It's musically illustrated as early as a minute and a half or so into Black Mirror, when Win really goes for an arms outstretched yell and the strings and percussion briefly crashes on and upwards as Born In The USA-era Bruce would... and then it goes straight back into its determined progression towards the heart of the black hole. It's grand, yes, but in the Neighbourhood suite Funeral had its own grandiosity, more scratchy and less hi-fi than here but still aiming for the stars. The production nuances and compressed nature of the intra-band playing (not compressed as in sound, compressed as in it sounds at many a point like it really was recorded in a circle in a converted church) makes sure that while it's for the working man, it's simultaneously not the sort of thing that is intended to launch him into fist pumping. It's no Funeral, but most things in the history of recorded popular music aren't - it's a very strong album, one that improves with listens as it gives up its intricacies, that's aware of the cliches and does something about them.

    That said, what it really needs is more songs like this:

    Monday, March 12, 2007

    Weekender : don'ts for honeymooners

    FREE MUSIC: So we reach SXSW week, the time of year when all the A&Rs and label heads in the world can be found within a half mile stretch of each other. Luckily it also serves its purpose for this bit, its purpose this week being an exclusive track from ex-Delgado Emma Pollock. Limbs is a fragile acoustic/piano number that marks it out from what she's done before at the same time as it reinforces her abilities.

    HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: There's so much Swedish pop of the highest quality about that you barely know where to start any more. Like a vulnerable, lovelorn, ultimately likeable gender reversal version of The Boy Least Likely To and not a million miles away from compatriot Jens Lekman, Hello Saferide is/are among the more blog-critically acclaimed of the new Scandinavian wave, essentially Stockholm's Annika Norlin bringing the sharp self-effacing sense of lyrical humour to personality sketched sunshine don't-say-twee acoustic pop. Her album, Introducing Hello Saferide, has been around since 2005 yet doesn't appear to have been picked up in the UK yet except on import. If you ask us, someone needs to sort out a Swedish release label in the same way as there are two or three Scand-only live club nights around the place, because there's an untapped market on the rise here.

    VISUAL REPRESENTATION: Comic Relief draws round again, which as regular readers will have guessed is all the excuse we need to do something special around here. Well, it'll be more entertaining than the evening. Nowadays it's all ill judged covers by the popular outfit of the day, but in days of yore you'd get proper comedy, like Cliff Richard and the Young Ones and Bananarama 'with' Lananeeneenoonoo, alongside your usual dross which at least wasn't focused on the act rather than the comedy like Hale & Pace's The Stonk, apparently uploaded after being left on a radiator for some time. You'll also notice that to make them even more out of place these have all been uploaded by international fans, as has this Australian news report on Living Doll's success which takes some explaining. Neil went on to take on, literally, Top Of The Pops with Hole In My Shoe, and from here we can just descend into list and link frenzy on the topic if you like. Right. Loadsamoney, on Friday Night Live, introduced by an excitable Ben Elton, with William Orbit in the background. The Shirehorses' Country Spouse. Spitting Image's Chicken Song. Alexei Sayle's Ullo John Gotta New Motor. The Goodies doing A Man's Best Friend Is His Duck on Top Of The Pops. And, as if by local byelaw, Stonehenge.

    VIRAL MARKETING: Maximo Park's Our Earthly Pleasures has been written about as their American alt-rock album, due to Gil Norton's control presence. There's elements, as well as the electronically charged stuff, in Our Velocity, but Spin giveaway track Your Urge tells a notably different tale.

    FALLING OFF A BLOG: Even in this saturated blogger's market aA few young start-ups are really worthy of attention at the moment, and here's another one - Hell Is Chrome kicked off a couple of weeks ago and has already found room for a TV On The Radio BBC session, live Jenny Lewis and the contractual obligation Los Campesinos! post. This week: promised exclusive new material from Jetplane Landing. Colour us excited.

    EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: Time for a roundup of label downloads and, in the case of Too Pure, blogs, although they've got an exclusive material 'cast too. It's all vCasts round here now you can buy iPods with screens on, which are all well and good but don't actually seem to work when played on actual PCs half the time, so take your chances with Bloc Party, Patrick Wolf (those two the latest in multipart series), Bat For Lashes and The Cribs. Herman Dune evidently can't afford a digicam, so that's audio only. We don't think we've yet mentioned the latest Transgressive podcast with Jeremy Warmsley and Mechanical Bride in the studio, so let's do that now.

    IN OTHER NEWS: Regular readers will know we've featured ADD electroindiefolker Pagan Wanderer Lu before, and we even strongarmed him into contributing to Songs To Learn And Sing. He's now relocated to Cardiff, home of just about everybody we've ever mentioned in Weekender, and our attention has been drawn to the home-made album Hospital Radio Hits that he's giving away for free. These are some of his earliest demo PWL works so perhaps best not to approach these first, but there's definite echoes of genius/madness to come in them.

    Sunday, March 11, 2007

    In shops tomorrow: 12/3


    We haven't actually been able to find the last two issues of Britpop-flavoured, previously advertised by us Phonogram near us, which with issue 5 of 6 now out means we've missed quite a bit of plot development. We are however led to believe that in this issue David Kohl gains a spirit guide who bears a not dissimilar resemblance to Luke Haines. Not dissimilar in that we're sure he had longer hair in 1993, but never mind. The actual but no less worth following Haines has an EP out this week led by Leeds United, and it's alleged that the club asked him if he'd mind performing it at half time at Elland Road some time, which suggests someone hasn't been listening properly, or indeed ever heard of Haines and his reputation before. No less mordant but somewhat less misanthropic, Bill Callahan has dropped the Smog monicker but not the alt-folk-country wry noir on Diamond Dancer. As a former paramour of Chan Marshall and current squeeze of Joanna Newsom we're guessing he appreciated an offbeat, mildly mystical female singer, so someone should post him Bat For Lashes' album post haste. The single version of Prescilla, now with added horns, isn't nearly as bad as we intimated the other week but we still prefer the album and live versions. The hype machine's gone all quiet around I Was A Cub Scout, the Nottinghamshire teenage duo who were exciting plenty at the end of last year, despite the continued New Order meets digital Bright Eyes aura of I Hate Nightclubs. David Francolini, formerly of Levitation and Dark Star, forms half of quietly doomy electro outfit Dragons, who debut with Here Are The Roses; this year's Mylo, Calvin Harris, shows up with the quietly infectious, Bowie vocal style-cribbing Acceptable In The 80s, and on 7" Electrelane preview April's atypically upbeat fourth album No Shouts, No Calls with To The East. In mail order news Darren Hayman has two EPs out, Table For One: The Dessert Menu being out-takes from his album sessions and Eastbourne Lights "the third in a series of EPs documenting Darren's British Holidays. Recorded on a Fostex 4-track tape machine at the Seabeach House Hotel, Eastbourne over two days during May 2006".


    "I recently saw this album chart from the early '70s - every record in the Top 10 was of total merit: Hendrix, Lennon, Dylan, Neil Young, Zeppelin... Our problem is we just don't have high expectations anymore. The mean musical IQ hasn't gone down since Ziggy, but slowly we've had little bits of opportunity to flex our minds taken away: a little bit more market research into what will be a hit, a little more centralisation of music outlets - we're slowly getting, not dumber, but more ignorant."

    If James Murphy, speaking there to the Scotsman, painted himself into a corner with Losing My Edge, consigning himself to years of being accused of pandering to his neatly laid out influences no matter how much he made it out to be mere self-deprecation getting the first blow in on himself first, at least he has the wit and foresight to do something with them. Sound Of Silver, taking the electro-punk-funk influences that shaped the eponymous first album (which is concurrently back out at mid-price and isn't "a bit beige" as Murphy is wont to quote at the moment) and pulls them out of elastic whack. More self-aware, swaggering and cohesive, machine-turned rhythmic beyond average yet invested with a beating heart and at times a core of wistfulness for New York gone, this is clearly an album Hadouken! will never make. Yes, it's a clever album, but with brains hotwired to somewhere other than offputting uberhipster cleverness. You'll be hearing more of this, most likely round about the second half of December when we all get bogged down in clever list making. The Mules' Save Your Face, namechecked to us by Emmy The Great (they headlined the Drowned In Sound gig she curated in October), resembles a schizophrenic Young Knives taking in spaghetti-polka-folk and is well worth investigating, actually came out last August and is getting a properly distributed bells and whistles re-release this week, but we missed it at the time too so it's not worth worrying about integrity that much. Les Incompetents didn't make a lot more linear sense but then surely they were never meant to, their uber-DIY self-effacing approach derailed by real life and to some extent reflected in End Of An Error: 2004-2006. The Frank And Walters pre-empted the current mid-table indie reformation craze by doing so in 1997 - Indian Ocean was on one of The Vault channel's Chart Show repeats the other week - and they continue their new seriousness on A Renewed Interest In Happiness. Reissues? No question of where to start, as one of our very favourite new wave bands, Magazine, are re-releasing their first three, for which read only three really good, albums, the full on artpunk of Real Life, the icy keyboard-led Secondhand Daylight and the dynamic irkedness of Martin Hannett produced The Correct Use Of Soap. Folk-rock's almost supergroup Pentangle have been heavily re-evaluated since earnest young fingerpickers re-emerged a few years ago, although we're guessing casual fans might want to start elsewhere given The Time Has Come is a 4 CD set. And after the comprehensive mess we made of last week's busy schedule we're not surprised we missed one, although given it's an album we'd previously featured there's every reason for a heavy self-kicking spree - Ballads of the Book, the collaborative effort between Scottish poets and bands (see here for more details - the mp3 doesn't work any more, but we've posted a couple over at Corporate Anthems as recompense)


    There's a few Blondie DVDs out in the next few weeks for some reason, led by Blondie: Live. Never the best regarded of live bands, this is at least from a period when they were all speaking to each other, namely after their 1999 comeback.

    The Weekly Sweep

  • !!! - All My Heroes Are Weirdos
  • Arcade Fire - Intervention [live YouTube]
  • Bat For Lashes - Prescilla [mp3 from Leaky Sparrow]
  • Blonde Redhead - 23 [mp3]
  • Cajun Dance Party - The Next Untouchable [Myspace]
  • Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Thou Shalt Always Kill [Myspace] (Good god, Jo Whiley's playing it! The best thing about which, of course, is daytime Radio 1 is airing, and doubtless will do a lot over the next month, a song that namechecks Crass and Minor Threat)
  • Foals - Hummer [Myspace]
  • Friends Of The Bride - Want In? [Myspace]
  • The Higsons - Put The Punk Back Into Funk
  • iLiKETRAiNS - Spencer Perceval [YouTube]
  • The Indelicates - The Last Significant Statement To Be Made In Rock'n'Roll [live YouTube] (Not only title of the week, but subject of tag of the week too)
  • Loney, Dear - I Am John [YouTube]
  • Los Campesinos! - Don't Tell Me To Do The Math(s) [mp3] (And they're still getting strange American kids dancing)
  • Lucky Soul - Add Your Light To Mine, Baby [YouTube]
  • Maximo Park - Our Velocity [YouTube]
  • The Monochrome Set - The Jet Set Junta [YouTube]
  • Patrick Wolf - The Stars [live YouTube]
  • Peter Bjorn & John - Objects Of My Affection [YouTube]
  • Radio Luxembourg - Mostyn A Diego [Myspace]
  • SixNationState - Where Are You Now? [Myspace]
  • Saturday, March 10, 2007

    ...but this *is* an mp3 blog

    Just so we have a more regular place to post stuff like, well, that last post, presenting our new downloads-centric blog Corporate Anthems. Tell your friends.

    (And since you ask, Covermounts and Illustrated Guides will still be posted here, this blog is for assorted detritus)

    Thursday, March 08, 2007

    This Is Not An mp3 Blog #3

    Friends Of The Bride - End Of Loneliness
    Suave Raynes Park outfit Friends Of The Bride refer on their press release to "the 'Camden-Format' of instrumentation: i.e. drums, bass, guitar, vocals". Sorry to bring this up, but we're fairly sure such a configuration existed well before the Good Mixer became popular. Such pedanticness aside, they may insist they only sound like this as "they're not good enough to play west coast jazz" but where they've ended up isn't bad in the slightest, a wry, sharply sophisticated brew of British Invasion rock'n'roll, Rat Pack swing and soul rebel determination. Recent winners of the the BBC Electric Proms talent-trek and newly signed to the rarely impeachable Young & Lost Club, terrifically titled single Buckle Up, Sunshine! is out on March 19th.

    Goldrush - Every One Of Us
    It's been a while since we've heard from Goldrush, having kept themselves busy with main man Robin Bennett's Dusty Sound System project and more pertinently taking a leading role in organising Truck Festival. A new album, The Heart Is The Place, came out last month and takes the open air indie country noir from their EMI days into a swirling psych-rock place adjacent to the Flaming Lips, with an underlying cussedness just this side of outright Britrock bombast. Good to have them back. Now, when are those Truck Ten tickets going on sale?
    Order The Heart Is The Place

    Richard Walters - We Have Your Head
    "The way this stranger's delicate voice makes you stop dead in your tracks and the hairs on the back of your neck turn upwards is not too disimilar to the feeling you get when you first fall in love" say the label. Well, we'll be the judge of that, but there's something very interesting going on with this 23 year old from Oxford who in the last two years has recorded with Bernard Butler, played SXSW and received airplay on CSI:Miami and the influential Morning Becomes Eclectic radio show. Despite this, from The Pilotlights EP released in February, coming out on an indie it was recorded by Guy Sigsworth (ex-Frou Frou with Imogen Heap, also worked with Madonna, Britney, Sugababes, Seal... oh, alright, also Bjork, UNKLE, Bomb The Bass and Lamb) and David Kosten (Faultline head honcho, produced Bat For Lashes). One for followers of Scott Matthews or a less electronically enhanced Get Cape Wear Cape Fly.

    Tuesday, March 06, 2007

    An Illustrated Guide To... Madness

    There's something not quite right about Madness' new single, their first self-penned fresh material in nearly eight years. It's not that Sorry, released on their own Lucky Seven imprint, is being released without an album in immediate sight, or that it comes out in two versions, 'proper' or one featuring Sway and Baby Blue phoning raps into the middle, it's that it doesn't sound like a Madness record should. Featuring the involvement of dance producer Tim Deluxe, there may well be all six current members on it but beyond Suggs' vocals it seems processed like one of Deluxe's dance hits, so much so that we require evidence that there's actually any other members on it. Apparently an album is being produced by Liam Watson at the famously analogue Toe Rag Studios alongside long time associate Clive Langer possibly for late summer release, which is promising. The other problem with it is its fairly basic structure suggests the withering of the thing that has made Madness not just 'another eighties band' over the past 28 years, the ability to mix social comment and reflection with the patented Nutty Sound and attendant Train, Dance etc. We love Madness, much as everyone loves Madness, which is why Sorry pains us, and this is why.

    As Cathal Smyth, more commonly known as Chas Smash, has admitted this most laddish, streetwise, working class voice of bands actually comprised six-sevenths middle class kids, coalescing around Hampstead, Highgate and Islington having grown up around Kentish Town, Camden, Islington and Muswell Hill, although Suggs was born in Hastings and Smash himself in Rainham. Their first incarnation was as The North London Invaders, apparently because the members liked to invade other people's parties, formed by guitarist Chris Foreman, art school dropout pianist Mike Barson and reform school alumni saxophonist (stolen, natch) Lee 'Kix' Thompson along with drummer John Hasler and an American actor called Dikron on vocals. Their first gig was at a house party on Compton Street, Islington on 30th June 1977. Among the few people there were Barson's friend Smyth and Hasler's sixteen year old school bunking mate Graham McPherson, who had adopted a nickname from jazz drummer Pete Suggs. He wasn't yet interested in permanently becoming singer, though, which instigated a roundabout set of lineup changes in which main writer Hasler became singer, Smyth left after a row with Barson, new drummer Gary Dovey introduced bass playing acquaintance Mark Bedford before walking out after a fight with Thompson and Suggs returned when Hasler decided that he didn't want to sing after all and became de facto manager. Bedford's drummer school friend Daniel 'Woody' Woodgate became the sixth full time member of a band who toyed with Morris And The Minors around 1978 before taking their name from a Prince Buster song released in 1963.

    Although the members had a wide range of tastes, they came together in certain areas - music hall, the Kinks, Fats Domino, Motown, Ian Dury's pub rock outfit Kilburn And The High Roads and the very English humour that gave itself to what Thompson called "the nutty sound". Crucially, they were also fully aware of the bluebeat, rocksteady and ska music that came with Jamaican immigrants in the later stages of Windrush before being overtaken by reggae at the start of the seventies. Hanging around the influential Hope & Anchor and Dublin Castle pubs they also picked up on the skinhead and mod fashions of the day of Harrington jackets, Ben Sherman/Fred Perry shirts, Doc Martens and pork pie hats, as much inspired by Miles Davis as Jamaican rude boys. It was the Hope & Anchor's manager who saw the potential in their demo tape and pointed out that sixty or so miles north another band, the Specials, were working off much the same influences. When they played the pub in early 1979 Jerry Dammers stayed at Suggs' parents' house overnight, and a support slot in the Nashville Rooms, Kensington shortly afterwards awakened the band to the spread of the same sounds and fashions that had also partly come down from the Midlands and partly grown out of the seperate mod revival and later stages of punk scenes.

    Dammers has said their demo tape "was a mess and that no other label would have signed them". Luckily, he was about to start one of his own. 2-Tone kicked off with the Specials' Gangsters in July 1979, and investment from Chrysalis Records helped it go top ten and aided funding of a second release a month later from his new mates. On the B-side was a cover of the song that gave the band their name; on the A-side a Thompson-penned tribute to its performer loosely based on another Prince Buster song, Earthquake, which also namechecks several of his other songs.

    The Prince (album version)

    Having only signed a one single deal with Dammers, there was no way they could continue on the label once it had reached number 16 and got them onto Top Of The Pops. Despite major label interest the band's heart was always set on Stiff, the eclectic label set up by Dave Robinson, whose wedding Madness had played at in lieu of an audition, and Jake Riviera in 1976 were noted for their releases' artwork, slogans, T-shirts and marketing campaigns, but at the time Riviera had just left and taken Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe to his new Radar Records start-up. They however still had band hero Ian Dury and the Blockheads, which surely forced their hand. It was round about this time that Smyth/Smash was welcomed back into the fold permanently, mostly as the audience's representative on stage, and it was he whose opening to the next single became one of the most instantly familiar refrains of the era - "Hey you, don't watch that, watch this..." One Step Beyond scorched to number 2 despite the band being unwilling to record the live staple as it was another Prince Buster cover - Robinson has claimed he took the master tape of the 30 second version the band had recorded, looped it, added some studio trickery and there was a two and a half minute single. November 1979 saw their debut album, also One Step Beyond, released, fifteen songs pretty much recorded as per the live show, featuring Lee and Chas on lead vocals on two tracks each. Although full throttle nutty, it had its share of almost straight pop moments, third single My Girl Barson's attempt to write in the style of Dury, while Thompson's sharp, often obtuse lyricism formulated not least in this song about a schoolkid losing his virginity to a prostitute and contracting VD.

    Razor Blade Alley

    In the same month Madness joined the Specials and The Selecter on the pinnacle of 2-Tone's spell as a proper British youth movement, the 40 date sellout 2-Tone Tour, although due to American commitments Madness only played 29. Parts were tarnished by violence and it was well known that the National Front and BNP were recruiting at shows, which doesn't strike us as a logical step given the bands and their musical parentage involved. My Girl opened 1980 with a number 3, and after a matinee gig at the Hammersmith Odeon for younger fans the Work Rest And Play EP, Night Boat To Cairo plus three new songs, went to 6 in April. By this time the intention was to step out of the shadows of 2-Tone now that Dammers was manoevuring his band onto pastures new, so out went the rock'n'roll and ska covers on October's Absolutely, named after a favourite phrase of their tour manager. Not that the nuttiness had been exhausted by any means, first single Suggs and Chris' answer to Pink Floyd's Another Brick In The Wall, Baggy Trousers, coming with a famous video featuring Lee attached to wires to a crane. The video's fame - it was even spoofed by Little & Large - helped it to number 3 and the album to 2. Overall it's a more reflective collection, the first where everyone had a hand in the songs (although Suggs and Chris do most of the lyrics), covering a wider range and far more socially acute, full of uncertainties and reflectiveness, a lot of smiling through gritted teeth behind the ever infectious songs. While instrumental Return Of The Los Palmas Seven was apparently written for the European market and loosely based on Shirley Bassey's What Now My Love, ending up being playlisted by Radio 2, second single Embarrassment was Thompson's riposte to his family's reaction to his younger sister Tracy fathering a mixed race child. The following spring saw work begin on a film, financed by Stiff, directed by Dave Robinson and released in October 1981, named after a track on that album which acted as a biopic of their formation up to The Prince. With band members past and present playing themselves on location, it's not a great cinematic work but better than you might expect.

    Take It Or Leave It

    By now beloved entertainers, an old North London Invaders song was dusted off and reworked for the next single, the doomy dub of Grey Day. By contrast Nassau in the Bahamas was Madness central throughout the summer as the band went to Compass Point Studios to record Seven. Peaking at number 5 in October 1981, it's a Barson credit-heavy just about equal balancing act between vaudeville and maturity, subtle politicising entering the equation for the first time, encompassing the nuts Benny Bullfrog, the irked Sign Of The Times and later single Cardiac Arrest, a jaunty heart attack tale that was banned from Radio 1 and hence missed the top ten for the only time between The Prince and the end of 1983. In between came Shut Up, the piano coda on which is a particular favourite Madness moment of ours, and standalone Labi Siffre cover It Must Be Love, the video for which featured Lee and Chris playing underwater in a swimming pool and hence required a warning to impressionable children to be added to the start. Dave Robinson told them that if it didn't get to number one they could have Stiff for themselves. It peaked at four but Robinson never paid up.

    April 1982 saw the compilation Complete Madness released, breaking the band's chart topping duck, and during the second of its three weeks at number one the band did the double as House Of Fun, a jaunty number about a sixteen year old buying his first condoms, headed to the top of the singles chart for two weeks. Driving In My Car didn't do so well in July, despite TV appearances which Suggs couldn't do due to becoming a father and so was replaced by a ventriloquist's dummy. It still gave the band the opportunity to take a Morris Minor onto Top Of The Pops, shortly before they get to act in the Boring episode of The Young Ones, where they perform House Of Fun in the Kebab And Calculator and Suggs gets the only line ever given to a musical guest in the series. They came back to do Our House on series 2's Sick and Chris reports that Madness had been asked to record a version of the titular song for the show, while it's well known that Richard Curtis and Ben Elton were draft scripting a Madness sitcom which had been piloted in a ten minute form when Mike...well, we'll get to that in due course.

    The Rise And Fall has been called Madness' Sgt Pepper, which might be slightly off mark but it's definitely their most ambitious work. Fronted by a picture of the band on Primrose Hill dressed and posed to represent a song from the album each, it's a loose concept album dealing with the members' childhood memories of London, featuring strings and full brass sections for the first time, arranged by avant-garde composer David Bedford, with writing experiments and excursions into jazz influences and ornate chamber pop. It doesn't get past number ten, partly due to Complete Madness' continuing sales, but gets their best critical reaction. This track is about Suggs' memories of a spell living in Liverpool.

    Rise And Fall

    Both singles, Our House and Tomorrow's (Just Another Day), which they got to do on Jim'll Fix It, continue the top ten run, the former, written by Foreman, winning the Best Song Ivor Novello award and even cracking America, peaking at number 7 in 1983 after being picked up by Geffen. Domestically it's a quieter year pepped up in the second half by two singles, gospel chorused number two Wings Of A Dove, the video to which famously finishes with a plane being dropped from an aircraft, and The Sun And The Rain, which makes number five in November. Just as things looked to be carrying on their very even keel, Mike Barson announced that he wanted to leave the band, having just relocated to Amsterdam, and he played his last gig with them at the end of the year.

    Understandably, Keep Moving was a difficult album to record even with Barson still on board, first single Michael Caine ending the top ten run by a place. Featuring the thespian on the taxing lyric "my name is Michael Caine" - he didn't know the band but his daughter talked him into accepting the offer - it's sung by Chas Smash, who later revealed he wrote it about the Irish Troubles. Suggs has described the album's production as "polishing a turd", but if one is prepared to get past the syn-drums and ever present in 1984 Afrodisiac backing vocals it's a mutedly intriguing album, Bedford again backing the wide ranging ideas up with inventive arrangements. It peaked at number 6, even if second single One Better Day sets a new chart low position. Saturday Night Live, American Bandstand and The Tube come calling, but in Britain Madness were labelless after Stiff is swallowed whole by Island Records, the One Better Day video being self-financed after it, their last single on the label, was changed from a remixed version of this, which features vocals from Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger, once of the Beat but then of General Public, at the last minute.

    Victoria Gardens

    Madness instead signed to Virgin, who gave them their own imprint, Zarjazz (a 2000 AD reference), whose first release was Feargal Sharkey's Chas-written Listen To Your Father, featuring the band on backup. Two more Zarjazz releases came in early 1985 - the Fink Brothers' Pop Will Eat Itself-esque curio Mutants In Mega City One (the Brothers were Fink Angel and Mean Machine Angel, as they weren't known to their families, the McPhersons and the Smyths) and Ethiopia charity single Starvation, a cover of the Pioneers song under the same band name also featuring Jerry Dammers and assorted ex-Specials, UB40, General Public, the actual Pioneers and others, recorded before but released after Do They Know It's Christmas? The first proper Madness single on the label was the much admired Yesterday's Men in August, followed by Mad Not Mad, more downbeat and cynical than what had gone before and sometimes at the mercy of that still evolving production sound both in terms of clinical synthy sounds and early programming but still a strong lyrical offering. Costello sideman Steve Nieve was one of quite a few Barson replacements. Uncle Sam missed the top 20, Scritti Politti cover The Sweetest Girl the top 30 despite hooking up with the Red Wedge tour. The end was nigh, and although demoing and rehearsals started in late summer musical differences took hold and the decision was made to end the band. The announcement was made in September 1986, (Waiting For) The Ghost Train seeing them off with a number 18 a month later. Second half retrospective Utter Madness didn't make it past 29.

    Suggs, Chas Smash, Chris and Lee promptly reformed as The Madness, releasing singles I Pronounce You and What's That and a self-titled album in 1988, featuring Jerry Dammers and Attractions Steve Nieve and Bruce Thomas among many others, but only the first charted and the plan was over pretty much as soon as it had started, everyone now regretting ever conceiving it. Suggs managed The Farm and produced their 1990 number one album Spartacus before recording two solo albums, 1995's The Lone Ranger and 1998's The Three Pyramids Club (partly co-written by Barson), and dipping his toe into the profitable world of telly work; Chas Smash became A&R man at Go! Discs, had a spell fronting The Velvet Ghost with Morrissey sideman Boz Boorer and briefly ran RGR Records which put out Just Jack's first album; Lee and Chris formed the Nutty Boys who released an album in 1990 and later regrouped as Crunch; Woodgate drummed for Voice Of The Beehive and rap-metallers Fat; Bedford was also in Voice Of The Beehive for a time and sessioned for Morrissey before forming the Butterfield 8 with inimitable ex-Higsons sax man Terry Edwards while opening his own graphic design business. That would have been it, except in February 1992, shortly after Chas Smash had organised a rapproachment, Virgin issued a greatest hits compilation, Divine Madness, that a month later reached number one for three weeks, totalling 202 weeks in the top 75, 12 in the top ten, last appearing in the chart in 2001. On the back of that and three single re-releases, It Must Be Love making number 6, Fleadh organiser Vince Power offered the band a weekend in Finsbury Park for what was christened Madstock. While it was here that Morrissey famously produced a Union Jack and was accused of flirting with right wing imagery (other supports were Ian Dury & The Blockheads, Flowered Up and Gallon Drunk), the day belonged to Madness, all seven together for the first time in eight and a half years. The reaction to One Step Beyond measured just over 4.5 on the Richter scale, the same as the average tornado and slightly more than the average nuclear test. Three more Madstocks followed every couple of years afterwards, the reaction encouraging the band to get back together permanently. Another greatest hits, The Heavy Heavy Hits, followed in June 1998, but hearteningly charted lower than Wonderful, mostly the work of Smash, Thompson and Barson, which struck a balance between the two eras, if you want, of the band, the melancholy Elysium matched up with Ian Dury duet Drip Fed Fred. First single Lovestruck went to number ten; the second single didn't make the top 40, but then songs about tramps getting kicked to death don't really settle on playlists as a rule.

    Johnny The Horse

    Buoyed by the reaction, pretty much annual Christmas tours and the odd mid-ranking festival took up the next few years apart from Our House: The Musical, written by Tim Firth, whose other credits include Calendar Girls and All Quiet On The Preston Front. Described by the writer's synopsis as "the story of Joe Casey, his mates, his girlfriend Sarah and the night he commits a petty crime to impress her. Following the two courses his life would have taken had he stayed to face the music when the police appear on the scene or bunked the law and made a run for it", it ran from October 2002 at the Cambridge Theatre in west London. The band were joint executive producers and Suggs played Joe's father for a short time, getting to deliver One Better Day mid-show. Despite an Olivier Award for best new musical it closed in August 2003.

    With a new deal inked with V2, Madness went back to old haunt the Dublin Castle in 2004 to play a series of gigs as The Dangermen ahead of The Dangermen Sessions Vol. 1, an album of covers largely of roots reggae favourites, many of which they covered live in their early days, produced by Dennis Bovell (their first non Langer/Winstanley effort) which made number 11, although Shame And Scandal only got to 38 in the singles chart while Girl Why Don't You missed the top 75 completely. Foreman quit again in May 2005, citing "the petty time-consuming bollocks of being in a band", although he returned for 2006's Christmas shows. What happens now we'll have to see - Chas told The Word "I want us to be the working man's Pink Floyd" - but a special legacy is theirs for keeps.

    Monday, March 05, 2007

    This pension's saving grace

    Mark E Smith is fifteen years away from drawing from the government, of course, but let's raise a hearty glass on the occasion of his fiftieth. He's playing a gig in Bilston tonight, of course. Our own Illustrated Guide is still up and available, but we should also point you to No Rock'n'Roll Fun and Playlouder, which both have YouTube-centric appraisals.

    If astrology is correct, Matt Lucas, John Frusciante, the Proclaimers twins, Eva Mendes, Jolene Blalock, MC Solaar, Penn Jilette from Penn & Teller, Elaine Paige, Eddy Grant, Dean Stockwell and Hugh Scully are having the same sort of life on a day to day basis as Mark E Smith. Crikey.

    Weekender : bringing pastry back

    FREE MUSIC: Feel free to remind us of this in the months ahead, but we do think we've sighted the first proper candidate outside the obvious contenders for album of 2007, and it's Blonde Redhead's seventh album proper 23, released on April 23rd in Europe. Engineered by Chris Coady (YYYs, TVOTR) and mixed equally by Alan Moulder (U2, MBV, NIN, Killers, Pumpkins, married to Toni Halliday of Curve) and Rich Costey (Franz, Muse, Bloc Party, Mars Volta, Doves, Mew) it's clearly thinking big in many ways. The title track 23 sets the scene perfectly - more approachable than before but still dreamily propulsive.

    HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: We've told you before about the lo-fi low-key genius of Piano Magic, Glen Johnson and friends' attempt at updating something akin to the classic 4AD sound by taking on the This Mortal Coil membership policy. Johnson and sideman Cedric Pin have now formed Future Conditional, a retro-futurist electropop outfit best pigeonholed as a skeletal robotic version of all that stuff that's coming back in with bands like Lo-Fi-Fnk and To My Boy, taking cues from mid-80s New Order, populist Kraftwerk and the OMD/Heaven 17 axis with guest vocalists including Melanie Pain of Nouvelle Vague and the Field Mice/Trembling Blue Stars' Bobby Wratten.

    VISUAL REPRESENTATION: There's this new Inspiral Carpets B-sides download album out which includes a version of Saturn 5 with Mark E Smith guesting. Of course the pair have got together before for the propulsive genius of I Want You, here in video form with Smith accroutrements topping and tailing the performance. Also of Inspirals note, this 1989 Granada Reports feature where, with Anthony H clearly elsewhere, Bob Greaves is left to act the confused presenter into a feature about their famous T-shirt sales. Not the most famous T-shirt of all, though. Elsewhere in Madchester collaborations came the Happy Mondays' Lazyitis, here live at the G-Mex, which we mostly mention because in the week we found this spectacular and frankly unmissable footage. It's Karl Denver doing his calling card Wimoweh live in 1964 with Trio and dancers, and you really couldn't get an audience of teenage girls to scream like they do 47 seconds in with a note like that any more.

    VIRAL MARKETING: The announcement came in the week that there's a new White Stripes album ready and waiting for whichever label wants to pick it up and whenever international marketing dates conspire. Along with it came a clip apparently of the recording of I'm Slowly Turning Into You, albeit with Meg replaced by a skeleton. The album is called Icky Thump, and seeing American websites trying to explain why it might be a Goodies reference is a joy in itself.

    FALLING OFF A BLOG: Headphones On. What can we say? It's well written and it's got some mp3s on, and we think you ought to read it some time. It's not as easy as it looks, this.

    EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: We've covered public access kids show Pancake Mountain before - still going, and they've just had Deerhoof drop by - and now it seems it has a rival in Puppet Music Hall. Actually, it's probably not fair to call it a kids show, but the outre guest list is similar, featuring Devendra Banhart, Jenny Lewis (a Pancake Mountain alumnus) and Dresden Doll Amanda Palmer of late.

    IN OTHER NEWS: What do we have to do to get Brian May's attention?

    Sunday, March 04, 2007

    In shops tomorrow: 5/3


    Slim pickings this week, although another highlight in a run of great recent singles is a re-release of the spectacular 2005 single and career highlight of Newcastle's barnstorming Kubichek!, the Chameleons-meets-Fugazi indie floorfiller in a more just world Nightjoy. Other than that you're stuck with Bricolage, Glaswegians who take the bits of Orange Juice not already thoroughly eviscerated and who despite being signed to Memphis Industries issue 7" Looting Takes The Waiting Out Of Wanting on Fantastic Plastic. In the shape of great indie label things it makes very little difference, luckily.


    We've been wondering over the last few months, now everything is Oink this and Indietorrents that, about the ethics of downloading and listening to albums in advance. Of course everyone with broadband does it now, so much so that you lose all track of when albums are actually out as everyone has an opinion well before the opinion formers get to have their published say and has probably found live and demo versions to counterbalance their blogged argument. As pre-release hype followed by lull actually around release time when normal people get to join in grows ever more centrifuge-like, surely a line must be drawn in the same somewhere for the sake of new music. Can we therefore state for the record that here a day before release we have heard three tracks, and those just so we could catch up with popular opinion, from Neon Bible and have no desire to hear the rest until we have the CD in our hands. We could talk about its Springsteenian/apocalyptic nuances like many a blogger, but we'd be fools to both ourselves and yourselves. We're excited about this and we don't want technology to ruin it. (Because, of course, we've heard every moment of every other record we mention here and aren't just chancing it.) What else is going up against it? Well, Nick Cave, Warren Ellis and two other Bad Seeds as Grinderman, for a start, bringing the demonic, lascivious blues-garage-punk rawness and tremendous facial hair. Don't sleep. Idlewild made a hell of a noise themselves right at the start, as Roddy Woomble now says more in thrall to Superchunk and Sonic Youth than anything. They're still a formative band in the musical development of a lot of men in their mid-20s, though, and Make Another World is in parts a pleasing return to the roar of old, even if time and new labeldom means they can now control it and themselves better. Our pet theory about the St Etienne retro influence taking hold gains a satellite member proper this week in the form of three girl, three synth Brooklyn dreampoppers Au Revoir Simone. Their first UK release The Bird Of Music's wash of twisting keyboard melodies, vintage drum machines and sugar-saccharine harmonies has plenty of potential and scope to take them into the kind of cult status that only female-fronted bands with big singular ideas achieve. Another lady fest comes in the shape of Nashville's very un-Nashvillian electro post-punks Forget Cassettes, filling the gap between Giant Drag and PJ Harvey on Salt. Air's time in the spotlight may well have passed but they have a substantial reserve of goodwill, Pocket Symphony featuring guest spots for Jarvis Cocker and Neil Hannon. Despite being everyone's Best Live Band In The Country around 1998 it never quite happened for Asian Dub Foundation's heavily politicised Bengali breakbeat dub-ragga-rap-electropunk. Rabble rousing in a way Bobby Gillespie can only dream of, a couple of NME-loved albums were followed by most of the main members leaving in 2001, after which they were never the same. Time Freeze: The Best Of collects the best moments, along with rarities, radio sessions and out-takes. Is Satpal Ram still in prison? There was a European Court of Human Rights decision in his favour in 2003 but the Internet trail seems to stop there. Now, how about a nice Inspiral Carpets B-sides collection? iTunes-only Keep The Circle features rarities and the like, including a version of Saturn 5 with Mark E Smith. He doesn't add a great deal, to be honest.

    EDIT: Just been alerted to the fact we missed out !!!'s Myth Takes, which is ace and is what The Rapture should have been doing more recently. So, yeah, that as well.

    EDIT 2: Oh bloody hell, Charlotte Hatherley's The Deep Blue as well, which is perhaps surprisingly subtle and features a track co-written by Andy Partridge. See what we mean about losing track of release dates now?

    The Weekly Sweep

  • !!! - Must Be The Moon [mp3 from Audiversity]
  • Arcade Fire - Keep The Car Running [live on Saturday Night Live mp3 from Sixeyes]
  • Bat For Lashes - Prescilla [mp3 from Leaky Sparrow]
  • Blonde Redhead - 23 [mp3 from The Yellow Stereo]
  • Brakes - Cease And Desist [YouTube]
  • Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Satan Said Dance [Myspace]
  • Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Thou Shalt Always Kill [Myspace]
  • Dinosaur Jr - Been There All The Time [mp3 from Clicky Clicky Music]
  • iLiKETRAiNS - Spencer Perceval [YouTube]
  • Johnny Flynn - Tickle Me Pink [YouTube]
  • The Kissaway Trail - Smother + Evil = Hurt [mp3]
  • Kristin Hersh - In Shock [YouTube]
  • Kubichek! - Nightjoy [YouTube]
  • LCD Soundsystem - North American Scum [YouTube]
  • Los Campesinos! - We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives [mp3]
  • Lucky Soul - The Great Unwanted [mp3]
  • Maximo Park - Our Velocity [YouTube]
  • Page France - Hat And Flower [mp3 from Stereogum]
  • Patrick Wolf - The Stars
  • Paul McCartney - Coming Up [YouTube]