Monday, February 23, 2009

Sweeping The Nation Covermount 16: Talk Talk

The first proper Covermount of 2009 was a tricky one to finalise, we'll be honest with you. The concept was simple enough - songs which centrally feature spoken word rather than singing. What we ended up with was a shortlist that came to twice as long as our arbitrarily decided 74 minute CDR length limit. So yes, there are omissions - John Cooper Clarke, Slint, Tindersticks' My Sister, Gang Of Four's Paralysed, James Yorkston's Woozy With Cider to name five late deletions, mostly for space reasons - but we wanted to keep it interesting and little-known where possible so allow us some leeway.

Talk Talk

Ken Nordine - Green
Linda Blair's vocal coach for The Exorcist, 1960s hipster favourite Nordine's 'word jazz' style was put into action by a paint company who commissioned him in 1967 to write a number of surrealistic pieces on colours for their campaign. So well did they go down that Nordine re-recorded them and added a load more for an album called Colors.

Tom Waits - What's He Building?
Waits has admitted his own compellingly dark spoken word pieces are influenced by Nordine, and the pair collaborated on Nordine's Devout Catalyst album in 1991. This heartening tale of paranoid suspicion is from 1999's Mule Variations.

Billy Bragg - Walk Away Renee
It is connected to the Four Tops song of the same name, albeit only in that Johnny Marr's playing a guitar line based on the original vocal melody behind and it was originally on the B-side of Levi Stubbs Tears. Is it really a cover if it changes so much? That's for committees to discuss, we'll just concentrate on the many one-liners Bragg had been meaning to get into a song for a while. It's now on career collection Must I Paint You A Picture.

William Campbell & Kevin MacNeil - Local Man Ruins Everything
As well as sharing a name with McCartney's double in the Paul Is Dead story, William Campbell was singer in briefly Next Big Thing status holders Isle Of Lewis power-pop outfit Astrid and was in Gary Lightbody's The Reindeer Section. MacNeil is a local award winning poet. They've been promising a collaborative album for a couple of years but we'd almost prefer it to remain this good a one-off.

Adam Gnade & Youthmovies - It's Five O'Clock in America
Youthmovies you'll probably know, Oxford trumpet-aided math-pop acolytes who grew Foals in a test tube. Gnade is a Portland, Oregon based New Weird America sideman who writes novels and puts some of his prose over a wide range of musical styles. They combined for 2007's Honey Slides EP.

BARR - Half Of Two Times Two
Brendan Fowler, another one of those graduates from The Smell (see also: Abe Vigoda, HEALTH, Lavender Diamond, The Mae Shi, Mika Miko, No Age), has BARR as an outlet for meta-deconstructive confessionals. Debut album Summary is described in its own press release as "a document of the body as a record... record(ing) the idiosyncratic nature of thought processes".

Drive-By Truckers - The Three Great Alabama Icons
The sophisti-rednecks lightly fictionalised the Lynyrd Skynyrd story as a metaphor for the southern states on 2001's Southern Rock Opera, taking the story on with a joint consideration in context of Ronnie Van Zant, pro-racially segregationist governor George Wallace, and hugely successful university football coach Bear Bryant, who doesn't seem to get much of a look-in.

Hank Williams - Too Many Parties And Too Many Pals
Actually, technically this is by Luke The Drifter, a nom de plume Williams worked up for an idealized gospel preacher type as a vehicle for his recitations. Williams was famously a drunken carouser who died aged 29, making him the diametric opposite of Luke. That was surely the idea. All the Luke The Drifter songs are collected on Beyond The Sunset.

Meanwhile, Back In Communist Russia... - Morning After Pill
Right, back to the wilful young Brits. MBICR were Oxford Peel favoured post-rockers who merged the overwhelming guitar surges with Emily Gray's dark, claustrophobic poetry readings, here on the 2001 mini-album Indian Ink. And in case you didn't before, you now understand that lyric in Los Campesinos!' Don't Tell Me To Do The Math(s).

ballboy - I Hate Scotland
It was a shame that Gordon McIntyre's individualist tales of national non-pride emerged in the slipstream of Belle & Sebastian because it gave too many journalists too easy a hook and McIntyre, as proved here, is more culturally cutting. EP compilation Club Anthems 2001 is the album.

David Holmes - The Holiday Girl
AKA Arab Strap's remix of Don't Die Just Yet, because when there's so much of the band's material we could have used we might as well dig a little deeper. Yeah, it's about a girl Aidan Moffatt can't get with.

Talking Heads - Seen And Not Seen
Remain In Light was the apotheosis of the David Byrne/Brian Eno axis, deconstructing recording by melding layers of jammed polyrhythms and synth pulses together in the mix. It also opened the cracks that led to their poppier sound from then on and ultimate split.

Prince Buster - Judge Dread
The importance of Cecil Bustamente Campbell to Jamaican ska cannot be underestimated. His importance to law and order, less so. Fabulous Greatest Hits is generally a good place to start, but we really need a complete career overview of more than twelve tracks.

The Barbarians - Moulty
The Barbarians were one of the Nuggets set of American garage rock bands, from Massachusetts in fact. Apart from having long hair, their calling card was that drummer Victor 'Moulty' Moulton had a prosthetic hook in lieu of a left hand, having lost it in an accident aged 14, this being his autobiographical tale of success over adversity. It later turned out that Moulty aside the rest of the band aren't even on the track, replaced at short notice by studio band The Hawks, who later became The Band.

James Brown - King Heroin
Not exactly the JBs at their on the one-esque funky best, from 1972's There It Is, and not exactly to the letter either - specifics, we know, but just the idea of James Brown delivering an anti-drugs sermon.

Material with William S Burroughs - Words Of Advice
Material is the band name for the work of the feted and always in demand world-funk bassist Bill Laswell, whose other band Praxis contains the dream pairing of Funkadelic key member Bernie Worrell and Guns'n'Roses' celebrated ex-guitarist Buckethead. This is from Material's 1994 album Hallucination Engine.

Barry Adamson - Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Pelvis
As with Aidan'n'Malcolm we're spoilt for choice for Jarvis Cocker narrations, so we picked something he did for someone else, ex-Magazine bassist and scorer of imaginary films Barry Adamson's 1996 LP Oedipus Schmoedipus. Jarvis has the full box of vocal tics out here, and we suspect he was listening to a lot of Serge Gainsbourg at the time.

Jegsy Dodd and the Original Sinners - Grumpy Old Men
Scouse poet laureate Dodd first emerged in 1985 with Jegsy Dodd And The Sons Of Harry Cross, contemporaries of Half Man Half Biscuit on Probe Plus, and returned to music in 2004 with the tremendously titled Wake Up And Smell The Offy, from which this... can we call it the inverse of that whole Baz Luhrmann Sunscreen business?

The Shangri-Las - Past, Present And Future
And a proper oddity from a group who were fairly offbeat to begin with, when you think about Shadow Morton's habits and stuff like Leader Of The Pack. Appropriating Moonlight Sonata - and to think Glasvegas didn't think we'd notice when they did the same - Mary Weiss suggests something has happened and she's not at journalistic liberty to reveal exactly what it was. Also, it gives us another chance to luxuriate in the fact their best Best Of is called Myrmidons Of Melodrama.


Miles said...

Awesome, I love talkrock. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

this should have like 16 more adam gnade ones on it. his new record trailerparks is pretty great (from what i've heard on anywho) though i guess if there were 16 more adam gnades on there it wouldn't be a mix, then! so, bravo. carry on! and kudos for excluding george pringle. makes up for not having any godspeed!

Matt said...

Surely Godspeed! was more 'voices' than 'talking'?

I've only just got round to listening to this. Best one yet, I reckon, hardly knew any of these and they're all good.

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