Wednesday, December 31, 2008
I don't think its any great surprise to regular readers that I've no hesitation in naming Frightened Rabbit as my favourite act of 2008, and The Midnight Organ Fight as my favourite LP of 2008.
They've featured very heavily within the pages of TVV this past 12 months. Among the things I've said before are that are the best new band to come out of Scotland this century, the brilliance of their live sets dazzled, it's been a long time since I was so excited by the imminent release of an LP and they are ready to take on the world and conquer it.
Another thing to acknowledge is that the existence of blogs have played a huge part in helping the band's popularity increase. It was through the posting of some songs from the debut album over at one of Comrade Colin's old abodes that allowed me to discover them, and over the past 12 months, the posting of songs here and many other Scottish blogs have been listened to the world over, and I know that many American and Australian music fans in particular have taken the boys to their collective bosoms. Indeed, as I type this, Frightened Rabbit are in fact halfway round the world in Australia, seeing in the New Year with a bundle of their own shows as well as Festival dates. So much for those who see bloggers as the enemy.....
The band will no doubt be working on some new songs in 2009, but prior to that there will be a live album released in the Spring. It will consist of a performance at the Captain's Rest in Glasgow during which which the songs from The Midnight Organ Fight were given the Unplugged treatment. I've been lucky enough to have received an advance copy, and it's damn fine splendid indeed.....
This being the last posting of 2008, I'd like to thank everyone who has dropped by at anytime over the past 12 months and for showing an interest in the ramblings of an ageing muso. And I really want to say thanks to those of you who took the time and made the effort to leave comments and/or drop me an e-mail - they are always appreciated.
I want to give a really special mention to ctelblog who not only stepped in when I was away on holiday, but kept the blog afloat when I had the near-disaster of a PC crash that wiped out 15,000 files. Without him, I might have been tempted to give the whole thing up at one point.
I'm taking tomorrow off (no-one in Scotland does anything on 1st January except recover from a hangover), but I'll be back on Friday with the latest offering the homage to Morrissey series.
Happy New Year
mp3 : Frightened Rabbit - The Modern Leper
mp3 : Frightened Rabbit - Heads Roll Off (live acoustic session)*
mp3 : Frightened Rabbit - Set You Free**
* NOT the version recorded at the Captain's Rest
** b-side of the Heads Roll Off single
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
This award has lareday, in afew short months, catapulted the band to new heights in terms of album sales and folk going to see them in concert. Now I'm not a huge fan of Elbow, but I don't grudge them all that's come their way over since September given that they are a band who have genuinely 'served their time' in that they haven't been an overnight success, nor have they tried to become well known by indulging in exploits associated with tabloid celebrity/notoriety.
But I just wish that the Mercury prize had been given to another nominee on the 2008 list - British Sea Power.
It was back in January 2008 that Do You Like Rock Music? was unleashed upon the public . It's the third LP released by the band, and in interviews they were giving around this time last year, it was clear the band had high hopes for it. It certainly got a lot of critical acclaim on release for the marriage of complex, theme-driven lyrics with tunes that range from the thumping and triumphant to the hauntingly gorgeous and moving. And deservedly, 12 months on, its still an LP popular among the music writers, with high placings in almost every end of year poll.
......the success and profile enjoyed by Elbow could, and in my view, should, have been enjoyed by British Sea Power.
There's a great review of the LP by Andrew Harrison in the end-of-year edition of The Word magazine, which I'm not ashamed to crib from.
BSP.....moved sharply into focus on this exhilarating third album. Here, primarily-howling guitars and Bronte-esque naturalism are just two sides of the same pre-decimilisation coin. By marshaling subjects as diverse as migrant Europeans, arctic seabirds and quantum physics into a whole, BSP demonstrated heroic imaginative scope plus a mastery of the most important bit : sheer, animal excitement. Are they now our best rock band?
The answer to the last question should be quite obvious...
As a live act, they are unsurpassed, with every show tottering on the edge of insanity during the encores as one band-member dons goggles and a hat to dive into the crowd, while a 12 foot high bear wrestles with the others. Some lazy journalists have pigeon-holed them as our local Arcade Fire. Believe me dear readers, they are far superior to the Canadian superstars....far superior (and I say that as a huge admirer of t'Fire)
mp3 : British Sea Power - Waving Flags
Best single of 2008, as voted for by me.
mp3 : British Sea Power - No Lucifer
Best sing-a-long at gig in 2008, as voted for me.
mp3 : British Sea Power - Atom
Best mp3 given away by any official site, as voted by me.
Monday, December 29, 2008
My first gig of the year was on either the 3rd of 4th January, and it was a historic occasion being the first ever time I ever met Comrade Colin in the flesh. We thought we could get through the tedious post-New Year drag by nipping along to the 13th Note in Glasgow to capture Dumb Instrument, and a rare old evening it turned out to be.
Those of you unfamiliar with Dumb Instrument should make your way over to this myspace site for more info. Debut LP No-One Knows What It's Like To Be Me was released last May, and while it's not a piece of work that will get you pogoing away around your room, it is one to be savoured when you've got some time to sit down and listen to some clever poetic wordplay over some fabulous piano playing whilst sipping something with alcoholic content. Actually there's more than just the piano playing to savour, although it is at the heart of most of the tunes.
There's a number of And while I am fond of the album, they are an act best enjoyed in the live context. So keep an eye on their site.
mp3 : Dumb Instrument - The Goldfish
I thought that indie-music took a bit of a step backwards in 2008 in as much that whenever I switched on NME TV or MTV2 I could only stick it for 10-15 minutes at most before I started yawning at the sheer predictability of it all. But August saw the release of A Time And A Place by Popup which almost single-handedly restored my faith in the genre.
Dead simple really.......the classic line-up of two guitarists, a bass player and a drummer delivered a quality piece of work that, if I can steal a phrase from the great Aidan Moffat, definitely jump-started my serotonin.
The singles the band had released back in 2007 had found their way into the record collection at the time, and the couple of times that I had caught the band live certainly impressed me. But I wasn't prepared for how polished the debut LP turned out to be, nor indeed for how much variety there was in terms of the actual songs. It's certainly TVVs debut LP of the year by any Scottish band - far more accomplished and entertaining than some others which have sold by the barrowload.
If your granny gave you some old fashioned record token as a Xmas present, then go and spend them on Popup songs. And if you're trendy auntie and uncle thought they were smart in giving you an i-tunes card, well don't worry, you can also get the songs from that place as well.
mp3 : Popup - A Year In A Comprehensive
And here's the video for an earlier single - one that almost made the 45 45s at 45 series earlier this year:-
The third and final honorable mention goes to the afore mentioned Aidan Moffat who released an astonishing solo LP, I Can Hear Your Heart, back in February, and supported its release with a show at the Glasgow Arches.
I have absolutely no idea why I failed to mention either of these events at the time. I suspect it was down to the fact that I couldn't hope to beat the superlative review given to the LP by Matthew here at Song, By Toad, and also for the fact that I didn't want to go on about how lucky I had been to see such an incredible live show knowing that readers were going to be unable to catch him themselves in the flesh.
It's a LP that is brilliantly packaged, part of which is a short story that sets the scene for what is to follow - a semi-autobiographical tale of love, loss, love, loss and love that is best, in the author's words listened to in bed, with headphones and preferably with a hangover. There truly was no other LP released in 2008 that was anything like this. It's actually very difficult to post something from the LP without it appearing out of context - it would be a bit like trying to get you to understand the majesty of a Shakespeare soliloquy by quoting just four lines from the middle - but this could sort of stand alone in some ways:-
mp3 : Aidan John Moffat - You Took It Well
Sunday, December 28, 2008
But not this one. And I offer no apologies.
For amidst some brilliant musical memories over the past 12 months, including seeing some legends live for the first time, and falling for an album that is probably in my Top 5 of all time, nothing can top the fact that Edwyn Collins had the courage to take to the stage after all he's been through.
It was back in April that he played a number of gigs in the UK and Europe, including the Queens Hall in Edinburgh followed by the Oran Mor in Glasgow. My memories of both nights have been well-documented on these pages, but if you need a reminder, or you're a new reader, you can click here, here and here. (the last of them being a video clip.....)
Comrade Colin was with me on the second night, and I know he was quite nervous about it all. He thought Edwyn would be incapable of putting on a decent show given how a recent TV documentary showed how much of a struggle it sometime was for him to talk, and he also felt all of us would be steered towards a favourable reaction at the gig purely on sentimentality.
Afterwards, he said he just couldn't quite believe what he had been privileged to witness, and at such close quarters. I knew exactly what he meant....
Now 2008 has been a particularly momentous year for live gigs, most of which I've tried to review with total honesty (if you don't believe me, you can read this and see that I was a bit critical of Frightened Rabbit on one occasion). The memories provided by Leonard Cohen and Neil Young will live with me forever, but even they can't surpass the feelings that Edwyn provoked.
mp3 : Edwyn Collins - Searching For The Truth
The song is the b-side to Home Again which was released as a single back in the summer, and what is significant about it is that it's a song recorded after Edwyn had recovered from his various ailments. It features some lovely guitar work from Roddy Frame.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
I normally direct folk to things elsewhere, but in case you're too lazy to follow the link, I'm doing a cut and paste job:-
So, I was watching the news a few nights ago and this year it seems the Canadian news has bothered to report on the UK Christmas number one. Apparently, it's newsworthy this time because three versions of Hallelujah are competing for the top spot: the original by Leonard Cohen, the cover by Jeff Buckley and the cover by Alexandra Burke, some woman from X-Factor. The saddest part of the story was the fact that the X-Factor version was winning. To be clear, I don't ever really care what the Christmas number one is, especially when that type of thing is usually dominated by transitive pop acts and/or Cliff Richards, but this time I feel the vitriol rising in me. Maybe it's a combination of how much I see Christmas as a hypocritical commercial sham, how much I despise music "talent" shows, and how much I loathe the popular music industry right now.
I've never seen X-Factor despite having lived a total of at least a year in the UK over the past eight years of various trips, but I gather that it's like Pop Idol and all its nefarious, ubiquitous versions. To attempt a fair assessment, I did bother to listen to the X-Factor version. It boggled my mind how a song that can nearly bring me to tears when done by Jeff Buckley could make me feel so utterly devoid of feeling when sung by Alexandra Burke. I had always thought that Cohen's song was so incredible for the very fact that its composition, lyrical and musical, made it a song that will always swell and break your heart. I thought that minor fall and the major lift was guaranteed to tap into your soul. I was wrong. Though I've never been hugely fond of Cohen singing the song himself, especially when compared to Buckley, Burke manages to miss the point of the song entirely. The fragility is gone. In it's place is an overdone mess filled with so many unneccessary runs that it's like a cheap, shredded nylon stocking. And the choir backing her just compounds the ham-fisted approach of plastic spirituality.
This musical sacrilige shouldn't bother me as much as it does when these are the same people who bought enough singles to force that Band Aid song into the number one spot three times. Real music fans don't care about Christmas number ones, nor about participating them, so it shouldn't matter. The Black Arts' wonderful mockery of the whole stupidity of the Christmas number one, which I included in my Christmas mix, was rather predictably beaten by a long shot by another X-Factor winner last year. Perhaps equally depressing was the fact that the Christmas classic from The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl was also beaten by X-Factor. And Burke's win this year means singles from the X-Factor have been Christmas number ones for four consecutive times. That's abhorrent. It's also evidence that the general public isn't composed of music fans, which I also shouldn't find surprising.
In the same news report about the Christmas number one, there was story about how music sold this year - apparently, in times of economic crisis, people stick with what they know, thus putting Coldplay, AC/DC and Metallica into the top album slots for this year. I don't think this kind of consumer behaviour is restricted to economic recession - it's what most people do on a regular basis in every facet of their life. People like to be comfortable; they don't want to think too much or be inconvenienced for the sake of truth or multiple versions of truth. It makes me grieve a little for those who never take a chance on something new or who always desire the utterly artless and artificial, which they deem "reality." These are the people driving the world, let alone the music industry. It only proves that the music industry as it stands is a rotting corpse for a necrophiliac public, and that music that actually is innovative art needs to find new channels and keep going if only to keep real music fans from losing their minds.
That was penned the other day by Anglopunk over at Condemned By Rock'n'Roll - probably the best written music blog that I discovered in 2008. You really should all spend some time over there y'now. The link is over on the right hand side.....and it's here as well.
And since Ms Anglopunk is Canadian, I thought this might be appropriate:-
mp3 : k.d. lang - Hallelujah
Music Industry to Abandon Mass Suits
After years of suing thousands of people for allegedly stealing music via the Internet, the recording industry is set to drop its legal assault as it searches for more effective ways to combat online music piracy.
The decision represents an abrupt shift of strategy for the industry, which has opened legal proceedings against about 35,000 people since 2003. Critics say the legal offensive ultimately did little to stem the tide of illegally downloaded music. And it created a public-relations disaster for the industry, whose lawsuits targeted, among others, several single mothers, a dead person and a 13-year-old girl.
Instead, the Recording Industry Association of America said it plans to try an approach that relies on the cooperation of Internet-service providers. The trade group said it has hashed out preliminary agreements with major ISPs under which it will send an email to the provider when it finds a provider's customers making music available online for others to take.
Depending on the agreement, the ISP will either forward the note to customers, or alert customers that they appear to be uploading music illegally, and ask them to stop. If the customers continue the file-sharing, they will get one or two more emails, perhaps accompanied by slower service from the provider. Finally, the ISP may cut off their access altogether.
The RIAA said it has agreements in principle with some ISPs, but declined to say which ones. But ISPs, which are increasingly cutting content deals of their own with entertainment companies, may have more incentive to work with the music labels now than in previous years.
The new approach dispenses with one of the most contentious parts of the lawsuit strategy, which involved filing lawsuits requiring ISPs to disclose the identities of file sharers. Under the new strategy, the RIAA would forward its emails to the ISPs without demanding to know the customers' identity.
Though the industry group is reserving the right to sue people who are particularly heavy file sharers, or who ignore repeated warnings, it expects its lawsuits to decline to a trickle. The group stopped filing mass lawsuits early this fall.
It isn't clear that the new strategy will work or how effective the collaboration with the ISPs will be. "There isn't any silver-bullet anti-piracy solution," said Eric Garland, president of BigChampagne LLC, a piracy consulting company.
Mr. Garland said he likes the idea of a solution that works more with consumers. In the years since the RIAA began its mass legal action, "It has become abundantly clear that the carrot is far more important than the stick." Indeed, many in the music industry felt the lawsuits had outlived their usefulness.
"I'd give them credit for stopping what they've already been doing because it's been so destructive," said Brian Toder, who represents a Minnesota mother involved in a high-profile file-sharing case. But his client isn't off the hook. The RIAA said it plans to continue with outstanding lawsuits.
Over the summer, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo began brokering an agreement between the recording industry and the ISPs that would address both sides' piracy concerns. "We wanted to end the litigation," said Steven Cohen, Mr. Cuomo's chief of staff. "It's not helpful."
As the RIAA worked to cut deals with individual ISPs, Mr. Cuomo's office started working on a broader plan under which major ISPs would agree to work to prevent illegal file-sharing.
The RIAA believes the new strategy will reach more people, which itself is a deterrent. "Part of the issue with infringement is for people to be aware that their actions are not anonymous," said Mitch Bainwol, the group's chairman.
Mr. Bainwol said that while he thought the litigation had been effective in some regards, new methods were now available to the industry. "Over the course of five years, the marketplace has changed," he said in an interview. Litigation, he said, was successful in raising the public's awareness that file-sharing is illegal, but now he wants to try a strategy he thinks could prove more successful.
The RIAA says piracy would have been even worse without the lawsuits. Citing data from consulting firm NPD Group Inc., the industry says the percentage of Internet users who download music over the Internet has remained fairly constant, hovering around 19% over the past few years. However, the volume of music files shared over the Internet has grown steadily.
Meanwhile, music sales continue to fall. In 2003, the industry sold 656 million albums. In 2007, the number fell to 500 million CDs and digital albums, plus 844 million paid individual song downloads -- hardly enough to make up the decline in album sales.
In other words.....expect further activity in the way of notices in the months ahead.
One of the many other bloggers who has been affected by all of this is Mick from Raiding The Vinyl Archive.
The comments left to over there illustrate just how nonsensical it all is. Mick's posting on an early The The single was removed, but his posting of a few days later on the same singles' B-sides was untouched. Furthermore, his posting on the death of Rick Wright of Pink Floyd is still there for all to read, but while other bloggers have had their lovingly crafted tributes callously removed.
This is for Mick. And everyone else who has been victimised.
mp3 : The The - Uncertain Smile (original 12" version)
Rather different from the version that appears on Soul Mining, this is a single I've long been looking for an excuse to post ever since I picked up a mint-condition second-hand copy while visiting Toronto earlier this year.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Either way, it seems awfully appropriate that this single is the latest offering in this weekly series....
Boxers appeared in January 1995, some 10 months after the release of Vauxhall And I, but seven months prior to the issue of Southpaw Grammar. Thankfully, from this listeners' perspective, it is a song that fits in more with the former than the latter.
The sleeve on the left is the UK release, and the cover star is an American fighter called Billy Conn of the 1930s and 40s, who at one-time was the Light-Heavyweight champion of the world (in an era when just one man held the title at a particular weight, unlike today with its myriad of 'champs' recognised by different governing bodies). Apart from appearing on a Morrissey record sleeve, Billy Conn has had several brushes with the performing arts, including appearances on TV and in movies. He was also name-checked in the famous film On The Waterfront:-
The two b-sides, along with the single itself, would all later find their way onto the compilation LP, World Of Morrissey.
Boxers is one of the stronger Morrissey songs from the era, as is the b-side on the 7" single. But the additional track on the 12" and CD single suffers from really bad saxophone playing from Boz Boorer which has often led me to skip past it when it comes round on the i-pod.
Oh and legend has it that the title of the 7" b-side was inspired by what Morrissey thought was a tame cover version of Everyday Is Like Sunday by 10,000 Maniacs.
mp3 : Morrissey - Boxers
mp3 : Morrissey - Have-A-Go Merchant
mp3 : Morrissey - Whatever Happens, I Love You
The single peaked at a disappointing, but atypical for the period, #23.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Natives of Cork, Ireland, they were once known as The Sultans of Ping FC, then just The Sultans of Ping, before eventually becoming The Sultans.
Their career initially lasted from 1988 to 1997, but they reformed again in 2005, and continue to be hugely popular in their native land and in Japan.
This particular offering was on the b-side of a 1993 single - during their period as The Sultans of Ping - that just missed breaking into the UK Top 40.
mp3 : The Sultans of Ping - Xmas Bubblegum Machine
Merry Christmas Everyone.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
mp3 : Teenage Fanclub - Everything Flows
If you've never heard this song before, consider it an early Xmas present from Santa.
If you do know it but haven't played it in a long time, do something about it.
Come back tomorrow for the usual TVV Xmas Day offering (no peeking back to 2006 to spoil the surprise.....)
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
But that wouldn’t be the done thing…..
As I mentioned in the preview, it was initially actually a bit of a toss-up between going to the inaugural Burst Noel shindig and making a return visit to see Martin Stephenson for a second successive night. In the end, it was the great line-up, combined with the intrigue of getting along to another different venue in Glasgow, not forgetting the attraction of the celebrity DJ, that led to a night out in the environs of a club that still bears the name of a long-closed shipyard in the Govan area of the city.
And while I know from talking to a friend who had his first ever sighting of Martin at the Accies Club last Friday that I missed out on something pretty special, I am willing to utter the phrase..... je ne regrette nien.
All three support bands on this bill had their moments, although technical difficulties (i.e. a violin that wouldn’t allow itself to be miked up) meant that Strike The Colours had to cut the set to a mere 4 songs. I hadn’t seen The Phantom Band before last week, nor indeed heard any of their stuff, but I reckon there was enough to make me want to find out more about them, and I’ll probably purchase their debut LP when it hits the shops in early 2009.
I was familiar enough with De Rosa in that I’d seen them live on a few occasions and have a copy of the debut LP Mend in my collection. Their set was topped and tailed with familiar songs, but the bulk of it was drawn from as yet unreleased material that was more than satisfactory and which went down well with most of the audience, which I reckon was about 400-strong.
But none of them came remotely close to matching the performance of headliner Malcolm Middleton. This was a gig unlike any other I’ve ever seen from him – for one thing he didn’t automatically close his eyes when he was singing lead vocals – and he was more than happy to trade words with members of the audience.
It was a set list that drew from all four of his solo albums, as well as a couple of new songs. And it confirmed what I’ve always maintained in the face of incredulous non-believers – that Malky makes music you can dance to.
I’ll admit things were probably helped by the fact that I had enjoyed a few vodkas over the previous few hours at incredibly low prices (£1.24 for a generous measure), and that I was in a great mood thanks to the efforts of the support bands and the DJs. But from the moment you walked into the venue and saw the low-stage with minimalist backdrop, as well as the old fashioned disco lights, it was clear that this was a night when fun, fun, fun was the name of the game.
And just as with The Wedding Present the other week, it was a fantastic one-two near the end that proved the personal highlight – in this case We're All Going To Die and Death Love Depression Love Death which led to a spontaneous bit of pogoing from your scribe (and I can only apologise to anyone who was there and found themselves distressed by the sad efforts of a fat bloke in an old Blur t-shirt thinking he was 20 years younger…).
It was not far short of midnight, and after around an hour on stage that Malky called a halt to proceedings, with a truly wonderful and moving version of Love Comes In Waves that showed off not only his talents as a song-writer and guitarist, but demonstrated that he fronts a band that has got better and better with each passing show.
If I thought that was the end of the joy and festivities, I was well wide of the mark. The dance floor was filled for the next 45 minutes or so with an eclectic mix of songs – I won’t publicly admit to liking all of them, but hell, it was a party and parties are there for dancing……and making a fool of yourself. So a big thumbs up has to go to superstar DJ Aidan Moffat and his wonderful sidekick Noj for the way they kept the entertainment going in between the band performances through a combination of great music, hilarious patter and the way they organised and managed (in the loosest sense of the word) the funniest game of musical chairs you could ever hope to witness.
All this, plus a quick chat (and photo) with the gorgeous Emma Pollock, made it a night to remember.
So....... I do insist that if Malky organises a follow-up in 2009 that every last one of you make your way to Glasgow so that you can be reminded just how much fun a decent Xmas night out really can be….. and if we can turn it into a two-day/night bender involving a gig with The Daintees, then the world will seem a nigh on perfect place.
mp3 : Malcolm Middleton – Death Love Depression Death Love
mp3 : Malcolm Middelton – Love Comes In Waves
Monday, December 22, 2008
Today's post looks at the lead off track from The Repulsion Box, the 2005 LP from Sons & Daughters.
There was a huge amount of expectation on this, the first proper LP after the mini-album that was Love The Cup a year earlier. And this listener wasn't disappointed.
Ten tracks that amount to not much more than 30 minutes in length, every one of the songs is outstanding in its own way. I actually gave the full LP an airing the other night, and for the first time ever I reckognised that it had an awful lot in common with some of the songs of another of my favourite bands - Violent Femmes.
Its full of punky-folky songs that make you feel you should be dancing around the room as if possesed by a demon. Nowadays, you can hardly move for Scottish bands that sing in their own accents and lean on their own celtic (with a hard 'c') culture to make modern, vibrant and meaningful music. But just a few years ago, the boys and girls in Sons & Daughters were trailblazers.
The tone for the whole album is set in the first few seconds, with a short drum intro leading to the sort of guitar burst in terms of speed often associated with early The Wedding Present, before the vocals frantically join in and try and keep up with the pace being set by the instruments:-
Hit me hit me hit me I'm already on the ground
You're asleep in the next room and I'm banging to be found
I cannot feel my body and I'm floating then I'm drowned
And nothing I have taken keeps it down
It's a ride. It's a ride.
Help me help me help me it's a bitter hit to take
When I'm shaking once again this is too long to be awake
With the ignorance of new year
You could save me for your sake
Because I'm falling through the plans that we made
It's a ride. It's a ride.
My medicine, my medicine, my medicine,my medicine, my medicine
My medicine, my medicine, my medicine, my medicine, my medicine
Happy happy happy you can lie behind the eyes
Without telling those around you that you've built your own disguise
Now time can only end it when the remedy's not found
Just wrap it up and never take it out
It's alright, it's alright
My medicine, my medicine. my medicine, my medicine, my medicine
My medicine, my medicine, my medicine, my medicine, my medicine
And all of a sudden at 2mins 11 secs its over......but before you can draw breath, we're off immediately into the majestic Red Receiver, a story of a wedding that never was.....
If you dont own this LP, there really is something lacking in your collection. Try here at the official website.
mp3 : Sons & Daughters - Medicine
Sunday, December 21, 2008
It was billed as an acoustic night centred around Boat to Bolivia, the band's debut LP from 1986 which is one of the few records I would ever describe as a masterpiece. It's an album that I have listened to as much as any other I've ever owned - indeed I wore out my original vinyl copy of it in less than 2 months and another in another 2 years, while it is also among the first half-dozen CDs I ever bought as I moved towards that particular method of owning music.
For those of you unfamiliar with Martin Stephenson & The Daintees, or indeed the album I'm gushing over, I should explain that they emerged in the early 80s from the north-east of England. They were an act who came to most people's attention via gigging as they were seemingly always on the road, whether headlining their own tours in small venues or as support to various indie-pop chart bands.
They were led by a hugely charismatic and entertaining frontman who had a habit of telling great tales in between songs, in the thickest Geordie accent imaginable, and no two gigs were ever the same. Sadly, the four albums they released between 1986 and 1992 never really caught the imagination of the wider public, and in due course they broke up and Martin undertook a solo career which continues to this day. However, every now and again, the Daintees would get back together for a live show, and a few years ago they even began recording again....
On the night, long-time band members Anthony and Gary Dunn were on bass/backing vocals and lead guitar respectively, while Finn McArdle (last spotted with Martin on a solo gig) had responsibility for percussion. Martin was on acoustic guitar.
Boat To Bolivia is an LP containing some of the most incredibly personal songs ever committed to vinyl with Martin's lyrics taking in his thoughts on the aftermath of his grandmothers' funeral, the end of his sister's lesbian love affair and a history of women in his family suffering miscarriages. Other songs deal with alcoholism and a botched armed robbery....
Now by that description, it sounds the sort of record that is full of doom and gloom that should only be listened to in a sealed room with the blinds closed and with no access to sharp objects or any other materials with with you could do yourself harm. But.....it's a hugely joyous sounding album in many places that takes in pop, blues, country & western, folk, jazz and there's even a hint of calypso to be found on the title track.
The four men on stage more than do justice to the record. Martin from the off is on top-form with a twinkle in his eye and a smile that lit up the venue. Gary's guitar playing is a real joy - his ability to switch styles from song-to-song shows just how underrated a talent he is. Anthony?? Well, let's just say that for more than 20 years, I've been almost as big a fan of Anthony Dunn as I have been Martin Stephenson - he's always been a great bass player and backing vocalist in my book - and I know that without his involvement and influence the Daintees would probably never have got much beyond the first or second LP. Finn was....well, he was Finn the percussionist extraordinaire.
I wasn't sure when I arrived if the night was going to consist of a run-through of the LP in the same track order, so I wasn't entirely prepared for the fact that it began with a rendition of Crocodile Cryer, the opening track on the LP, and as anyone who recalls my 45s series earlier this year, one of my favourite singles of all time. (Read here for more).
So....the night began on a real high, and I'm delighted to report stayed at that level throughout.
The show didnt exactly follow the track order, with the faster, rockier tracks being kept back for a sort of encore that got everyone in the crowd hooting and a hollerin.
Maybe it was just me being a sentimental old fool, but I'm prepared to say that this was a good a show as I've ever seen Martin Stephenson play. It was the sort of show that I wish had been recorded for posterity - not just for the songs, but for the humour and wit on show all night long as Martin held various conversations with audience members and, as ever, told tales of life on the road as a musician. Loads of great Scottish singers and bands got name-checked throughout the evening - far too many to list them here - but it again became very clear that this is a singer and band that love performing in Glasgow and elsewhere in Scotland.
I would have been a happy enough bunny if the band had called it a day after completing the 12 songs from Boat To Bolivia, but then the show went into overdrive as they responded to audience requests for Daintees favourites not on the album. So we got obscure b-sides, long-lost singles not on any albums and other stuff that has rarely been aired live. And not a bum note anywhere.
Members of the audience were invited to come on-stage and provide backing vocals, and again this helped make the night all the more special. Just like the last time I had seen Martin at this particular venue, he asked young Sally Hendry- the 11 year old daughter of the gig promoter - to join in on Wholly Humble Heart - and it was a performance that brought the house to its feet. Sally's a girl with vocal talents and a great taste in music.....
Sadly, the noise curfew at the club, which is located in a hugely desirable residential area of the city, meant the night had to end eventually. Well, when I say that, I mean the music had to stop at 11pm after just over 2 unforgettable hours. Mrs Villain and myself spent about another 45 minutes or so hanging around being groupies, talking at length to the band and getting our photos taken with them. I even got Anthony to have a word on the phone with a mate in London who originally thought I was winding him-up when I said that I had a hero waiting to chat on the other end of the line....
I make no apologies for the length of this particular bit of blogging, and indeed you should count yourselves fortunate that I'm avoiding the temptation to give you a song-by-song review. Just make sure that if and when Martin, either solo or with the band, is in your neighbourhood, you go along and have a night you wont ever forget.
I also want to give a very special thank you to Alan Hendry, the promoter of the Sounds In The Suburbs gigs that have brought so many great acts to the west end of Glasgow over the years. (Alan, if you do read this, please consider yourself officially nominated as one of my Top 20 heroes of 2009, a list that includes a few musicians, various bloggers, one or two sports folk and an American president-in-waiting - and good luck for all you're doing in 2009.)
Magical. Moving. Magnificent. Memorable. Mad. That's the summary of my latest meeting with the man and band whose myspace can be found here.
mp3 : Martin Stephenson & The Daintees - Crocodile Cryer (LP version)
mp3 : Martin Stephenson & The Daintees - Running Waters
Both taken from Boat To Bolivia. Buy it here. And get a bonus best-of thrown in for free.
Happy Listening. Oh and click here for some live footage at The Video Villain.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
......getting so close to David Gedge and his band certainly has its compensations - as Mrs Villain constantly said all night. Or at least I think that's what she said as even just six inches away from her, I couldn't make out a word such was the joyous racket coming from the band.
This was a show that had a blistering opening in the shape of Kennedy. There was then a slight delay before the second song - It's For You - as David had to change his guitar thanks to a broken string from the ferocious playing on the set opener. And then there was a bit of a gap before the third song - Gone - because David had broken yet another string on the replacement guitar, such was the ferocity of the playing.
Thankfully, there were no more technical hitches, and the band rattled through 20 plus songs over the next 80 minutes, (including one originally recorded by Cinerama) although it felt as if the show had flown by in less than half that time. Yup, once again your humble scribe hit the jackpot in respect of another live act in 2008 - it was the view of myself, Mrs Villain, my mate Micky and old blogger acquaintance Drew that this was as good as The Wedding Present have been on stage since their heyday two decades ago. And for this credit does have to go to the others on stage - Chris McConville, Terry di Castro and Graeme Ramsay - as well as the frontman.
It was a set that encompassed songs from almost every album they've ever released. Rather surprisingly, only six songs were selected from current LP El Rey, but in a nod to what could be seen as its big sister LP Seamonsters (produced, like El Rey, by Steve Albini), the 1991 offering was the next most popular album in terms of this particular set-list with three songs.
In truth, there wasn't a single moment that went to waste on the night. Before hand, Mrs V realised a long-held ambition and got her photo taken with David. I got an old t-shirt on which his autograph had long-faded to be re-signed. We all had some of our favorite songs played on the night. And afterwards, I bought my first ever beanie hat, complete with Wedding Present logo on the front, to cover my ever increasing bald patch....
My personal highlight came near the end when the wall of noise that should have closed Dalliance never came as it segued straight into Dare. But in saying that, was it really all that better than the mania of Getting Nowhere Fast, or the one-two opening salvo that was the afore-mentioned Kennedy and It's For You, or indeed the tremendous live performances of newer songs like Pallisades and Model, Actress, Whatever... ? Oh and the majesty of My Favourite Dress just had to be heard to be believed.
I really don't know in all honesty.
The one thing I was disappointed in was myself. There was a bit of a mosh-pit going right down the front - a small one admittedly, and formed entirely of men who were old enough to know better. Part of me wanted to join in, but discretion won out over valour in the end as I know I'm no longer fit enough for that sort of nonsense -and besides, I had an important work meeting to attend the following morning.
But if the rumour of a 20th Anniversary Tour for Bizzaro in 2009 are true, then I'm going to start getting myself into shape right away - for nothing is going to stop me losing it completely during that particular show.
mp3 : The Wedding Present - Model, Actress, Whatever...
mp3 : The Wedding Present - Dare
Product available to buy from this official site as well as this place.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Today's offering goes back to 1997 and was the second single to be taken off the LP Maladjusted.
Unusually for a Morrissey single, he's nowhere to be seen on the cover - instead its a 1950s photo in a London street (I have to be honest when I bought the CD single that it thought the photo had been taken in the 1970s in my own home city.....)
But there is a snap of the great man himself inside, looking as handsome as ever in a grey checked jacket and white shirt, leaning against an old juke-box.
The reason I'm saying so much about the sleeve is that I really dont have all that much to offer about the actual single which I reckon is one of the poorest and dullest he's ever released. No tune to speak off and a rather lame lyric that relies totally on a pun. In fact,given there's no promo video for the song, I'm guessing there was more enthusiasm from the record company than Morrissey himself.
I can just imagine some executive thinking....'maybe all those Manchester United fans will think its about one of their players....'
mp3 : Morrissey - Roy's Keen
mp3 : Morrissey - Lost
mp3 : Morrissey - The Edges Are No Longer Parallel
I know there's quite a few fans love the song Lost, but I think its nothing more than OK - although it hints at the sort of production that would dominate on You Are The Quarry some 7 years hence...
Thursday, December 18, 2008
It was back in late 2005 when I first noticed Young Knives, thanks to one of their promos being aired on MTV2. They were a band I kept an eye on throughout 2006, buying each of their singles and subsequent LP - Voices of Animals and Men - as well as catching them live a few times. I argued at the time that they were worthy successors to the likes of The Kinks, The Teardrop Explodes and XTC in making great pop records that were quite clearly English and often bordered on the eccentric.
I was really disappointed that they weren't a big success - the singles barely dented the top 40, while the album only sold reasonably despite a great deal of support from MTV2 and in particular Zane Lowe and his Gonzo programme, as well as a Mercury Music Prize nomination.
As much as I loved their previous stuff, it was the release of Superabundance at the beginning of this year that made me realise just how talented and special this trio really are. It's a huge disappointment that the record was summarily dismissed on its release by so many music journos and is nowhere to be found in the Best of 2008 round-ups that dominate the media just now.
I accept Young Knives are not earth-shattering. But neither are they as one-dimensional as some critics suggest. This is an album among my Top3 favourites of the entire year. It veers from verse/catchy chorus/verse pop classics to stunningly produced songs that demand and deserve a number of listens to appreciate their greatness (much the way some folk talk about Radiohead.....).
My biggest fear was having produced 2 albums packed with songs that are immensely superior to those bands who have enjoyed more chart success and acclaim over the same period of time, was that Young Knives would become hugely disillusioned and call it a day. But I'm delighted to have read just the other week that they are in a recording studio with every intention of another album being released in 2009.
The main thing about that news is that inevitably the band will take to the road and promote the new stuff, for they are one of the most energetic and entertaining live acts I've had the pleasure of seeing in all of my 30 years of live gigs. And, while I know I'm going to be a hostage to fortune with the next few words....what is there to dislike about these great bits of music:-
mp3 : Young Knives - Turn Tail
mp3 : Young Knives - Up All Night
Go on treat yourself and buy Superabundance.
Oh and I nearly forgot.....here's a great cover version they tucked away on a b-side:-
mp3 : Young Knives - Stand And Deliver
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
No, DMCA is not a band but it is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it is a law in the United States that makes it easier for record labels to take down mp3s on blogs, amongst other copyright and internet issues. It was passed into law in 1998 by President Clinton, but I did not really know what it meant for music blogs until last week.
How it works is this: the DMCA gives copyright owners such as artists and labels, the right to serve what is known as a ‘takedown’ notice to ISPs and web hosting companies when a copyrighted work is being distributed on the internet, such as blogs. If the ISP/host chose to comply with this takedown notice by removing public access to the copyrighted content on their server, they will be exempt from future law suits from the copyright owner (eg. labels) relevant to this content. The person who puts up the content (eg. blogger) then get sa notice from the ISP/host informing that the content has been removed and that he/she can serve a counter-claim notice to the ISP/host challenging the takedown. The copyright owner then has 14 days to reply with a law suit to take the matter to court. If there is no law suit then the ISP/host can restore access to the copyrighted content.
Two weeks ago I received an email from my web hosting company Dreamhost informing me that they have received a takedown notice from the RIAA for this file: http://whothehell.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/pnauladyhawkemiamihorrorfalke.mp3
It’s from the Miami Horror and Fred Falke remix of PNAU’s new single Embrace (featuring Ladyhawke) post. What’s funny about the whole business is that I was given the file by the copyright owner, the label who commissioned this remix etcetc records who isn’t even registered with RIAA. They reconfirmed that they still want me to blog an mp3 of the track as it is part of their promotional strategy for the single servicing. So they emailed to Dreamhost asking the file to be put back up. Dreamhost replied by saying that we have to serve them a counter-claim, following the DMCA’s guidelines, and recommended that we get a lawyer to do it. They refused to do anything more, even checking if the original takedown notice was issued by a genuine claimant of the copyright material. Now I’ve been with Dreamhost for over 10 years and they’ve always been very good to me so I know they weren’t just being silly. Around the same time, Aleks Discodust emailed me saying that he too was with Dreamhost and that he had received the same notice, and wanted to check with me if that track was indeed still cleared to blog.
A quick search on the internet revealed that the DMCA has indeed many flaws, and there are sites that are dedicated to repealing this Act and even a site on takedown notices clearinghouse tracking the effects of the legislation and other similar law. One of the sites has example of how to write a counter takedown notice, so I did a simple cut and paste, filled in the details and sent it back not to Dreamhost but to email@example.com, letting them know that they are in no position to serve this notice in the first place because they don’t even represent the copyright owner of the song. And then I waited, to see if I’m going to be sued for blogging an mp3 I was given permission to. A few days passed, and then I received an email forward from Dreamhost, the RIAA has rescinded their notice and the file has been put back up online. It is now available again. whothehell.net 1, RIAA 0.
My post is just one of the many examples how this law is being misused. It’s true that the mp3, being hosted with Dreamhost a US company, fall under US court of law jurisdiction. But hosting companies are so fearful of being sued by labels, movie studios and huge bands like Metallica and U2 that as soon as they received a takedown notice they restrict access to the disputed file without even doing background checks to the validity of the notices.
Until now I have no idea which member RIAA, which label, served the notice. Pnau, Miami Horror and Fred Falke (as far as I know) isn’t signed to a US label. Ladyhawke is signed to Island/Universal, but this work isn’t hers, it’s Pnau’s. Perhaps someone in Island just googled ‘Ladyhawke’ and served notice to everyone that was hosting the file. But this recording was done before she signed to Island anyway. I have heard that there were no performance agreement with the song between Pnau and Ladyhawke, and as a condition Pnau isn’t allowed to advertise the song with Ladyhawke’s name or image in the press or videos. But that doesn’t stop bloggers like me attaching her name on it. No one told me not to mention her name in writing, and most bloggers spend a lot of time and money maintaining their websites purely for the love of the music, and they genuinely think by doing so help promote the artists’ work. So I don’t think I should be penalised for my support of the local music scene, if the whole Ladyhawke/Pnau agreement was indeed the reason the file got taken down.
Could this be some form of industrial sabotage? It would be very easy for other labels to serve takedown notices of rival label’s artists, and as a result derailing any promotional blogging campaign. It just seems to give not only copyright owners but anyone that the ISPs/host deemed legimate to takedown just about any mp3s.
All speculations aside, I hope by posting this I’ll bring more attention to this legislation. Have any other bloggers received a similar DMCA notice?
Click here if you want to go on in and share your own experiences.
The other day I gave a plug to the Contrast Podcast, and it was via that medium last February that I first discovered Bon Iver.
Contributors were asked to make up a CD of music and pass it on to a fellow contributor who would then select their favourite and introduce it. Now, the CD I made up went across to someone in the USA who dutifully said her bit and then two weeks later gave up on Contrast Podcast altogether - so much for my compilation which was full of great if largely unknown Scottish bands.
The CD I received came courtesy of Marcy of the blog Lost In Your Inbox. Entitled North American Scum, it featured 22 tracks from Canadians, Americans and Mexicans, many of which were brand new to me. I ended up over the course of the year seeking out CDs by many of the artistes that Marcy had brought to my attention (so much for music fans on the internet and in blog-world only being interested in things for free), and the one that has had most listens has been For Emma, Forever Ago.
I was lucky enough thanks to Marcy to get a preview of an act that was to wow the critics here in the UK when the LP arrive here in May 2008. There's little point in me trying to add to what many talented writers have said in their end of year round-ups - just google Bon Iver and see for yourself.
But from this fan's perspective, it's a work of real beauty that at times is quite heartbreaking and in parts difficult to listen to. A bit like The Wire on the telly, you have to sometimes listen closely to hear what is going on.....but the effort is well worth it. It's only got 9 tracks on it so, you'll need to make do with just the one offering:-
mp3 : Bon Iver - Blindsided
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Since the last posting, I've been gobsmacked by a few things. For one, there is some evidence that small-minded petty people are quite as adept as using DMCA notices as major labels - Simon from The Songs That People Sing has lost some posts related to records that have long been out-of-print or unavailable, and that are totally unrelated to any existing record label, removed under a DMCA, leading him to conclude it may be some other blogger or collector looking on with envy that forced the takedown (remember, the request under DMCA will be enacted upon by Blogger regardless of who asks for it or the merit of the case....).
Click here for Simon's tale.
And Bitter Andrew, who recently changed the style, lay-out and modus operandi of Armagideon Time (ie no more mp3s) let me know of the contents of this e-mail :-
'Hi guys, the marketing team at Columbia Records just wanted to update our contacts. We don't have a telephone number for you guys and your blog looks great. Who would we contact for press, and what address would we use to post you promo CDs?'
Oh that would be the Columbia Records to who Glasvegas are signed and who were the first to hound poor Ed, wouldn't it?
Bitter Andrew resisted sending the following reply, but I'll share it with you:-
"I live inside your colon, so if you shove the promos up your ass, I'll be sure to receive them."
Here's a little ditty to anyone who ever even dreamed of asking for a DMCA notice on an mp3 blogger doing it all for the love of music:-
mp3 : Mindless Drug Hoover - Fuck Off
It is of course no secret the Man In Black enjoyed enormous critical acclaim and re-assessment in the last few years of his life, as well as finding a whole new audience and set of fans, thanks to the series of LPs he recorded between 1994 and 2003 with Rick Rubin, someone whose initial burst with fame came courtesy of the Beastie Boys.
The merits of these LPs have split hardcore fans – there are some who think they’re an abomination made up largely of glorified karaoke, while there are others who rate some of the songs, and in particular the interpretations of the covers, as among Cash’s best.
It’s actually a difficult one to reach a definitive conclusion, partly because the advancement of recording and production techniques make the Rubin recordings completely different from anything else that Johnny Cash ever did. And its also clear that his voice wasn’t nearly the weapon it used to be – but then again, once any singer goes over the age of 40 or 50 they will never be able to hit the notes they could when they were in the 20s or 30s - for instance, ask Morrissey to try and sing the falsetto on Miserable Lie from The Smiths debut LP and I bet he’ll fail miserably so to speak….
I reckon Rick Rubin took a big risk when he initially partnered up with Johnny Cash, as no-one knew just how well the CD-buying public would react, and all too often, stars of days of old come back and give us total turkeys. What we got over those last few years were a series of albums with a great deal of magical moments, but which also had some stuff that was dull and stodgy.
However, what it did do was create a new appreciation of the talents of Johnny Cash, and I’m guessing that almost everyone who bought one of the Rubin records would have at some point later and picked up one of the many compilation CDs released over the years that feature those mono-recordings with The Tennessee Three, not to mention the songs recorded live during concerts in infamous jailhouses.
The final LP released before Cash’s death was The Man Comes Around. By this time, illness had ravaged the singer’s body and his voice was not in great shape. There’s a lot of painful listening over the 16 tracks, and I think Rubin recognises this as evidenced by the inclusion of supporting and backing vocalists such as Nick Cave, Don Henley and Fiona Apple.
Nevertheless, the opening track after which the LP is named, is a truly astonishing bit of work. It is one of the last songs ever written by Cash and it has a hugely complicated lyric that weaves all sorts of biblical quotes into an incredibly catchy tune that is part-country, part-folk, part spiritual and part-rock. It’s a song written and sung by a man who knew he was dying and it is clearly an effort to leave one last might of memorable music behind amidst a tremendous legacy. In the accompanying sleevenotes, the great man admits "I spent more time on this song than any I ever wrote. "
mp3 : Johnny Cash – The Man Comes Around
It’s an LP that is best known for the cover of the Nine Inch Nails song Hurt, thanks to an unforgettable video that featured very heavily on the worldwide variations of both MTV and MTV2. The success of the video helped the LP sell more than 500,000 copies, and for the first time in more than 30 years, Johnny Cash qualified for a gold disc, an astonishing feat for someone who not too long beforehand would have struggled to get 1% of that amount of sales.
And while I’m rabbiting in this incoherent fashion, I think it’s a good time to again share one of my favourite Cash recordings, a duet with Joe Strummer, covering a Bob Marley song:-
mp3 : Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer – Redemption Song
Monday, December 15, 2008
James Kirk and Steven Daly were two of the original members of Orange Juice who left in early 1982, not long after the band had released their debut LP on Polydor Records. Not long afterwards, the two of them formed Memphis, but the sole recorded output was this single on Swampland Records (run by Alan Horne of Postcard Records fame) in 1985:-
mp3 : Memphis - You Supply The Roses
mp3 : Memphis - Apres Ski
It's a gem of a pop record that deserved, in the opinion of this humble scribe, to be a hit instead of the miserly number of copies that it sold. But then again, I'd argue that just about everything James Kirk has been involved in should have been massive.
Oh and please don't get the b-side of this single mixed up with the b-side of Breaking Point by Bourgie Bourgie.
Same title yes, but totally different song.
Organised by the truly talented Tim Young, its a weekly broadcast of intros and songs on a particular subject or idea, and it is inevitably a mix of music of all sorts of genres that might not always be to your own taste, but is always in some way or other very educational. Oh and many of the contributions are far funnier, in an intentional way, than much of the stuff that passes for comedy nowadays.
One of the best shows was back at the end of April, when contributors were asked to play two different songs with the same title. Click here for the full show.
My own contributions that week consisted of:-
mp3 : Bourgie Bourgie - Careless
mp3 : Cinerama - Careless
The former is a long-deleted single dating back to 1984, one of just two released by one of the great lost bands of the era, and featuring the vocal talents of Paul Quinn. The latter is the band that David Gedge formed in 1998 and which lasted until 2003 when he re-formed The Wedding Present - this particular song was a 2002 single that can also be found on the LP Torino.
The idea of two songs with the same title is one that I think is well worth exploring further, and so without any shame whatsoever, I'm starting yet another new and occasional series at TVV....
mp3 : Electronic - Disappointed
mp3 : Morrissey - Disappointed (live)
mp3 : P.I.L. - Disappointed
The first of these the biggest ever hit single for Electronic, reaching #6 in 1992. The middle track is another tremendous b-side, originally found on the reverse of Everyday Is Like Sunday - the live version I've shoved up today is from the flip of the 12" of Pregnant For The Last Time. The final track is the 12" version of a 1989 single that barely scraped the Top 40
Gedge, Lydon, Marr, McGeogh, Morrissey, Quinn, Sumner and Tennant in one posting. Now THAT'S what I call music.....