Friday, September 30, 2005

Funky Friday's Tears Are Not Enough

Classic 12's of the '80s
Today's post is the faux-soul debut single from ABC. Martin Fry and his crew had been playing in their hometown of Sheffield as Vice Versa, part of a vibrantly experimental music scene that included Cabaret Voltaire, Artery, the Human League, Clock DVA and the Comsat Angels. In 1980 the members of Vice Versa changed their band name to ABC and decided to go for pop chart domination. Their debut single was called Tears Are Not Enough, and it was a catchy, uptempo "white boys playing the funk" tune. Over a driving soul beat the band lays a tight bass riff, some choice chicken scratch guitar, killer horns, cheesy key stabs and that unmistakeable croon. Crooning those sharp lyrics. Martin is a dapper looking guy, and his lyrics were always sharp and funny. I loved this song from the get go, and felt like they were destined for greatness. It made the top 20, but it was the subsequent songs and album ("Poison Arrow", "The Look Of Love" and "All Of My Heart" from The Lexicon Of Love, produced by über producer of much goodness Trevor Horn) that saw them conquer the pop charts of the world. At this point I'd just like to say that, in my opinion, The Lexicon Of Love is one of the greatest pop records ever, from start to finish. But then that's a whole other post. Enjoy the bongo-licious breaks of Tears Are Not Enough (12" Version).

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Image Hosted by

Let me preface this post by saying that I'm not a fan of Elliott Smith. It's not that I don't like him or his music - he's just one of those people who I've never bothered to investigate. Believe me, I'm sure that there's lots of music out there that I would like if I heard it, but time and money is limited, and there always seems to be something else I need to get. I've read lots of positive reviews of Elliott's music, and have heard a fair amount of his stuff played where I work, but somehow I just never got around to buying any. Anyone who follows music knows he tragically comitted suicide. Before he took his own life in 2003 he had been writing music for a movie that his friend Mike Mills was filming called Thumbsucker. Director Mills was at a loss - his friend was gone, and the soundtrack uncompleted. He then went to a Polyphonic Spree show, and was blown away by the spectacle. I've been to a Spree show, and I've seen the amazing show they can put on. Anyway, he knew the Spree were "it", and he roped Tim DeLaughter in to do the soundtrack. The resulting record features 20 tracks of Spree music, gloriously sunny and uplifting. It also features three songs by Elliott Smith. One is an original ("Let's Get Lost") and the other two are covers of Cat Stevens and Big Star. It's thought to be that these were some of the last songs he recorded. I love the originals of these songs, and his versions move me. It's stripped down - just Elliott and his acoustic guitar. Thirteen is the Big Star tune, and it's fab - the song has such a beautiful melody, and his voice fits it very well. Trouble is the Cat Stevens song, and it's also lovely - so many of those old Cat Stevens are so good, it always nice to hear someone else's take. The vocals are multitracked for a bit of cool psychedelic flavor. I really enjoy these songs, and the rest of the soundtrack is pretty great too. It's almost enough to make me go out and buy an Elliott Smith album...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Out In The Streets, They Call It Murder

I don't listen to the radio, except for the local sports talk station once in a while. I rely on my digital cable to keep me in touch with where the hip kids are, either through "on demand" video (which is awesome) or on one of the many MTV/VH1 channels that are out there. A few months back on VH1Soul I caught the video for Welcome To Jamrock by reggae royalty Damian "Jr.Gong" Marley. Kicking off with a tasty Ini Kamoze sample (the title of this post is the vocal line), it features a tough ass dub beat, skanking bass line and a righteous stream of conciousness flow about the hardships of life in the slums of Jamaica - territory Damian's dad Bob was no stranger to. The tune really grabbed my attention, both for the music and for the lyrics. It's been on heavy rotation on the cable channels, and apparently has also been a big hit on the radio. The album dropped this week so I snapped up a copy. Welcome To Jamrock has been on non-stop rotation for the last two days, shuttling between the car and the home and the work stereos. I haven't listened to the rest of the album enough to have much of an opinion yet, although generally speaking I think it sounds pretty good. There are guest shots from several rappers - Nas & Black Thought, and several collabs with his brother Stephen. Sytlistically he covers a lot of ground, from dub to pop to hiphop flavored reggae, and his voice is fairly pleasant too - low key and slightly raspy. He doesn't really sound like his dad tho' he does hijack a couple of his dad's tunes - Pimper's Paradise and Exodus both serve as backdrops. First impressions say I'm going to like this album a lot. Plus, major bonus boints are awarded for the free, green vinyl 7" of Welcome To Jamrock that came with the purchase of the CD.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Classic 12"s - Fade To Grey

If you were to ask me what my favorite song from the '80s was, I'd be hard pressed to give you a good answer. I might be able to come up with a half way decent top 10 of the '80s tho', and there's absolutely no doubt that Visage's Fade To Grey would make that list - probably top 5. They were a "New Romantic" act, fronted by club kid slash photogenic weirdo Steve Strange. The band was made up of half of Ultravox (Midge Ure and Billie Currie) and 3/4s of Magazine (John McGeoch, Barry Adamson and Dave Formula). Musically they created icy, danceable synthpop and muscular synthrock, topped off with the fey vocals of Steve Strange. They recorded three LPs, the first a lot better than the others, and then they were no more. The rest of the guys went on to many other musical pursuits, and last I heard, Steve was living with his Mum somewhere in suburban London. Fade To Grey was released in 1980, and is a song that I think still sounds good today. I was seduced by it's use of the synthesizer, the drum machines, the mysterious French vocals - "devenir en gris", and the song's super catchy melody. From it's opening hi-hat hiss and rolling synth bass to the slamming drums that kick in the spoken word break, it still makes me shake my thang and crank up the volume every time. Enjoy the extended-ness of it all!

Fade To Grey (Extended)

Monday, September 26, 2005


Image Hosted by

File this one under "unexpected hit". Brakes are a Brit indie supergroup made up of members from Electric Soft Parade and the Tenderfoot and are fronted by British Sea Power's Eamon Hamilton. Their LP Give Blood got's it's domestic release on Rough Trade US a few weeks back. I'd heard the first single All Night Disco Party and loved it's goofy new waviness. Then I read a review or two that were less than positive. I decided to get the record anyway. To my pleasant surprise the album is very entertaining. It a scruffy yet not too sloppy set of post punk-ish, indie rock tunes with a serious dose of country flavor and a tiny dash of new wave. It's all over the place, from Neil Young to Sonic Youth, and it doesn't suffer from it. It seems to me that these guys had a fun time writing and recording the record, and this makes for good listening.
You're So Pretty is a lovely, twangy tune that shows the alt-country flavor off pretty well - I hear a wee bit of Grandaddy in this tune too. There are a few well chosen covers - the Johnny Cash/June Carter tune Jackson is a lot of fun, as is the Jesus and Mary Chain tune Sometimes Always. The band also throw out a bunch of short-burst songs, including one which details the band's political stance - Cheney. It's only 10 seconds long - clear and concise and there's no doubt about which way they lean! A great record.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Image Hosted by

I got an e-mail this week from a guy named Jamie Tait, and attached was an mp3 by his band, City Wide Walkie Talkie. I gave the tune a play. It's actually pretty groovy, in their words, "a combination of "sequenced electronic elements with live improvisations" - the quote is from their bio which you can read at their label's site @ Isonaut Music. Turns out these guys are Canadian and are part of "a collective of independent musicians banding together to offer free mp3 downloads and info about our projects. The genres covered are eclectic and include alt-pop, ambient, and downtempo." I surfed around the site a bit, and then hit the mp3 page. I enjoyed everything I heard. It's all on the lo-fi, left field, experimental electronic tip, with a lot of real instrumentation getting thrown into the mix. City Wide Walkie Talkie's Petrovich is the tune that Jamie sent me. It kicks off all atmosphere and static, then a breakbeat floats in, some wah-wah guitar wafts through, and suddenly it's a G-funk beat and a rubbery bass line bumping along. About half way through the beat fades and it turns into heavy dog-breathing ambience. If you like this track hit up their music page - you'll probably like some of the other tunes they have up too.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Funky Friday & The Money's Too Tight To Mention

UPDATE - the initial post of this failed to link to anything. My bad. The link is now working. Thank you.

Today's funky Friday selection is another classic 12" of the early '80s - Simply Red's cover of Money's Too Tight To Mention, a 1982 R&B hit by the Valentine Brothers. The song is a harsh critique that lambasted the then-in-power Reagan administration's fiscal and social policies. What's scary is that now, some 20 years later, the same lyrics can be applied to our current Bush administration - it's just Bush-anomics instead. I remember being impressed by the band's funkiness, and the way this crazy red haired white boy could sound so soulful. They went on to conquer the world with their debut album Picture Book and it's big single Holding Back The Years. Over the next few years they leaned increasingly towards bland easy listening music and I lost interest. Good thing there's this to remember them by.

Money's Too Tight To Mention (Cutback Mix)

I been laid off from work my rent is due
My kids all need brand new shoes
So I went to the bank to see what they could do
They said: son look like bad luck got a hold on you

Money's too tight to mention
I can't get an unemployment extension
Money's too tight to mention

I went to my brother to see what he could do
He said brother I'd like to help but I'm unable to
So called on my father, oh father
Almighty father, he said:

Money's too tight to mention
Oh money money money money
Money's too tight to mention
I can't even qualify for my pension

We're talking 'bout Reagan'omics
Oh lord down in the Congress
They're passing all kinds of bills
From down on Capitol Hill, we've tried it

Money's too tight to mention - Cutback
Money's too tight to mention
Oh money money money money

We're talking 'bout money money
We're talking 'bout money money
We're talking 'bout money money
We're talking 'bout money money
money money money . .

We're talking 'bout the dollar bill
And that old man that's over the hill
Now what are we all to do
When money's got a hold on you?

Money's too tight to mention
Oh money money money money
Money's too tight to mention
Dinero – money Oh

I’m talking 'bout money money
I’m talking 'bout money money
Yeah I’m talking 'bout it
I’m talking 'bout money money

Did the earth move for you Nancy?
Did the earth move for you Nancy?
Did the earth move for you Nancy?
Did the earth move for you Nancy?

Yeah I’m talkin’ Nancy
Yeah I’m talkin’ Nancy

Yeah I’m talkin’ Nancy
Yeah I’m talkin’ bout it

Yeah I want some money money money
Read my heaven, Oh my
The sight of all that money

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Dan, Man

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usImage Hosted by ImageShack.usImage Hosted by

A few weeks back I stumbled across a link to some Steely Dan music that was recorded at the time of 1980's Gaucho album but was never released - the "Lost Gaucho" it was called. My interest was piqued - the Dan are one of my all time favorite rock bands. It's a pretty fascinating set of tunes, largely because they are mostly demos, so the sound is a lot more stripped down than the Dan usually is. This got me into a bit of a Dan phase at home, listening to the old records. Yes, records. I own the CD box Citizen Steely Dan, which is a collection of all of their albums in one box set. I hate how it's sequenced though - the albums are split up and carry over onto the next CD, you know, so they could fit it all on 4 discs. The lack of continuity infuriates me, so when I get the jones for the Dan I always go back to the crusty old vinyl. Besides, I really do think that the vinyl sounds better anyway. So while I'm listening to this stuff I start recording a few tracks, and presto! Here are 3 tunes from 3 albums, ripped from the vinyl, unprocessed except for the mp3 part. Are these my fave tunes? Not necessarily, but I feel like they do represent what I like about the Dan - jazz + rock + the best studio musicians a man can buy + lurid, sordid tales of sex drugs and rock and roll = a catalog of classic records that I will be listening to when I'm 95 - assuming I live that long!

Any Major Dude from 1974's Pretzel Logic - the first Dan I ever heard. Love the combo of country/classic rock with the deep jazzy keys.

Haitian Divorce from 1976's The Royal Scam - the Dan do reggae, and pretty well! Great story too.

I Got The News from 1977's Aja, the first Dan I ever spent my own money on. This is always the tune that people call the throwaway song from Aja - strangely one of my faves! Probably because of it's disco leanings and it's fantastic piano vamping.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

GRLZ - Women Ahead Of Their Time

I was on my usual Tuesday jaunt to the record store to catch some of the week's new releases - Siberia from Echo & The Bunnymen, Tender Buttons from Broadcast and The Bad Plus' Suspicious Activity? - when I spied this compilation called GRLZ - Women Ahead Of Their Time. I pick it up, flip it over, and right away I know I need to have it. Out on Crippled Dick Hot Wax! (best or worst label name ever?), it's an excellent set of tunes from the original post-punk era, all bands that prominently featured women. Here's the line-up - The Slits' rendition of I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Delta 5's Mind Your Own Business, two songs from Rip, Rig & Panic as well as songs from Anna Domino, the New Age Steppers, Ludus, Dorothy, Nicolle Meyer and Jajaja. Several of these acts are news to me, but I was most psyched about some Rip, Rig & Panic on CD dude! Also included are these two great tunes -

Maximum Joy, like Rip, Rig & Panic, were an offshoot of The Pop Group, and where RR&P did the funky jazz thing, Maximum Joy were pure punk-funk. Stretch is too damn funky, all popping bass and wackawacka guitars, with a great, shrieking vocal performance and some killer skronky sax. October 28th brings Maximum Joy! Unlimited (1979-1983) on the same label. It's a collection of all the singles and 12's formerly released on their original label, Y Records. Great stuff, and I look forward to getting my hands on a copy of it.

If you know anything about early '80s music you are familiar with Bow Wow Wow. Put together by Malcolm McLaren - who stole the musicians from Adam Ant's band, fronted by 16 year old Anabella Lwin, their tribal drumming driven punk pop lit up the music scene for a couple of years. C30 C60 C90 Go! encapsulates all that is good about the band - the frantic beats, the punchy vocals, and it's all about the joys of music - we can all relate. On the strength of how good this track sounds digitized I think it's time that the powers that be give us some Bow Wow Wow remastered reissues.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

All Around You Is Love

Yesterday's piece on Roxy Music's Avalon brought up the phrase "adult contemporary". Today I offer you some more artful easy listening music. Too Tall To Hide is the name of the sophomore LP by Minneapolis quartet Halloween, Alaska. Made up of veterans of our local music scene (including super drummer Dave King from The Bad Plus/Happy Apple), they self released their debut in 2003, and had several tracks chosen to be soundtrack music on The O.C. last year. This prompted a reissue of the debut early this year with a few extra tracks, and now we have it's follow up. Musically I would describe it as moody,tasteful electronica decorated with organic instrumentation and a dash of that laptop glitchiness. The songs are pop songs with a melancholic touch. For some reason they really remind me of one of my fave '80s bands, Prefab Sprout - something about the way the melody and the lyrics are arranged. They also remind me of The Postal Service, albeit a much less poppy version. There are also elements of the lush, quiet storm music that The Blue Nile are so adept at. Drowned is one of the more uptempo songs. It plaintively chugs along to a nice, steady beat until about 3/4s of the way through when it explodes into a pounding beast of feedback, giving the oft repeated lyric "all around you is love" added weight. The band is also to be commended for it's choice of cover tunes. They bring their unique, Minnesota-white-boy coolness to the LL Cool J hit I Can't Live Without My Radio. It seems like it shouldn't work, this slick suburban take, but I love how it comes across, with it's urban story given a dreamy, lush backdrop. It's fantastic, and the rest of the record is pretty nice too.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Last week I posted several Roxy Music tracks due to the fact that I had recently picked up a bunch of the remastered reissues. Turns out you people really like Roxy Music. There was a big spike in hits on those days, and a large number of you left comments - which is something that makes me very happy. The commenting sparked much discussion over what was the band's "last great album". Several of you chimed in to say that the one I didn't post from, their final LP Avalon, was your favorite. By the time this album was released in 1982 the band had transitioned from the glammy art rock of their early '70s beginnings into a slick, adult contemporary act. And I can honestly say that I don't care. This record is just as memorable to me as any of their other ones. I have been known to indulge in some of that AOR music every once in a while, and when it's as artfully constructed as Avalon it's all good with me. This album sounds timeless to me, unlike so many of it's peers. The production is super, and as a result it really doesn't sound dated. I had a hard time deciding what to post, and I've decided to skip the hits, skip the gorgeous, short instrumental India and give you 2 tracks that run consecutively, from deep into the record. The Main Thing kicks of with lots of atmosphere - clappy rhythm, wubbawubba rubbery bass lines and snaky keys and guitars. It's a deep, spaced out midtempo art funker with nice soulful backing vocals. Take A Chance With Me is equally atmospheric in it's opening moments, almost waltz like, until the beat and guitar kick in and it's vintage Roxy - melodic croon, nice twangy guitar riffs and that sense of melancholy that this band is so good at creating. Slick? Yes, but in such a unique and artistic way that ultimately I can't resist.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Defunkt-y Friday

Last Friday London Lee over at Number One Songs In Heaven posted Defunkt's Make Them Dance. As you can read in his brief bio, they were a NYC jazz funk band formed in the late '70s by Joe Bowie. I know, as soon as you see those words "jazz funk" you think Level 42, or Shakatak, or something equally bland and soulless and you're ready to surf away to something hipper. Hang on. Defunkt were part of the famed "No Wave" set of bands that exploded out of New York - bands that combined the frantic, scratchy edge of punk with art rock and dance beats and funk. They are a funk band in the tradition of James Brown - the tightest of rhythm sections, lots of skronking horns, and lyrics that reflected the wild scene they were a part of. There's also a boatload of great post punk guitar all over their songs. All in all, a very unique band with a sound of their own. Critics loved 'em, but the people weren't buying. They made a couple of albums, split and then reformed again in the mid '80s. They are still in business today. Anyway, Rykodisc/Hannibal has done everyone a huge favor and reissued their first two albums, Defunkt and Themonuclear Sweat (which features the guitar playing of Vernon Reid, later of Living Color), as a 2 disc set. While the second album is good, the first one is great - a classic. It's punchy and hard and edgy, all the while maintaining one mutha-wumping-hell of a groove. In The Good Times hijacks the bass line from the Chic classic Good Times, then drags it kicking and screaming from the coke snorting disco clubs uptown to the back-alley smack junkie shooting up in an empty building doorway. It's fierce. The album has also been expanded with a few live tracks and, in the words of London Lee (this one is for you), the rare 12" of Razor's Edge. Its another hard ass track, a midtempo jam that features seriously soulful vocals and some intense, blazing guitar - both solos and rhythm. It is as lyrically hard as In The Good Times too, and predates gangsta rap's tales of hard times in the hood. I cannot recommend this set highly enough - it's a must have for fans of jazz, funk and rock.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

My '80s Remastered - Hysteria

The Human League faced a daunting challenge in 1984 - how to follow up their chart busting world wide smash Dare. That album is pretty much pop perfection, with a handful of huge hits and a lot of other good tunes - pretty much no filler. In the years following Dare the band grew, adding musicians Jo Callis (one time member of The Rezillos) and Ian Burden. These two brought a new dimension to the band that had prided itself on using only synths to create music - real guitar and bass. The follow up album was called Hysteria. It was no Dare. It has it's moments of greatness - Louise, The Sign and Life On Your Own, but to me it just felt more labored, like they were trying too hard. Of course this is all in retrospect, because at the time I though it was the tits. Last week Caroline Records reissued it, remastered and expanded, and of course I had to have it. Johnny over at Lost In The '80s will tell you that it's lacking the songs from the Fascination EP - stuff that's never been on CD before - and he's right. But I'll get over it. In the meantime enjoy this version of James Brown's Rock Me Again And Again And Again And Again And Again And Again (Six Times). Sure, it doesn't hold a candle to the original, and a lot of people will say that it really sucks, but I have always dug it - something about Phil's yelling and straining to hit the notes gets me every time. I mentioned The Sign as another of my fave moments, and one of the bonus tracks is the remix - The Sign (Extended Version). I dig the chunky bass, the cool scratchy guitar bits and the prototypical League melody, as well as the vocal interplay with Phil and the girls. Sure, none of it is as good as Love Action or Don't You Want Me, but it remains dear to my heart.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Price Of Gasoline

Image Hosted by

A bunch of noteworthy new music hit US record shop shelves this week, forcing me to part with my $$$. I've had a chance to listen to most of them once. There's the Dandy Warhols' Odditorium, which drops the "wannabe Duran Duran" thing and returns to the VU stoner rock thing. One spin tells me I like it. There's the Super Furry Animals' Love Kraft, which after one spin sounded very interesting - it's going to take a few more! Brakes are a British indie "supergroup" who I posted about a while back. Their debut Give Blood is a really fun record - a mix of Neil Young-ish alt-country stuff with Brit-rock post punk. They do a couple of great cover tunes too - Jesus And Mary Chains' Sometimes Always and Jackson which many people, including Johnny Cash, have covered. Also out this week but not fully listened to - Stellastarr's Harmonies For The Haunted, Sigur Ros' Takk, the Polyphonic Spree and Elliott Smith's score for the new Mike Mills movie Thumbsucker, the two disc set of Defunkt reissues of Defunkt & Thermonuclear Sweat, and Minneapolis natives Halloween Alaska's sophomore release Too Tall To Hide.

The album that's gotten the most play the last two days though is Silent Alarm Remixed by Bloc Party. The music of this band lends itself to remixing, and their choices of mixers are interesting too, from Ladytron to Mogwai, M83, Four Tet, Erol Alkan and Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The one remix that really jumped out at me is Price Of Gasoline (Automato Remix). I was a big fan of Automato's album from a year or so ago. Produced by The DFA, it was a cool mix of indie hip hop and indie rock, with lots of nice electro touches. Much the same can be said for this remix - it's bumping, with a nice and chunky synth bass riff added. I love it - and it's so very topical these days too.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Flesh + Blood

In the comments from yesterday's post, reader philT said he thought that Manifesto was Roxy Music's "last great album". Another regular reader, Paulo X, said that he didn't agree, citing their next album Flesh + Blood as the last great album. I fall squarely into that camp too. In fact I might even go as far as to say that this one is my personal favorite. It's got a beautiful cover, and I like all of the songs on it, originals and covers. There are two cover versions on it - one is a very groovy take on Eight Miles High, the other a typically Roxy-fied version of The Midnight Hour. It's true that this album marks the spot where Roxy's edge began to wear off. By the next album Avalon, slickness had prevailed and all the edge was gone - not that I minded, because I enjoy that album too. But back to Flesh + Blood.
Same Old Scene picks up the dance factor considerably. I love this tune, from the opening's simple drum machine to it's fanstastically spongy bass lines, the guitar riffs, the slick vocal performance from Ferry and the sax solos. This tune still gives me gooseflesh today. So does Over You. The big twangy guitar breaks are super cool, and I dig the cheesy new wave keyboards. I also love the melody, and the sense of space in the instrumental passages that lead to the end of the song. It was really hard for me to pick tunes from this album because I like all of them. And much like Manifesto, I'm amazed at how good this record still sounds, where so many of it's peers sound dated.

Monday, September 12, 2005


A few weeks back I picked up some of the Roxy Music remastered resissues that came out a few years back - I have vinyl, but only a greatest hits set on CD. Today's post is all about their 1979 album Manifesto. I was unaware of Roxy Music when I moved to the UK that same year, and this album was my introduction to the band. It was the single for Angel Eyes, a slick, syncopated disco track with Bryan Ferry's distinctive croon that caught my attention. I bought a copy of the album, and was hooked by the bands mix of stylish art rock, new wave and dance-ability. Their music straddled a fine line between commerciality and art, rocking hard and gentle heartbreak, real instruments and electronic experimentation. All of this should come as no surprise considering that experimental pioneer Brian Eno was once a very flamboyant member of the band. Thus began my love affair with Roxy Music and Ferry's solo stuff. So imagine my surprise when, upon popping the remastered Manifesto into the car's CD player, a completely different version of Angel Eyes poured out of my speakers. This is not the version from my vinyl copy! Instead of the slick disco beats is a harder rocking, sax driven beast. I assume that when the rerecorded version became a hit the record company pressed copies of the album with the remake instead of this version - I haven't been able to find any info about it. It was a pretty cool moment for me, hearing this "new" and very different take. The previous single from the record was Dance Away. This tune is one of the more danceable numbers, especially when that disco high hat kicks in down the home stretch. I love the clean crispness of this track - you can hear everything so clearly from the beats to the gorgeous piano. I am amazed at how well this album holds up after some 25 years - the production is sharp, and the distinctive sounds of new wave that they mixed into their unique brew still excites me today.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Classic 12"s - Penthouse And Pavement

One of my all time favorite electronic records is the Human League's 1980 LP Travelogue, so when Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware left the band soon after it's release I was disappointed - and eager to see what they would do. Everyone knows what happened to their old band after they left - world chart domination for a couple of years. Ian and Martyn hooked up with singer Glenn Gregory and launched Heaven 17. Their debut LP was called Penthouse And Pavement and was released the same year as the Human League's breakthrough album "Dare". I snapped up both records and loved them equally. Unfortunately for Heaven 17, the general public preferred the Human League records. Heaven 17 didn't completely flop out in the charts - several of the singles were hits, and they also had a few more minor hits over the years. I always felt that they got the raw deal, because IMO their album is just as catchy, although in a much more sophisticated way. It's divided into two sides defined by the album title. It features a lot of the same synth sounds as it's peer, but stepped it up even further by incorporating the brilliant playing skills of a young unknown guitarist by the name of John Wilson. It's his tremendously funky bass popping that makes the songs on the A (Pavement) side of the record, and particularly the title track Penthouse And Pavement (12" Version), so freaking good. It's fluid and rubbery and brilliant. Also prominent here are the supremely soulful vocals of American r'n'b singer Josie James - she can actually sing, something those two lovely ladies in the League could never be accused of. Don't get me wrong, I love those girls, but Josie carries a tune with no bum notes. A seriously funky slab of classic synth pop.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Classic 12"s - Party Fears Two

Image Hosted by

The Associates were the early '80s Scottish duo comprised of musician and studio man Alan Rankine and vocalist Billy Mackenzie. Billy had one of the most amazing voices - his soaring, diva-esque histrionics sounded like no-one else, one minute controlled and the next soaring & spiralling into the wild blue yonder. His choice of words as a lyricist often strayed from the pop norm too. It was all beautifully matched with Alan's arty dance rock, capable of pop chart brilliance and left field obscurity. The first time I heard their music was this single from their "masterwork" album Sulk called Party Fears Two (12" Version). I was flabbergasted by what I heard - lush, insanely catchy melodies paired with this voice that was so over the top that you either loved it or you didn't - there's no in between with Billy's voice. I was too compelled by it, couldn't ignore it, and promptly bought the single, the next single and then the album. To this day I still get a weird rush from this song's dramatics - it still sounds so totally unique. This was their second album, and their biggest chart success. I tried to follow them for the next couple of years but none of it matched Sulk for me. Sadly Billy committed suicide in 1997, having had great critical but not commercial success.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Classic 12"s - We Don't Need This Pressure On

Yesterday I wrote a bit about the "New Romantics" scene in the UK that flourished for a few years in the early '80s - the synths and makeup and funny outfits. One of the bands at the forefront of that scene was Spandau Ballet. Fronted by deep voiced crooner Tony Hadley, their early records were a blend of funk, disco, synths and art rock. They wore kilts with their frilly shirts, and had big floppy fringed hairdos. They sounded like nobody else though, and I loved the early stuff - it rode a fine line between artsy fartsy and pop, and the band was tight and funky. By the time they released 3rd album, the global smash True, they had undergone a bit of a makeover, and were now peddling a softer, blue-eyed soul version of the band. It was at this point that I began to lose interest, although I still own a copy of that album. Chant No.1 (We Don't Need This Pressure On) - 12" Version is from the second LP Diamond, which has some good tunes on it but it's not as consistent as their debut. This track exemplifies what I like about these guys - funky ass guitar riffs, nice chunky bass, some great horns, the shout-along chorus and that distinctive croon, so smooth.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Classic 12"s - It Came From The '80s

Image Hosted by

I'm returning to the 'classic 12"s' theme this week and it's all about the eighties. I lived in the UK from 1979 to 1985 - they were the formative years of my music taste. I arrived at the end of punk and the beginning of the "New Romatics" era. I loved the music, all synths and drum machines. The look was interesting for a while - a lot of blokes in frilly shirts and make up. I owned a baggy suit of which I tucked the pant legs into a sharp pair of burgundy pixie boots, and I might even admit to owning a lamé flecked scarf that I wrapped around the shoulder and neck - thankfully there are no photos that I know of to prove it! Several of this week's picks will be of the "new romantic" variety. Today, however, is all about the Tom Tom Club and their legendary hit Genius Of Love. The husband and wife team of Chris Frantz & Tina Weymouth were already known in the world of music for their day jobs as the rhythm section from Talking Heads. While that band was on hiatus these two crept off to the Caribbean, hooked up with a bunch of funky locals, and recorded a breezy, summer-y party record. Goofy, fun and very funky, Genius Of Love (12" Version) was the second single from the LP, and over the years has been sample fodder for so many, from Mariah Carey to Annie. It's a warm groove that is given a nice, dubby makeover on this 12". You probably know it, might even own it, but I don't care - I love it. The Annie record has been a big hit at my house this summer - my almost 6 year old daughter loves the single Chewing Gum - listen to the beat and you will recognize it from this song.

Monday, September 05, 2005

A Handful Of Covers

Image Hosted by
Lizzy Mercier Descloux does a lovely rendition of Marvin Gaye's classic - Let's Get It On - it's warm, quirky island soul.

Image Hosted by
Chicks On Speed cover the song that was written and recorded by Daniel Miller as The Normal, which was then covered most brilliantly by Miss Grace Jones, and now COS bring their sass to it - Warm Leatherette. I love the big crunky beat.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Funky Friday Has Magic Love

Today is the final day of my Bentathon. Their third LP The Everlasting Blink has what is probably my favorite Bent song on it, Magic Love. It's a smooth as silk disco tune that cops the vocals from Love On A Shoestring by '70s cheesy listening legends The Captain & Tenille. It's sounds like it would be horrendous, but it's pure bliss. The vocals match the tune perfectly. The version I give you today is the wickedly funky 12" remix, Magic Love (Ashley Beedle's Black Magic Vocal Mix). Ashley Beedle extends the track, spacing it out and punching up the rhythm and bass. It's fantastic.

Big Ups
I'd like to "big up" Ampari, a Finnish mp3 blogger kind of like Totally Fuzzy - he points you in the direction of interesting tunes other bloggers have put up. I don't have a clue what he's talking about - I don't speak Finnish, but he links to me occasionally so I try and check him out. This week he had a link up (via Aquarium Drunk) to what was referred to as "Steely Dan - The Lost Gaucho". Now, I'm a HUGE fan of the Dan and all of their albums - except maybe that last one - so my curiousity was tweaked in a BIG way. I clicked on the link and was taken to this crazy Singaporean blogazine called Big O Magazine. It's a combination of humor, music, leftfield politics, and more music. And amid it all was this "lost album" by one of my all time favorite bands. I was blown away, because I'd never heard anything about it. There is an accompanying story (it could be the original version of Gaucho) and even album artwork to download. It's a good read, and I can't wait to spend this long Labor Day weekend soaking up some new(old) Steely Dan!

Human League fans living in the US rejoice! Next week Astralwerks is releasing the remastered and expanded Hysteria - with 5 bonus cuts. Out the same day is the new Black Dice LP Broken Ear Record. Astralwerks are reissuing the Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis helmed Human League album Crash on October 4th. Hardcore fans should also be interested in checking out the Sept.27 release of the League's The Original Remixes, which features 14 of the original 12" versions. This is a Euro only release. I need me one of those too.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Stay The Same

Day 4 of the cliff notes version of Bent continues with the second single released from their brilliant 3rd album The Everlasting Blink. Stay The Same is a gorgeous, psychedelic pop song that lifts great chunks of vocals from an oldie by '70s British rock idol David Essex (1974's There's Something About You). It features a basic electro beat, a lovely melody, some big, spongy bass, strummy guitars, a choir, and the multitracked and processed vocals are very trippy. It's a classic moment on the LP. Today I give you a cool remix of it by Italo house act Planet Funk. Stay The Same (Planet Funk Radio Version) is a very different beast from the original, with a much thicker, harder rocking vibe to it. Gone is all of the delicacy, replaced by a hard beat, a gritty bass part, some big riffs, and a much bigger emphasis on the vocals. It reminds me a bit of Cut Copy, with it's tight blend of indie rock and dance beats. It's a lot funkier than the original too.