Got this free 7" when I bought Drums And Guns. This is a radically reworked version of the song from the album. It's been re-imagined as some obscure '70s AM radio soul gem. And yes, that "crustiness" you hear is part of the recording.
The ever excellent Soul Jazz Records has a great new compilation out that takes a look at the rise of the U.K.'s independent music industry after punk. Spanning the years 1977 to 1986, it's called D-I-Y Do It Yourself and features 22 tracks from a broad variety of artists and styles. There are some things any hardcore post-punk fan will already have (Scritti Politti, Buzzcocks, Swell Maps and Throbbing Gristle) but there are some relatively unknown gems too. You get punk, funk, dub, electronic experiments and scrappy, edgy post-punk. It is a great snapshot of a fertile indie scene exploding all over the place. It comes packaged with a thick little booklet that is chock full of photos, extensive liner notes and interviews with label owners, bands, studios, mastering and pressing plants and printers. Today's picks show the variety available; APB bring the white boy funkateer thing, Icon A.D. bring the (punk) noise with an antiwar anthem which rings true today, and Thomas Leer brings the futurist synth experimentation. Excellent.
1 The Buzzcocks - Boredom 2 Kleenex - Ain't You 3 A.P.B. - All Your Life With Me 4 Fire Engines - Everything's Roses 5 The Naffis - Slice 1 6 Swell Maps - Let's Build A Car 7 Patrick Fitzgerald - Babysitter 8 Artery - The Slide 9 Blurt - The Fish Needs A Bike 10 Glaxo Babies - Shake The Foundations 11 The Flys - Love And A Molotov Cocktail 12 Russ McDonald - Looking From The Cooking Pot 13 Scritti Politti - Skank Bloc Bologna 14 Windows - Creation Rebel 15 Icon A.D. - Fight For Peace 16 Thomas Leer - Tight As A Drum 17 The Frantic Elevators - Every Day I Die 18 Throbbing Gristle - Distant Dreams (Part Two) 19 The Last Gang - Spirit Of Youth 20 Biting Tongues - You Can Choke Like That 21 Tom Lucy - Paris, France 22 Red Lorry Yellow Lorry - Paint Your Wagon
The latest British pop sensation, this is flamboyantly fun pop-rock-disco music. Mika employs the same falsetto singing style that Jake Shears from Scissor Sisters does, both of them cribbing from Freddie Mercury. The Sisters are a bit of touchstone here, with the pianos and disco beats, but with a British twist. Candy pop fun.
The supposed leaders of the "new rave" scene don't really sound anything like I would envision "new rave" sounding. What they do have is a handful of sharp and shouty rock tunes, more new wave than new rave. They also have a great drummer - some of these tunes are relentless in their rhythms.
Macy has a new record deal and some new collaborators - Will I Am, Justin Timberlake and (gulp) Fergie. I haven't had a chance to give this more than one spin yet, so I can't really comment on it beyond saying this; the songs remain typically Macy while the sound is slicker and much more current than her other records. And yes, there is a song on it where she kills her man - every one of her records has one of these, and it is one of those little details that entertains me to no end.
Today I turn the ripe old age of 43. Last night I got my drink on at my wife's nephew's wedding reception. They had an open bar and I enjoyed a few mojitos. Thankfully I have no headache, but everything is kind of fuzzy. The birthday has been a good one, starting with sleeping in until almost 10:00, followed by brunch at 20•21 with the wife, then home to lovely gifts and prizes, including a stack of new 33 1/3 books. The day is always a good excuse to post a couple of classics, so enjoy these...
Teenage Bad Girl - Ghost House Cocotte Remember when Daft Punk used to be good? This French duo do, and their new album is full of killer robot rock. Where Daft Punk succumbed to the cheese, these lads look to Justice and MSTRKRFT and hit you hard. This track was the B-side to their first single and is some sweet bliss-co music.
Amy Winehouse - In My Bed Frank When Amy's debut was released in the US in 2003 it sank without a trace. The initial pressing sold out and the record was deleted from the catalog. I found this out trying to get hold of a copy. On Tuesday I was pleasantly surprised to see that my record shop had a stack of nicely priced imports. It doesn't have the "ooomph" of Back To Black - it's a softer, jazzier r'n'b record - but it's definitely good. I love the hip hop vibe and big orchestration on this track a lot.
Bonde Do Role - Solta O Frango Solta O Frango Here's a bit of über trendy baile funk for you. Produced by Diplo, it's skeletal electro with shouty vocals reminiscent of MIA.
Stephen Marley - The Traffic Jam featuring Damian "Jr.Gong" Marley Mind Control Some nice beatboxing serves as the frame for this sing-song-y track from Stephen and his brother (whose hit album Welcome To Jamrock Stephen helped write and produce). From a fairly diverse solo LP that sees Stephen continue to step out of the shadow of Ziggy & The Melody Makers.
Something I have never really discussed in depth here is my love for Depeche Mode. I was living in the UK when they began their ascent to pop stardom. My first exposure to them was the song Photographic on the 1981 compilation Some Bizzare Album. This collection is notable for some of the other acts on it, including The The, Blancmange, B Movie and Soft Cell, but I digress. I loved the boys from Basildon and their synths. They looked incredibly geeky, but they wrote some pretty catchy tunes. I have kept up with the band ever since the early days, and still have all the old 7"s and 12"s, although I did take a teeny break right around '93's Songs Of Faith & Devotion, which I bought, sold and bought again later.
I am not as fascinated by their music anymore, but I am fascinated by their longevity. I never would have envisioned that those geeks with their synths would still be around 26 years later, or that they would ever get as big as they have on a global scale. Over the last year Mute Records has been reissuing the back catalog as two disc sets; the album remastered plus a DVD with a 5.1 mix of the album, a film, some live tracks plus extra songs from some of the concurrent EPs. I have bought Music For The Masses and Violator, and this week I picked up their 1986 classic Black Celebration. This is where the band began to resonate in America, and millions of black eye liner-ed youths made the boys rich and famous and effed up on fame and drugs. It resonated with me too. I had just moved from London to Minneapolis in 1986. I thought I was going into a cultural wasteland of bad American rock until I found this record store called Northern Lights. And they had all of the British music I needed to survive my first year as a working adult, especially this album and the Stripped EP. Having access to the music I thought I was leaving behind helped keep me sane and happy and made me realize that this was going to be a good place to live. Kind of funny considering the dark nature of this record. I haven't played the 5.1 mix yet - perhaps right after I post this. Anyway, here are a couple of key tracks of doom and gloom to help brighten your day...
Minnesota natives Low have a new album out today. The follow up to The Great Destroyer, it is called Drums And Guns. Like it's predecessor it is produced by Dave Fridmann. That record was startling to many because it positioned Low as a rockin' (as opposed to sleepy) trio. Those of you looking for more of the same should look elsewhere. This is Low back to their minimal selves, but in ways different from before. There are loops and drum machines and lots of studio tricks in the mix. I've been able to listen to it twice so far, and some of it is gooseflesh-y good. The vocal harmonies are as beautiful as ever, and the rhythms and bits of funky bass give the band a bit of groove. There are tracks that employ the more traditional Low sound, but it is the clicks and pops of the more experimental stuff that really grabbed my ear.
The new LCD record Sound Of Silver has been blog buzz for a while now. It hits stores next week. It is really pretty good - not a radical departure in style, full of catchy riffs and droll lyrics. And in typical internets fashion, there is already a remix album. And it too is pretty good. Click the link for the rest of it.
I've spent the last month getting to know this record, and I have to say I'm impressed. It's been 5 years since the last one, 2002's Velocity Of Sound. That record had it's moments, but they were fleeting. It felt too scuzzy and too fast. This record rectifies that - production is back. There are classic Apples twee pop moments. There are Beatles-y bits, synth poppy bits and all the flavors of ELO and The Beach Boys and The Flaming Lips. There is oddball experimentalism, but it is kept to a tolerable minimum. Instead you get great songs with memorable melodies, like the two songs on offer today. Delicious!
Tracey Thorn - Get Around To It Out Of The Woods The voice of EBTG is back. I've given the record a couple of spins and I like the uptempo stuff a lot, the slow stuff not so much. This is a cover of an Arthur Russell song (from his Calling Out Of Context album) and is really quite good.
RJD2 - Just When The Third Hand Wherein RJD2 continues his shift from underground hip hopper to plaintive pop singer. Reviews are mixed, with die hard old school fans hating his vocals and songs. Personally, I like the move. Sure, it's not as banging as the older stuff, but it's sweet and melancholy. This tune is quite funky - love the almost "Thriller" beat.
!!! - Heart Of Hearts (The Brothers Mix) Myth Takes - Bonus Disc Fabulous disco workout from the bonus disc. Funky riffs, tight beats and killer percussion plus some wailing guitars add up to much grooviness.
Super Furry Animals front man Gruff Rhys has his second solo LP on shelves in the US today. It is a fantastic album - I've been listening to it for a couple of months now. I am consistently amazed at Gruff's musical talents. Here he sings in English, Welsh and Spanish. The music is as experimental and quirky as ever, yet it manages to be pop-tastic at the same time. There are boatloads of memorable melodies, and lots of nice production touches. The two songs on offer today really show Gruff's oddball sense at work. Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru is simple repetition of the title (the word for drive in Welsh) over a divine, acoustically strummed bit of grooviness. Skylon! is a nearly 15 minute narrative epic. Our hero is a professional bomb disposal expert. He tells the story of how an actress whose work he hates steals his window seat on a plane flight. This sets in motion a plot that includes terrorism, multi-media satire and cheesy Hollywood romance - see the "happy ending". It's insane, yet captivating. Fabulous.
Winter has hit with a vengeance. After a bitterly cold February we've gone from 12 inches of snow over the last 4 months to nearly 30 inches of snow just this week. It actually all fell over three days. Those snow banks you see are waist high in some places. I can't remember the last time I had so much snow piled up in my yard. I feel like I have been shoveling for an eternity. Sure, it looks pretty, but damn I'm over winter now. My kids love it tho'...
The view out back
And now for the funky 4 + 2 to keep me (and hopefully you - if you need it) warm...
Wagon Christ - Throbbing Pouch Throbbing Pouch Splendidly monikered space funk from Luke Vibert circa 1995. And it still sounds as good as ever.
Up Bustle & Out - Dance Your Troubles Away (Trumpet Mix) City Breakers - 18 Frames Per Second I just scored a copy of the latest album by the one time Ninja Tune combo, and it is fantastic. Dub, dancehall, hip hop, a bit of house and Latin flavors combine for a serious soundclash. I was a big fan of these guys for a few years, but felt like they got stuck in a sonic rut. This has renewed my faith and interest.
Peter Björn And John - Young Folks (Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve Reanimation) Writer's Block I avoided all of the hype for a few months, but now I've succumbed. This album really is as good as everybody says. This remix takes the catchy hit single and gives it a shimmery, go-go beat makeover. Lovely and danceable.
DJ Vadim - Got To Rock (Feat. Zion) DJ Vadim - Milwaukee The Sound Catcher From the forthcoming (April) album by another former Ninja Tune artist. I have had a copy of this for three or four days and can't stop playing it. Largely devoid of the scratchy, left field experimentalism of his early years, it sees Vadim covering a broad sonic palette. He incorporates mainstream and underground hip hop, reggae, disco, r'n'b and downtempo into his heady brew. Two thirds of the tracks feature vocals, both raps and singing. I am really feeling these two tracks; the first is a party anthem, the second is mooody abstract downtempo. I love it.