Sunday, October 31, 2004

Junior Boys Vs. Caribou

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Birthday (Manitoba Mix) is a gorgeous, wistful tune taken from the bonus disc that comes with the US version of this album. You probably already know that these Canadians have made a splash with this debut. It's blend of very modern dance music (you'll see a lot of mentions of glitchy and Timbaland in reviews) with the classic melodies and sounds of the best of '80s synthpop. The original is a lush synth pop song that reminds me a bit of The Postal Service - it's the melancholy melody. Caribou (nee Manitoba) keeps the songs beauty of a hook and grimes up everything around it. The beats pound harder, there's static-y scratchy noises, and some cool windchime bells. The rest of the second disc is rounded out by a Fennesz mix of "Last Exit", another version of this tune called "Unbirthday" and "A Certain Association".

Friday, October 29, 2004

Funky Friday - Dance To The Music

I played the 2 disc Essential Sly & The Family Stone at work today - it's always a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Here's Dance To The Music, a joyous call to get down and boogie. The version here is an extended mix taken from a 1979 Epic Records Mixed Masters 12" - it's remixed by famed disco DJ John Luongo. He takes it from it's stomping soulful roots and turns it into a 6 minute and 32 second disco plate, emphasising the bass riff and the beat. Fantastic remix of an already great tune.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Apples And Oranges

Dogs Die In Hot Cars released their debut LP Please Describe Yourself in the US this week. They are another one of those new British bands that are paying tribute to the early '80s UK literate pop and new wave scene I love so much. They owe XTC a huge debt - singer Craig Macintosh does a very good Andy Partridge. You'll also hear bits of Elvis Costello, Squeeze, Dexy's Midnight Runners, David Bowie and even a whiff of '90s Britpop band like Blur and Pulp. While I was reading the liner notes on the CD I noticed the album was produced by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley - they produced so many of those orignal bands of that era. Apples And Oranges is a synth infused, slightly psychedelic pop tune that sounds like Talking Heads meets Split Enz meets The Futureheads (it's the uh-oh-uh-oh-uh-oh's!) - lot's of melody and great vocal harmonising. A fab tune from a pretty good album.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Bush Hater

Eminem has decided to put his considerable talents to use to incite the youth of America to do something about their country, instead of covering his usually more juvenile territory. Mosh is a scathing attack on the Bush administraton, the war on Iraq, and in particular GW himself. What really hooked me about this tune is it's video. Put together by the people from The Guerrilla News Network (where you can download or watch a stream of the vid - you can also get the video from Mr. Gilbert over at The Big Ticket), it's an animated video mixed with live footage, and it's pretty brutal in it's portrayals. I won't give details as you really should see it for yourself - you won't be seeing it on TV! I have always thought that Eminem had the skills - it's good to see him using them to talk about something as big as next week's election. A very controversial little movie - I love it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Double Take - Josef K & Propaganda

Josef K were one of famed Scottish label Postcard Records' rising stars of the early 80's indiepop scene. Alongside Orange Juice and Aztec Camera they released a handful of classic records combining edgy guitars with pop song sensibilities. Sorry For Laughing is a great little song - full of jangly, skittery guitars and singer Paul Quinn's big crooning voice. They never quite capitalised on the hype, and broke up - Paul went solo and guitarist Malcolm Ross joined Orange Juice, and then Aztec Camera. Their influence would be felt for many years to come - bands like Franz Ferdinand name check them today. (Taken from Rough Trade Shops Indiepop 1 compilation)

Propaganda covered Sorry For Laughing on their fantastic 1985 debut LP "A Secret Wish". Instead of the loose indie jangle, they add their ZTT approved sonic electronic sheen (patented by Trevor Horn) to the song, and in the process transform it into a stomping, rhythmic synth pop gem. The beats are big and pounding, there are great washes of organ in the chorus, and suddenly it's no longer a scratchy little tune, but a Teutonic epic.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Heavy Rotation - K-os, Le Tigre, Mos Def & The Zutons

The Zutons are a Merseybeat four piece who just released their debut in the US. Titled Who Killed......The Zutons?, I picked it up on a whim - I liked the name, had read a few things and decided to take a chance. It's a mix of all kinds of things - classic '60s rock, a bit of disco and new wave, some country and a bit of ska. Singer David McCabe calls it "soul-funk-voodoo-vibe". Producer Ian Broudie (The Lightning Seeds) gives everything a super crisp sound. Zuton Fever kicks off the album in fine form with a huge, twangy guitar riff and a very memorable vocal, as well as some great sax. I love it when one of those impulse buys pays off!

Le Tigre's major label debut This Island was released last week, and I'm not really sure how I feel about it yet. It's a much more polished sounding record than the previous ones, and I get the feeling that I've heard it all before. I do like New Kicks, essentially an anti war anthem. Over a crunchy beat, and amid chants of "peace now" are all manner of samples recorded at the "The World Says No To War March" in NYC back in Feb.2003. Included are comments by Al Sharpton, Susan Sarandon and Ossie Davis. Fight The power!

A couple of rap records have caught my ear over the last couple of weeks. Mos Def's second album The New Danger is a sprawling, 18 track rock-rap beast. It's got a bunch of rock tracks with his band Black Jack Johnson, whose members include Doug Wimbush and Bernie Worrell. It's a smoking band of great pedigree, but somehow the rock tracks sound a bit dated. The hip hop tracks are ace, several featuring production by Kanye West. The Rape Over is a raging indictment of those who rule the music industry - "old white men is running this rap shit" - a minute and 34 seconds of fierce beats and fiercer rhetoric.

Canadian rapper K-os caught my attention a couple of years ago with his debut release. I saw a few of the vids and liked what I heard but never got the record. A few weeks ago I saw the video for his new single "B-Boy Stance" and was hooked. Joyful Rebellion is a very nice blend of beats and real instruments, with a bit of rock and reggae thrown into the mix. It fits into the whole "conscious rap" scene - definitely not hard core. There's lots of positivity, and dude not only raps but can sing too, so the end result is a very melodic, fun record. The Love Songs rides a nice mid tempo beat, and features piano riffing, sitars, and a cool string sample with a very Asian feel.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Funky Friday - Pop Muzik

When I was at the record store earlier this week I stumbled across a 2004 reissue I had no clue about, M's 1979 album New York•London•Paris•Munich. It's been put out by Razor & Tie Records, and features 5 bonus cuts on it. The classic hit single everyone knows is Pop Muzik. Over a funky, percolating disco beat Robin Scott extolls the joys of pop. It features some great, twangy guitar, some cool sax and it's vocals are unforgettable - his manic new wave delivery, the girls singing the "shoo-bee-doo-bee-doo-wops". The band on this recording is interesting too - Wally Badarou on keys, Gary Barnacle on sax and Phil Gould (from Level 42!) on drums. Sure it's got that "one hit wonder"/novelty song thing going on, but it's so damn catchy and poptastic I can't resist, and neither should you!

Monday, October 18, 2004

Prefab Sprout

Left Of The Dial : Dispatches From The '80s Underground is a great 4 CD set that came out last week. It's a really diverse line up of bands that populated US college radio during that decade, mostly British and American acts (very few Aussies and no New Zealanders are represented). It's a fantastic mix of new wave, punk and early alternative music. Buried in between Suicidal Tendencies, The Pixies, Ultravox and Bauhaus I spied the name Prefab Sprout. God, I loved that first record of theirs - Two Wheels Good if you lived in the US, Steve Mc Queen everywhere else. It's been a few years since I listened to it so I pulled it out, and it's blend of smart, melodic pop seduced me all over again. Produced by Thomas Dolby (who also played synths on it), the album still sounds good today - it's songs have something of a timeless quality to them. Appetite was the first track of theirs I heard, and it remains one of my favorites. It's got great bouncy bass, gorgeous swirling synths and piano, and fantastic harmonising from Wendy. I love all of the different guitar bits too - jazzy in places, rockin' during the chorus. A very memorable tune from a great album.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Heavy Rotation - Moving Units & Duran Duran

The Moving Units finally released their debut LP this week and it's getting a fair amount of play on the old hi-fi. Dangerous Dreams may have arrived too late to cash in the on the whole second wave of post punk thing, as so many people would appear to be over that scene. It's too bad, because I almost think that these guys are one of the better bands of the bunch. I know for sure that I'd rather listen to this record than The Rapture's Echoes - it's got many of the same ingredients, but is a good deal grimier, and not so concerned with the electronic sheen. There is a wee bit of that, but it doesn't detract from the drums-bass-guitar thing going on. Bricks & Mortar starts of with a tight beat, some dubby echo, and then slams into one of the best jams James Chance / White never wrote. A huge bass riff and some shreddingly sharp guitar made this track jump out at me right away. Fierce.

Also getting max exposure on my stereo is Astronaut, the new album by the recently reunited original lineup of Duran Duran. It's fun to see and hear the guys again. The music isn't a quite up to par with those first 2 records from the '80s - as my bro pointed out to me, the music is not too far from the records that Simon and Nick and Warren recorded as Duran in the '90s - they rock, they funk, and there are some ballads.If you're a fan of the band you know that the lyrics are going to be goofy and some of them are. Bedroom Toys is one of the tunes that I liked right off. It's co-produced by Nile Rodgers so it's not a surprise to hear the very Chic-like rhythm guitar. A mid tempo funker, it's got typically poppin' John Taylor bass, cooing backups, and a silly Simon rap. I love it. Not a patch on Planet Earth but it'll do.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Classic 45's Week - Old School Funky Friday

Today's tunes come from a freebie 7" given away with the Record Mirror in 1988. It's a Rhythm King versus Jive Records split, and it showcases the two different labels pretty well - edgier, more experimental fare on from Rhythm King and pop rap from Jive.

Side A kicks off with Bomb The Bass' Megablast in it's original rap version, featuring Merlin on vocals. It's five minutes of beats and scratching with a great rap about the track's fierceness - not much melody or even a tune, but still rocks hard. Track A2 is S'Xpress' Coma, "specially written and produced" for this EP. Essentially it's 2 minutes and 40 seconds of measured breathing and a diagnostic machine beep. It's art, man.

Side B starts off with The Wee Papa Girl Rappers' You Got The Beat - new jack swing beats, the squealing horn sample, and another rap about how fresh their tune is. This is followed by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's Here We Go Again, which is totally goofy and self promoting, but then most of their tunes were. The music is ace - great keys and bass samples. Guaranteed to make you smile (or turn it off!).

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Classic 45's Week - Gary Numan

Gary Numan had obviously taken notice of what Japan were doing when he released Music For Chameleons in 1982. The trademark sound of Japan was not just David Sylvian's voice, it was also Mick Karn's fretless bass playing. Gary Numan hired ace bass sessioneer Pino Palladino to play the part, and the result is a typically icy yet tight and funky song. What I dig about this 45 is the B side, Noise Noise. It's a rougher edged track notable for featuring the talents of Thereza Bazar on vocals and David Van Day on "helpful hints". These two are better known as shiny UK poptarts Dollar, who rode a wave of Trevor Horn produced singles to chart success around the same time. They were the ultimate air brushed duo, so it it was intriguing to see their name on a Gary Numan record. As a little bonus treat (and a chance to compare how different the two artists really are) here's one of Dollar's biggest hits, Hand Held In Black And White. I would put them in the "guilty pleasure" category - this song is such a cheesy pop tune, but for me the trademark big production by Trevor Horn and Bruce Wooley make it sound so great I can't resist!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Classic 45's Week - Eddy Grant

Eddy Grant began his career in the late '60s with multi-racial combo The Equals. By the late 70's he was a solo star in Europe, creating records that were political and anti-racist, as well as having pop appeal. They sounded unlike any others around at the time - a blend of reggae, rock and pop with lots of electronics, all played by the man. It wasn't until 1983 that he got the attention of the US, and it was with monster single Electric Avenue. Everybody knows the tune - it's brash, growling riff, the spongy synths - you couldn't escape it at the time, it was everywhere. The beauty of this little 7" is it's B side pairing with a previous single from 1979, Walking On Sunshine. This is one funky ass tune, IMO one of the best things he did - disco reggae beats, smooth horns, and much sunny positivity make me shake it every time I hear it. As a little bonus treat here's the brilliant 1982 cover of Walking On Sunshine by Rocker's Revenge, which boosts the disco with a sweet electro sheen. Arthur Baker is at the controls, so it's chock full of NYC electro goodness.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Classic 45's Week - Captain Sensible

In 1982 Captain Sensible took a break from The Damned and launched a solo career. He hooked up with producer Tony Mansfield (New Muzik) and crafted a pop single that swept the charts, the Wot!. It tells a simple story - man with jackhammer makes a lot of noise, Captain complains, droll female backup vocalists sing along. It's got a great bass line, funky guitars, the words are funny, and the backups always make me smile. You have to remember that rap was in it's infancy, and was a uniquely American thing, and suddenly you've got this punk rock dude from England having a go at it - all of this juxtaposition makes it pretty unique! The B side is six minute, six part mini psych pop epic, Strawberry Dross. There's more goofiness in the lyrics - magic roundabouts, hippies in caftans and advertising are all covered, and there are a couple of instrumental bits with some nice guitar and piano. Parts of it make me think that if he'd actually put a bit more effort into it some of it could have been very good. Again, all very silly yet still enjoyable.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Classic 45's Week - Bomb The Bass

I was hanging out with my bro last night and got a chance to rummage through his box of old '80s 45's. He graciously allowed me to nab a few so that I could share them here. Every day this week I will be posting a single, both the A side and the B side (because sometimes the B side is just as interesting). Today's inaugural post comes from Tim Simenon's ace beat combo Bomb The Bass. Breaking out of the late '80s acid house scene with the Thunderbirds and funky drummer sampling Beat Dis, they created a slew of classic dance cuts, combining hip hop, breakbeats, electro, scratching and sampling with a rotating cast of guest vocalists. One of the biggest hits from their 1988 debut LP Into The Dragon was their fairly radical (for the time) reworking of the Bacharach classic Say A Little Prayer. It's essentially the blue print for trip hop before there was even such a term - breakbeats, spacy keys and a big diva voice provided by Maureen. The flip side of the record is 10 Seconds To Terminate - it's aimed squarely at the dancefloor. A pumping house-y beat, speak and spell voices counting and more than a little bit of one of Kraftwerk's finest riffs all add up to make this a pretty bangin' track.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Guilty Pleasures

I turned 40 this year, and over this and the last couple of years the music of "my era" has come of age for the remastered reissue treatment. Today's selections are all culled from some of the remasters I've picked up, and they're all oldies but goodies that you're either going to love or hate. Now, on with the crusty old dude selections...

First up is Billy Joel. I normally wouldn't call myself of fan - I haven't bought a new record of his at any time over the last 20 years. I did go through a phase in the late '70s though, and that's where Zanzibar comes in. From 1978's 52nd Street, it's a very Steely Dan like blend of jazz and rock. The tune actually includes a jazz breakdown in the middle of it which is pretty smokin'. I think that this era is the man at his creative peak, able to handle all kinds of styles and still craft catchy pop hits. The last album of his I bought was Glass Houses, so I picked up the remaster of that one too. Next up, The Stranger and then I'm done!

I finally got my hands on the remaster of Adam & The Ants' breakthrough album Kings Of The Wild Frontier. From the opening track, Dog Eat Dog, you know you're in for a fun ride. Gone are the art punk pretensions, in are the big tribal beats, hugely twangy, Morricone-esque guitars, and that unmistakable voice. Of course chart domination ensued. These Ants remasters are really sweet - lovely packaging, great sound and loads of bonus cuts.

I took Paul McCartney & Wings' Wingspan into work this week and was amazed at what a crowd pleaser it could be - lots of co-workers seemed to enjoy it, at least those close to my age! Silly Love Songs was a huge hit in 1976, and I remember hearing it on the radio a lot. Sure it's goofy, but it has a great bass line and horns, and I love it. I never actually bought a Wings record - my parents gave me Red Rose Speedway for Xmas one year - so I'm amazed a how well I know all the songs on this complation, words and all.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Funky Friday - Debate Special - THE LINK WORKS NOW!

In honor of tonight's second presidential debate enjoy a classic funk cut from The Godfather Of Soul, James Brown - Talkin' Loud And Saying Nothin'. Over a typically tight funk jam JB spouts any number of lines that can be used in this context - "You keep on singing the same old pop song" - "You can't tell me how to use my mess" - "Shape up your bag, don't worry about mine". Of course, in my little world it's all applied to GW and the current administration, but in the spirit of bipartisanship I suppose it could go either way...

Thursday, October 07, 2004

The Return of De la Soul

De La Soul released their first new record in 4 years this week. It's called The Grind Date, and it features a bunch of guest vocalists - MF Doom, Flava Flav, Common, Ghostface, and some cool production assistance from Madlib, J Dilla and Supa Dave West. I've listened to it a couple of times and have to say that I'm digging it. I love the hook on opening track The Future - an old easy listening vocal sample about "the future", lyrics establishing their "elder statesmen" position in the rap world, and a nice fat beat. It's kind of crazy to think that I've been listening to these dudes for 15 years now!

FYI - I cut the track's first minute out - it's just some very quiet talking intro.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Some Beats To Move Ya Feets

Eighteenth Street Lounge released French DJ Chris Joss' great debut LP You've Been Spiked this week. Keeping in line with the label's aesthetic, it's a very groovy, '60s and '70s influenced party soundtrack. There are Euro spy themes, funky blaxploitation riffs, and on A Part In That Show some killer disco. It's a cross between Chic and Bob Sinclar, with a poppin' bass line, the requisite scratchy guitars and some great squelchy synths. "Jump up, let's go. let's take a part in that show!"

Also out this week is Fingathing's latest sci-fi laced adventure ...And The Big Red Nebula Band. The last couple of albums were released on the Grand Central imprint, but the new one gets it's US release on the venerable NinjaTune. These guys don't get a lot of hype for their music, but I enjoy it. A blend of live and sampled instrumentation, including some killer double bass, they deftly mix hip hop, spy music, breakbeats and a smattering of proggy tendencies (all of the albums have a concept/theme that's carried on from record to record). On Synergy they add a new style to the mix - booming electro. It's old skool beats are topped of with one furiously funky bass riff, wiggy scratches, and as the song goes on, all manner of strings. It's big, nuff said.

DJ Krush's Jaku was released a few weeks ago, and as with all of his records, it has taken a few weeks for it to sink in. Road To Nowhere is a dark and moody instrumental cut. The beat has a bit if a sleigh bell thing going on in it, and it's one of those low slung, loping beats - so loose it's tight. It's topped off with the requisite jazzy double bass line, some nice string samples and a few ghostly electronic noises. Keeps my head bobbing...

Monday, October 04, 2004

The Busy Signals

Howard Hamilton III is The Busy Signals. Back in 2000 he released his debut album Baby's First Beats on Chicago's Sugar Free Records. I heard it on the listening station at my fave record store, and just with a quick skip through I knew I was going to like it. Over all manner of crusty hip hop loops he threw a mish mash of easy listening samples, his almost-spoken vocals, and lot's of lo-fi instrumentation - the album was "recorded and mixed at home". The end result is some very fun, lush pop music, with a big debt to '60s pop, and a little bit of a nod towards Beck and Sukpatch. He went on to release another LP - 2001's Pretend Hits, which features several collaborations with Robert Schneider from The Apples In Stereo as well as guest vocals by fellow Minnesotan Har Mar Superstar, and an EP of remixes and b-sides called Pure Energy. The production values got a bit slicker on the later records, and they never quite hit the spot for me the way the debut did. He hasn't put anything out in the last few years, so I don't know if he's still recording. Anyway, enjoy a few tracks from Baby's First Beats...

Headphone World
88's And 73's
Constantly Awesome

Sunday, October 03, 2004

From The Sublime To The Ridiculous

A few selections culled from the old LP collection...
Metro was the duo of Peter Godwin and Duncan Browne. Their debut album came out in 1976, and Criminal World is the first cut on it. Many of you who are David Bowie fans will recognize this from the version he did on his Let's Dance LP. I've always loved this song - I knew Bowie's version first and only recently came across a copy by Metro. I like the original even better. Bowie's version is a tight groove - this one is spacy, sprawling '70s art rock, with big fuzzy guitars and blissed out vocals. It's always fun to hear the differences in interpretations, and there are plenty here.

Joan Armatrading's I Can't Lie To Myself is a cut from 1981's Walk Under Ladders. I went through a few years there where I was a big fan of Joan's music. I had missed the earlier years of her career, but when she put out this record I was hooked . It's a blend of rock, folk and reggae mixed in with a few gorgeous ballads. The album features a host of guest musicians - Thomas Dolby, Andy Partridge, Jerry Marotta, Tony Levin and Nick Plytas. Her quivering voice fascinated me, so vulnerable and shaky in those softer moments, yet capable of being so big and booming and assertive. This tune is a blistering reggae and rock combo featuring the mighty rhythm section talents of Sly & Robbie - big dub rhythms, blistering bluesy guitars and Joan's honesty make this wicked.

The Feelies' brand of jangly, Velvets inspired indie rock always made me smile. Their '86 LP The Good Earth is chock full of catchy little nuggets. Let's Go has it's roots in VU for sure - the steady propulsive beat, those guitar riffs, that bass line. It's a totally blissful little rocker to help you get your jangle on.

And finally the ridiculous...
B.E.F. was little side project of Martyn Ware & Ian Craig Marsh, better known as one half of the original Human League line up and later as two thirds of synth funkers Heaven 17. They recorded an two albums of cover songs, each track with a guest vocalist. The first volume of Music Of Quality & Distinction came out in '82, and you get Tina Turner doing Ball Of Confusion, Glenn Gregory doing Perfect Day and Wichita Lineman, and a bunch of other oddballs - Gary Glitter, Bernie Nolan of The Nolan Sisters and Paul Jones. There are a few things I do like on it - Billy Mackenzie's Secret Life Of Arabia (a Bowie tune) & Sandie Shaw does a lovely Anyone Who Had A Heart, but for sheer silliness nothing tops Paula Yates on These Boots Are Made For Walking. It's peppy and squeaky, and I actually kind of enjoy it - especially the horns at the end.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

You've Got The Power

Earlier this week Just For A Day posted a track by The Fire Engines. This got me digging into the vinyl, and I'm picking up where the Fire Engines left off. The next band that singer Davey Henderson fronted was Win. The first time I heard their debut single You've Got The Power I knew I had to have it - a brash, anthemic pop tune that rocked and danced at the same time. It's got the wikka wikka guitar riffs, that big '80s drum sound and a very cool, very catchy keyboard melody. Where the Fire Engines were more of a rock band, here Davey was trying for a more of a pop sound - they still had some of the spikier elements in place, just with a much more polished sheen to them. If I had ruled the world chart domination would have ensued, but of course it didn't. They released two albums and Win was over. Davey Henderson has continued to record over the last decade as Nectarine No.9. It remains a mystery to me why this song was not a HUGE hit.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Funky Friday Disco Doubleplay

Today it's a double dose of vintage disco from 1979 and 1980 - Machine's There But For The Grace Of God and Kid Creole & the Coconuts' Darrio. Both of these tunes were written and produced by August Darnell, AKA Kid Creole. The Machine tune is a sweet disco groove - funky bass and keys, lot's of big vocals and a very touching story - family moves out of the Bronx to raise a child and escape the city's evil influences, only to have the kid grow up and develop all of the problems they had hoped to avoid - "too much love is worse than none at all". The second tune is just as funky, but with none of the serious social commentary. Instead it's a chorus of the Coconuts asking Kid Creole's character Darrio to get them into Studio 54, and him replying that it's just not the scene it used to be -"the DJ, he don't even play the B-52s!" or "We should go check out mister James White". Sounds like he had the right idea! Genius stuff.