Thursday, December 30, 2004

Scissor Sisters Remixed!

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Without a doubt, one of my favorite albums of the year was the self titled debut from the Scissor Sisters. My European readers will say that it's from last year, but it only came out in the US this summer (although I did "obtain" a copy of it well before it came out here...). Anyway, I really didn't expect it to have much staying power. I have to say that the opposite happened, and I found myself listening to it all year, and the songs continued to get better and better. I am hoping to go and see them at the end of January - I finally caught them live on SNL a few weeks back and was very impressed at how good they were live. The first tune I heard of theirs was the amazing cover of Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb - a downer of a song turned into a funky ass disco track, complete with Bee Gees falsettos. It's fantastic, and there are several remixes of it on the EP Remixed!. This version is very close to how the live version sounds - pumped up drums and bass, and a lot more guitar...
Comfortably Numb (ATOC Dub Remix)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

David Holmes' Ocean's Twelve

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David Holmes seems to be director Steven Soderbergh's favorite soundtrack scorer. After having done Out Of Sight and Ocean's Eleven he's back for that film's sequel. Where the first movie's soundtrack was a very "Vegas" styled set of music, this one takes on a darker, more European sound. Several of the non-Holmes tracks are from the '70s - by Piero Umiliani and Dynastie Crisis, and also Dave Grusin. There is also a track by Holmes' mate and studio partner Hugo Nicholson AKA Yellowhammer. The rest of the tunes are by David Holmes - $165 Million + Interest [into] The Round Up is two tracks - the first half is a very Serge Gainsbourg inspired cinematic rock track, all big twangy guitars and chunky bass. I kept expecting to hear Serge start singing at any moment. The second half is a playful, horn filled romp - a bit of hip hop in the beats, but it's the horns that get me on this - it's a Pink Panther kind of thing. Nice and funky.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Depeche Mode Versus DJ Shadow

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This Christmas I gave myself the gift of music and picked up the 3 CD limited edition set of Depeche Mode's Remixes 81...04. I have been a fan of theirs since the track Photographic appeared on the classic Some Bizarre Album in 1981. I stuck with them even though the results weren't always what I wanted - I bought and then sold a few of those '90s albums. This collection is all over the place stylistically, and it's great. There are remixes by Air, Jack Dangers, Ulrich Schnauss (on the 3rd, limited disc), Francois Kevorkian, K+D, and of course several by Daniel Miller. Also on it is this DJ Shadow remix, Painkiller (Kill The Pain Mix). Shadow doesn't do a hell of a lot of remixes so this one got me going - it's pretty typical Shadow, with lots of build ups and break downs and spacy keys over a cool, chugging electro glitch beat. It kind of reminds a bit of Massive Attack too. Very nice, as is the rest of the 3 discs.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Blue Xmas

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I like Christmas music, but my tastes tend towards the traditional - massed choirs, the orchestral interpretations, the classic songs of the '40s, '50s and '60s. I also really like jazz versions of Xmas music, and one of my fave holiday records is an old Columbia Records album called Jingle Bell Jazz that features mostly recordings from 1961 and 1962. Some of the tracks featured include Duke Ellington's "Jingle Bells," the Chico Hamilton Quintet playing "Winter Wonderland," and the Dave Brubeck Quartet doing "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town". It also has the classic little Miles Davis and Bob Dorough duet Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern) - a witty romp about the rampant consumerism of the holidays that still rings true today. A delightful little number sure to make you smile.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Two Lone Swordsmen Put Some Bass In Yer Face

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2004 was the year that TLS reinvented themselves as a sleazy, grinding post punk rock act. The sleaze has always been there, the rock, not so much. I think the LP they released (From The Double Gone Chapel) annoyed a lot of their fans who liked the electro they did. I dug the album, so last week I picked up the new 6 track EP Big Silver Shining Motor Of Sin. It features two remixed versions of Sex Beat and two versions of two new songs, Showbiz Shotguns andFeast. This track rides a filthy, up-in-yer-face bass riff - I want to swagger around the room when I hear it. It's a sort of funky track with some nice scuzzy guitar noises, and some doom and gloom vocals. Love it.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Soul Jazz Sunday

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The always excellent Soul Jazz Records has spent the last couple of years cornering the market in cool reissues. I've spent quite a bit of green on many of their releases, including a couple of great ones I picked up this week - Konk's The Sound Of Konk and the collection of funk, soul and disco from 1965-73, The Sound Of Philadelphia - Philadelphia Roots Vol.2.

Konk were a 7 piece NYC punk-funk combo who combined afro beat and Latin flavors with hip hop and classic American funk. They were part of the seminal early '80s NYC scene, bands like ESG, the Bush Tetras and Liquid Liquid. Another band who they share some similarities with is A Certain Ratio. Unlike many of their peers, their success outside of New York was small, and so as the '80s drew to the end so did Konk. Love Attack shows traces of a lot of the genres I mentioned earlier with the addition of some electro flava. It's a bumpin', horn filled disco track with a great chorus.

The Philly soul compilation is 20 tracks of funk from acts like The Three Degrees, The Delfonics, Nat Turner and a bunch of other bands all affiliated with the famed writer and production team of Gamble and Huff. If you dig the '70s sound of Philly soul from bands like the O'Jays, Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes and MFSB, this collection is a great way to experience the music they made in the years prior to that. MFSB's first recording was a version of the Sly Stone tune Family Affair, which they recorded as The Family. This song has always been a fave of mine, and this version is great. It's an instrumental, uptempo take on the song with some killer keys taking the lead role and a fat ass groove - lots of wacka wacka action. Short but very sweet.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Julian Cope's Dancing Heads

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Julian Cope released what I regard as his best solo album in 1991. Peggy Suicide was a sprawling, 18 song cycle about the Earth and the destruction of the environment and love and the anti Poll tax movement. The record got played a lot back in those days - there's nobody who does stuff like Julian, and I was thrilled with the music he created. It came out in the middle of the heady days of "indie dance", when Brit rock bands were putting out cool remixes of their tunes by the likes of Andrew Weatherall and Paul Oakenfold. I was in love with all of that music, and when I saw an EP of actual remixes for Cope's tunes I was very enthused. He had enlisted Hugo Nicholson to do the remixes and the Dancing Heads EP was born. Hugo was a mix assistant to Andrew Weatherall - he worked on the classic Higher Than The Sun mixes for Primal Scream. For the EP he remixes Head, Beautiful Love and East Easy Rider, and he gives them all a pretty different feel. It's great stuff, so spliff up (if you do that kind of thing), kick back and enjoy the psychedelic space out...

Head (Remix) is not hugely different from the original - it features an extended vocal fadeout not on the first version.

Head (Long Meg And Her Daughters Mix) is a full on, beat driven beast. It's reduced to an instrumental, an is very much like something The Orb or Primal Scream were doing with it's dubby breakbeats and atmosphere. I love this groove.

Love (L.U.V.) (Beautiful Love Remix) was the "big hit single". This remix gives it a new, uptempo beat - kind of a jazzy shuffle, with a big bass line and some horn riffing added. The breakbeats at the end of this have a very Meat Beat Manifesto feel to them. To me this is another example of a "good remix" - the tune emerges as something quite different from it's origins.

Easty Risin' (East Easy Rider Remix) is a spaced out groove, again full of nice, dubby beats and spacey keys.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Thompson Twins In 1982

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When the Thompson Twins started out they were a 7 piece band - real instruments, you know, like drums and guitars and bass and percussion. Their 1982 LP Set was my first encounter with the band, and I loved what I heard. It's mix of tribal and dance rhythms, indie rock and electronic atmospherics didn't sound like anyone else. It was produced by Steve Lillywhite and engineered by Phil Thornalley, both of whom went on to much bigger things. It also featured Thomas Dolby on keys on a couple of tracks. One of them was the single Runaway. It's a dubby, almost reggae driven tune, and the melody is really sweet. Of course they went on to jettison the band, slimmed down to a 3 piece, and conquered the world's charts with their unique brand of synth pop. I'll admit that I enjoyed the next few records, and even saw them at the Hammersmith Palais in London on their Into The Gap tour. As I get older though, it's Set that has aged the best of the albums, and I can still listen to and enjoy it today.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

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London Lee over at The Number One Songs In Heaven has posted Mama Used To Say by early '80s British r'n'b singer Junior this week. The song is a great one, and he talks a bit about that era's rash of Brits trying "to figure out how to make black American music properly". One of the bands he mentions is Linx, the duo of singer David Grant and bassist Sketch. This got me digging in the old record crate. They made a small splash in the British charts in the early '80s, recorded a couple of LPs and then split. David Grant went on to moderate solo success, although neither Linx or the solo stuff was popular in America. I liked their early singles as much as I liked Junior's records - they in fact shared the same producer, Bob Carter. 1980's You're Lying is slick and funky, riding a fantstic bass line very reminiscent of Chic. David Grant's voice might remind you a little of Michael Jackson's, and the production on it feels like something Rod Temperton might have done for Jacko or his own band Heatwave. 1982's Plaything was towards the end of their run, and sees them adopting the more synthesized, electronic flavored r'n'b of their contemporaries across the pond - acts like the Gap Band. It's not as exciting to me as their earlier stuff, but it's still pretty funky.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Funky Friday - Therapy? vs. Photek

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What's this, you say? How can it be that Irish metal rock trio Therapy? is being featured on a funky Friday? A few years back - 1995 to be precise, the glory days of the jungle scene - they allowed ultra talented junglist Rupert Parkes, AKA Photek to remix their tune Loose. Photek's style is super minimalist, and his beats and textures ring like samurai swords clashing. He keeps the lovely melody provided by the guitar riffs and some vocals from the original and constructs a fierce, razor sharp track with crisply pounding beats to back it all up. This mash up of rock and jungle works surprisingly well, and the result is a BIG tune.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

A Handful Of Covers v2.0

TV On The Radio do a smashing job with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs tune Modern Romance. They add that TVOTR crunk to it, all dirge-y beats and mournful chants. They make it sound just like one of their own. One of my fave new bands of 2004.

Lizzy Mercier Descloux's version of the Bob Marley classic Sun Is Shining is from the Ze Records reissue of Mambo Nassau that came out last year. It's still based on a reggae beat, but it's much sparser - just drums, her chunky bass, her lovely French accent and some simple accordion. I love the original, and this is another unique and cool take on the song.

Placebo turn up the guitars on their version of Robert Palmer's Johnny And Mary. This was the first tune I ever heard from Robert, and I have always loved it and the album it comes from, Looking For Clues. It has a great melody and hook. Placebo play it pretty straight, but definitely punch it up - harder hitting drums and guitars, and Brian's unique voice all make this one work for me too.

Yesterday I got tickets to see Duran Duran's Astronaut tour in March. I saw them at the House Of Blues in Chicago in November of 2003 on their first go-round, and they were pretty good. I've since seen footage of them playing Wembley Arena earlier this year and they were even better - much tighter. Anyway, I'm psyched to see them in the big arena setting! Here's their version of David Bowie's Fame, the b-side of the Careless Memories single from 1981. It's another pretty faithful rendition.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

A Pleasant Surprise In My Mailbox

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I got an email today from Chris Price. He's an electronic musician out of Virginia, and here's a bit of his bio -

"Inspired by the forward-thinking artists and producers of the late 1970s and early 1980s, his latest offering combines 1980’s electronic and new wave with elements of modern pop. Synth layers and driving beats provide a showcase for Price’s unique vocal styling."

The "latest offering" mentioned is the tune Charge Me Up, and it's a mellow, mid tempo track built around some basic drum machine patterns and synth washes, and topped off with Chris' plaintive vocals. Being a big fan of '80s music (and particularly synth pop), this tune struck the right chord with me - it's got a bit of the Brit synthpop/new wave thing going, mixed with some of the same era's r'n'b flavor. Very nice, and I look forward to hearing more of his music.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Hip Hop And Rock Hybrids
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A couple of albums that have come out this year have attempted to weld hip hop with rock. It's not the rap rock of Linkin Biscuit, but a blend of rhymes and beats with some big time indie rock stylings. Automato's self titled debut dropped in the spring of this year, and got my attention for having been produced by the lads of The DFA. I'm amazed that the album didn't make a bigger splash as a result of that union, because it's definitely worth investigating. It's a pretty nice mix of beats, electro influences and some big rock guitars, with the DFA adding their dense sonic sheen to the proceedings. Hope has big, propulsive electro beats with a bit of stutter in them, crusty synth washes, and some seriously skronking guitar squall that just keeps getting bigger - the last half of the tune essentially. I love this album, and think more people need to hear it!

Mel Gibson & The Pants are a Minneapolis act that does the same kind of genre mixing, although their album rocks a lot harder than the Automato. Crosby Steals Nash And Runs (good title, eh?) starts off in a mellow fashion, beats slowly building up until it hits the break at the half way point and turns into a quirky, spaced out jam. This track is not as hard hitting as a lot of the rest of the record is, but is still fairly indicative of their sound. Another record that deserves your attention. More on the band HERE, where you can buy the album for $8 - it's a steal!

Monday, December 06, 2004

Some More Remastered CAN

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Last week brought the release of a couple more remastered reissues from seminal Krautrockers Can. 1971's Tago Mago saw the arrival of new vocalist Damo Suzuki, and a lighter, groovier (i.e. less proggy) sound from the band. Bring Me Coffee Or Tea starts as a delicate folk rock groover, all spindly guitars and keyboards. The beat starts out as a slight shuffle and grows louder in the mix as the band's parts intensify, until about the halfway point when it explodes into a spazzed out space jazz rock jam. 1972's Ege Bamyasi shows the band continuing it's bold experimentation, and saw the band adding hints of "world music" into the mix. Spoon was the hit single from the LP. It starts out with a rudimentary drum machine beat and builds into a polyrhytmic groove with multi layered vocals. It's amazing listening to these records and seeing how much they have influenced rock and dance music over the last 30 years, and how well they hold up today!

Friday, December 03, 2004

Funky Friday - A Little Bit Of Luther

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The first time I heard Luther Vandross' Never Too Much I was floored. The thumb poppingly funky bass riff, the big orchestration, the jazzy piano riffing and the sweeter than sweet vocals of Luther made this a must have. His partnership with bassist Marcus Miller created some great, soulful music, and the 1981 LP that this track shares it's title with is filled with lush r'n'b - half aimed at the dancefloor, the other filled with those awesome "quiet storm" ballads that Luther is so good at. Nobody hits those high notes like he does, and his vocal riffing at the end of this song gives me shivers every time. A classic that should have you struttin' in no time!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

John McGeoch - After Magazine
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When he left Magazine in 1980, guitarist John Mc Geoch was a hot commodity. One of the first projects he did was Steve Strange's New Romantic supergroup Visage, along with both Barry Adamson and Dave Formula, as well as the lads from Ultravox, Midge Ure and Billy Currie. It's blend of arty electronics, dance beats and rock are both evident on Visage, with John's guitar riffs loud in the mix. He then joined Siouxsie & The Banshees for their most creatively inspired output, and where his big guitar sound dominated. Happy House shows his immediate impact, riding that ultra catchy, psychedelic twangy riff. He played with The Banshees for 3 albums (Kaleidoscope (1980), JuJu (1981) and A Kiss In The Dreamhouse (1982)) and then he moved on again. He hooked up with former Skids singer Richard Jobson in a new band, The Armoury Show. After a couple of unsuccessful years of trying their brand of anthmemic rock they were done, and McGeoch joined John Lydon in the final incarnation of PIL. The death disco era was over - PIL was now a sleek, shiny pop outfit. I'll admit that musically these years are a lot less interesting than the old stuff, but there are a few crackin' good tunes on those records too. Seattle (from 1987's Happy?) is definitely one of those - huge guitars, Lydon's sneer, the over all grooviness of the tune and the chanted outro still sound good today.

John McGeoch died March 4th, 2004.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Magazine...Where The Power Is

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When Howard Devoto left The Buzzcocks in 1977, he made this announcment in reference to his old band and the punk scene in general - "what was once unhealthily fresh is now a clean old hat". Unimpressed by new wave, Magazine was his bid to try something else. Featuring Barry Adamson on bass, John McGeoch on guitar, Dave Formula on keys and John Doyle on drums, they created six albums of spooky, dramatic, arty, spy theme filled post-punk rock. I missed out on these records the first time around - too busy buying ABC and Human League records - and over the last few years have picked up about half of them. I love their sound, anchored by Barry Adamson's big bass riffs and McGeoch's searing guitar - such big talents around Howard Devoto's unique voice. This week I finally got my hands on the remastered "greatest hits" compilation Magazine...(Where The Power Is), and it's so nice to hear these songs loud and clear! Here are three of my faves...

Shot By Both Sides

The Light Pours Out Of Me

About The Weather