Thursday, March 31, 2005

An '80s Obscurity - Shake Shake!

Shake Shake! were pretty much a one off. As far as I can tell they put out only one single, 1981's Shake Shake!, released on Tot Taylor's ultra hip early '80s indie label The Compact Organization - home to swanky looking and sounding popsters like Mari Wilson. Google has very little info to offer on them. A group of musicians and studio engineers who previously had worked on Swedish singer Virna Lindt's Attention Stockholm single, they included multi-instrumentalists Jo Dworniak and Duncan Bridgeman. There is a lot more info available on these two as they have continued to be involved in music over the years. Their next project was I-Level, a Britfunk trio (who will be the subject of tomorrow's Funky Friday post), and they also worked as session musicians - they appear on John Foxx's The Garden LP. Duncan continues to record, most recently under the name 1 Giant Leap, who in 2001 released an LP of world music mixed with electronica and lot's of high profile guest vocalists - folks like Michael Stipe, Babaa Maal, Asha Bhosle, Neneh Cherry and Michael Franti. But I digress - the two songs recorded as Shake Shake! are B-52's inspired, sorta funky new wave - the sleeve touts the music as "new songs for a new route" and also informs us that "Shake Shake! play funktional music for every function". Shake Shake! is gloriously herky-jerky in it's rhythms, and features fun female-male vocal interplay spouting lyrics about getting down to the beat. I love the sparseness - drums, bass, keys and the vocals all nicely balanced. Flip it over to the B-side and you get Yellow Ditty, a lurching post-punk dub thing. This track actually kind of reminds me of the music of M (Pop Muzik) - slightly wacky, definitely danceable oddball new wave.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

What's Happening White Boy

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Yesterday brought the release of the new Beck album Guero, his first in 3 years. It features production by The Dust Brothers, who helmed Odelay and Midnight Vultures, and as such is a return to the cut and paste sounds and hip hop beats of those older records. Critics have been quick to compare them, and seem to think that this set of new tunes is OK but nothing new. I've given it a couple of spins and my first impression is that I like it. It sounds like a distillation of the fun party records and the more melancholic folky stuff, instead of focusing on one side of those equations. There is a deluxe version available (pictured above) - it's a CD/DVD combo, with 3 extra songs and 4 remixes on the CD, and a 5.1 stereo mix of the album with visual accompaniment on the DVD (as well as a nice, arty booklet). The DVD is visually boring - my iTunes player's visuals are more interesting, but the 5.1 mix sounds pretty cool. The real reason I splashed out on this version of the record is for the extra tracks & remixes by Octet, Boards Of Canada, Dizzee Rascal & Royksopp. They were the first things I listened to on the album, and the remixers really add their sound and flavor to the songs. Royksopp's mix of Still Missing You could be an outtake from their excellent Melody AM album, with it's thumping beat, synth washes and cymbal work. I like it a lot. Boards Of Canada bring their unique, leftfield slant to Broken Drum with it's mellow beat, backtracked keys and bass and ambient synths. So, it's thumbs up for the music, thumbs down for the visuals on the DVD.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Les Batards Sensibles

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I had this post written when a series of events put an end to my plans - technical difficulties with Blogger coupled with a power failure seconds after I pushed publish caused all pertinent data to be lost. Then my daughter woke up from her afternoon nap and I was out of luck. I've got a couple of minutes, so here is an abbreviated version. TTC are a French rap group. Their latest LP is Batards Sensibles (sensible bastards, something I am not, having failed to save my post first!) - the cadences and beats of US hip hop put through an electronically enhanced French blender, with all manner of experimental noises, processed vocals and glitches thrown into the mix. It's edgy and raw, and even tho' my French is minimal, I get that these guys have a sense of humor. Song titles like "Dans Le Club" (In Da Club) and "Le Rap Jeu" (The Rap Game) bring a smile to my face. Codeine rides a hard ass beat, has some squelchy, farting synths and mile-a-minute flows. Album closer Meet The New Boss is a mellow instrumental - Kraftwerkian, spacy synthpop. A very entertaining album - and a unique take on hip hop.

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Good Son Vs. The Only Daughter

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A couple of years ago David Sylvian put out Blemish (on Samadhi Sound, a label created by David and his brother - and former Japan bandmate - Steve Jansen.). It's a typically quiet collection of lush, ambient music coupled with his unique smoky croon. His style has changed little over the years - arty, abstract and spartan, teetering between experimentalism and pop. Late last year a collection of remixes of songs from Blemish appeared, titled The Good Son Vs. The Only Daughter. It features remixes by Burnt Friedman, Readymade FC and a handful of Japanese remixers I am unfamiliar with. How Little We Need To Be Happy is remixed by Tatsuhiko Asano, and starts off in a conventional, downtempo way, with a lovely beat and guitar. It soon meanders off into deep, beautiful space, beatless with trumpets. The beats reappear briefly with David's processed vocals until it quietly fades out again. It's lovely and unique and very chill - maybe not for everyone, but still worth a listen.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Birthday Edition Of Funky Friday

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Today is my 41st birthday. Yes, I'm a crusty old man on the downhill slide now. I wanted to post a song that featured birthdays somehow - The Beatles b-day tune and Altered Images' Happy Birthday were contenders until I remembered the hugeness that is The Sugarcubes' Birthday. Yeah, I know, it's Funky Friday and this is not really very funky, but it's my birthday so I'm doing it anyway. This was my first encounter with the voice of Björk - my girlfriend at the time had bought the 45, and we were all blown away with the wonders of that voice combined with the rumbling bass and drums and keys. The tune still gives me goosebumps today.

Now on with funky stuff...

Wham's first single, released in 1982 was the Bob Carter (Junior, Linx) produced Wham Rap (Enjoy What You Do), an amusing tune about living large on the dole. It's got a pumping beat, thumb poppingly good bass and chikka chikka guitars and some nice horns but it's George's rap that makes this so much fun. With lyrics like "I'm a soul boy, I'm a dole boy!", or "you've got soul on the dole, don't take no shit from the benefit!", or the shouted chants of "D.H.S.S." never fail to make me smile. (For my US readers, the dole is the UK version of welfare, and DHSS runs it) This version is the 12" Unsocial Mix - probably named so because of their use of the word "shit" in the song.

By now you've no doubt heard of Sri Lankan singer M.I.A. - she has been a regular feature in the music blogosphere and in a lot of the press. Her debut LP Arular got it's US release this week. It's combination of rough electronics and her quirky vocals is pretty unique - a mix of Timbaland stutter, Dizzee Rascal grime and the vocal antics of Ari Up from The Slits. Some of it's lyrics have caused contoversy, as she big ups the PLO and the Sri Lankan rebel faction Tamil Tigers (her dad was a member), and the album's artwork features molotov cocktails and bombs. This is a pretty interesting article from the City Pages, written by Sri Lankan journalist Samantha Edussuriya on how torn she is between loving the great vibe of the music yet feeling put off by some of the lyrical content. Whatever your feelings, there's no denying that the music is a lot of fun. Pull Up The Poor is bumpin' - squelchy synths, tough as nails beats, that Slits chant at the beginning. "I've got the beats that make you bang" indeed!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Louis XIV

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Another hotly hyped act this year is San Diego's garage punk rockers Louis XIV. I heard a couple of tracks around the blogosphere and decided to pick up their just-released-this-week debut LP The Best Little Secrets Are Kept. It's a completely derivative yet enormously entertaining set of rock & roll tunes that incorporates a hefty dose of vintage Rolling Stones, a giant dollop of glam rock (particularly of the T.Rex variety), some punk rock and the quirky, sexy oddness of a band like Mink Lungs - many of the lyrical snippets I caught brought a smile to my face. I've only listened to this LP 3 or 4 times, so I can't give a really accurate review of it, but I do know that I like what I hear a lot. It's infectiously catchy, it flat out rocks, and it's got some really nice production touches - I particularly love all of the orchestrated string bits and the massed choral vocals on several tracks. Hey Teacher has a knock-out riff that is played by both a guitar and the strings, and it floors me every time - OK, I really dig the handclaps too. A enjoyably trashy, glammy pop nugget.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Out Hud Has The Beats To Move Your Feets

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Out Hud's second LP Let Us Never Speak Of It Again got it's US release this week. It is an extremely groovy record. A five piece act featuring a couple members of !!! and two new female singer-instrumentalists, Molly & Phyllis, these guys follow the blueprint laid down by !!! (disco beats,funky bass,new wave post-punk art-funk) but flip it in a more electronic direction. The guitars are used more for embellishing the electronic grooves instead of the other way around. It's rooted in the '80s, with it's blend of synthpop, Tom Tom Club grooves, acid house and NYC experimentalism (see Arthur Russell and his take on cello laden art-disco). It's For You is the first song on the record (after a little intro thing) and sets the party vibe with a thumping beat, sing-song vocals, icy keys and a nice jangly Nile Rodgers-esque guitar riff. I mentioned Tom Tom Club - you can really hear it on this tune, and it also reminds me of a scruffier sounding Playgroup. A very fun listen, and a record I think I'll be playing a lot of.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Return Of The Wild Boys

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I'm off to see the reunited Duran Duran tonight. I'm a long time fan, having bought their first single Planet Earth back in the day, and their latest album Astronaut from last year. I saw them a couple of years ago at The House Of Blues in Chicago on the first run of shows right after they had reunited, and had a pretty damn good time. I'm looking forward to seeing the "big" arena tour, with flashy lights and sets and stuff, and so today I give you a couple of DD oddities in honor of tonight's big show. Both are taken from the single for Perfect Day, their cover of the Lou Reed classic. Perfect Day (Acoustic Version) is what it says, a more acoustic rendition. I once read an interview with Lou and he said that DD's version of the song is one of his favorite covers of his songs - I really like it too. The other tune is their version of Neil Young's The Needle And The Damage Done - not exactly the kind of tune that you'd think DD would do. Now I'm off to find my pixie boots, my baggy suit and neck scarf, slap on some mascara, and then it's time to perfect my Nick Rhodes pout - a boy's got to look good for the big show!

Monday, March 21, 2005

Set Yourself On Fire

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One of my fave records of the year so far (even though it's dated last year) is the Canadian band Stars' Set Yourself On Fire. They are label mates with Broken Social Scene, and even share some of that band's members. The album is a deft blend of indie rock, new wave and synth pop, and a hefty dose of the Smiths. It's filled with irresistable songs about love and break ups. The two singer-songwriters in the band were a couple, split up, and now write gloriously sharp songs about the whole messy affair. They are able to strike a really nice balance between sugary pop and sharp edged riffing - just when a tune seems like it might get sickly, synhtly sweet, raging guitars bust in. What I'm Trying To Say starts out synthy, then that sharp as a knife guitar riff pierces the tune and I'm hooked. It features a lovely, orchestrated breakdown, has an undeniably catchy chorus and I can listen to it over and over again. A great song from a fantastic album full of 'em.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Kaiser Chiefs

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Kaiser Chiefs are this year's "next big thing" if you believe the hype. Their debut Employment got it's US release this week, and after reading a few blurbs about them I picked it up. Turns out the hype is right again. They fit right in with the current crop of post-punk influenced acts that are all over the place - Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party et al. They take it a step further though, and include a hefty dose of Blur-esque Britpop circa Parklife - no coincidence since they share the same producer, Stephen Street. There is even a credit for ex-Blur guitarist Graham Coxon's motorcycle (a Kaiser Chief), which you hear revving up on Saturday Night. So, you've got the post-punk thing, the Britpop thing, the classic Brit-rock (think Kinks), and bit of punk all smashed together, with catchy, sing-along choruses and nice shiny production. Sounds good to my ears. Here's the first single, I Predict A Riot, a rocking tune with big la-la-la-la-la-la's, whizzing synths and buzzing guitars. This record is priced cheap to sell - I found it for $8.00 at my local emporium, so I encourage you to go and get your own!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Double Dose Of Goodness On A Funky Friday

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I first encountered Van Hunt a year and a half ago when I saw one of his videos on VH1Soul. Since then I've caught a few more, including his latest for Dust, a simple performance video set on a tour boat floating down the Seine in Paris. The tune is nice and funky, and features some great guitar licks by Van. I decided to finally buy the record, and have been caning it for the last month now. It's some seriously quality neo-soul with all kinds of influences - Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder and Lenny Kravitz all come to mind. Van's guitar playing is ace, there are nice touches of modernism, and the songs are hooky and sweet. Out Of The Sky definitely owes a great deal to Sly and The Family Stone - it's percolating drum machine beats in particular. Feel the funk.

Over the last week I've rediscovered the joys of legendary hip hop producer Pete Rock's 2001 release Petestrumentals. Like the title says, it's largely instrumental hip hop stuff, full of head nodding goodness. A Little Soul kicks off the album in supremely snazzy style, with lots of nice jazzy piano samples and a bumping beat.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Diamonds In The Gruff

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One of my favourite voices in rock music today is that of Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys. It's hard to put a finger on - it just sounds good to me, capable of both rocking out and being mellow and melancholic. This week saw the US release of his first solo album, Yr Atal Genhedlaeth. Written mostly in Welsh, it's a really fun listen, filled with the kind of quirky stuff his band is known for. It's definitely not as polished as an SFA album, but it continues their fine tradition of combining scruffy rock and electronics. I read some review that compared it to Damon Albarn's solo DemoCrazy - rough hewn and not really complete, and I don't agree. It's much more together than that. Caerffosiaeth is one of the more electro tunes, with a bumping old school beat and goofy sing song rhymes. A lot of fun. He also turns up on folk-tronic boffin Boom Bip's great new album Blue Eyed In The Red Room, handling vocals on the track Do's And Don'ts. It's a mellow, mid-tempo track that builds slowly into an uptempo rocker, and Gruff's voice is a very nice fit with the music.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

David Bowie's Stage

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Released as a double LP in 1978, Stage chronicled the Thin White Duke's world tour of that year. It showcases his arty Berlin years (Low, Station To Station) as well as a few of the classic hits (Ziggy Stardust). The band is great, and includes both Adrian Belew and Carlos Alomar on guitars, so you know it's rocking - this band went right into the studio after this tour to record Lodger, one of my personal fave Bowie records. This week saw it finally get the remastered reissue treatment in the US (I don't think it's ever been on CD), and it's fantastic. I've always loved how this group of musicians were able to pull off the arty, icy synth stuff as well as some of the more traditionally rocking tunes, and it's so nice to hear it "beefed up" a little. Stay sounds particularly good to me - the funky bass and drums, the big riffing guitars, Bowie's croon - it's all super tight. Another much welcomed reissue that if you're a Bowie fan you need to check out.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

An '80s Obscurity Remastered

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Franco-Belgian trio Antena originally released Camino Del Sol as a 5 track EP in 1985 on reknowned Euro indie label Les Disques Crepescule. Their music was a blend of electronic instrumentation and samba rhythms and jazzy touches. Their initial recording sessions were helmed by John Foxx, who with his first solo album Metamatic had laid a blueprint for icy electronic soundscaping. This music was largely ignored at the time, and it's only now with this loving reissue of the original EP plus a handful of B sides and rarities that their impact can be heard. You can hear their influence in the music of bands like Stereolab, or the eclectic experimentation of Beck or David Byrne. It's fascinating stuff, such cold renditions of warm music. Handling the vocals is Isabelle Antena, who went solo when the band fell apart soon after releasing the EP, and her voice is a big part of the band's charms. Here is their very oddball renedition of the old classic "Girl From Ipanema", changed to The Boy From Ipanema. A much warmer sounding track is the lovely Seaside Weekend with it's breezy melody and doo-bee-doos. This is one of those reissues that really makes you thankful for whoever took the time to get it together - in this case the recently formed Numero label, a specialty label that only does remastered reissues of "lost classics".

Monday, March 14, 2005

Flaming Lips Versus Thievery Corporation

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The new Thievery Corporation album The Cosmic Game was released a couple of weeks ago. I wasn't sure whether I was going to pick it up - I've got all of the other albums, and I was feeling like maybe they were a little played out. Then I read something about some of their new collaborators and my interest was piqued. Perry Farrell handles vocals on one tune, a dubby track where he tries a bit of toasting that leaves me unimpressed. David Byrne co-writes and sings on Lonely Hunter, and it works pretty well - an uptempo, Afropop flavored tune given the glossy sonic treatment by the Thievery boys. The name that really grabbed me though was the Flaming Lips. Credited for vocals, guitar and additional orchestration on Marching the Hate Machines (Into the Sun), it's a downtempo beauty featuring lush keys, some great twangy guitar bits, a nice mellow beat and Wayne's vocals about robots. Their two styles blend very well. As for the rest of the record, it's business as usual - reggae, raga and Latin influences sprinkled over breakbeats and hip hop beats. Nice, but nothing new.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Funky Friday On The Old School Soul Tip

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The Stylistics formed in the late '60s out of the dying doo wop scene, and rose to prominence in the early '70s with a string of memorable Philly soul hits like Betcha By Golly Wow and People Make The World Go Round. Produced and written by Thom Bell and co-writer Linda Creed, it was Philly soul at it's well orchestrated best. Main vocalist Russell Thompkins Jr. has the sweetest falsetto, and is ably backed up by the rest of the band's blissful harmonies. They specialised in mid tempo grooves and balladry, and they also did a handful of covers. From their second LP, 1972's Round 2 comes this supremely soulful rendition of Carole King's classic pop hit It's Too Late. It rides almost the same groove as People Make The World Go Round and is just as lushly orchestrated - great horns too. A lovely rendition.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Bettie Serveert's Attagirl

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I fell in love with Carol van Dyk's voice the firt time I heard Kid's Allright back in '92. The track was from their debut LP Palomine, and that voice - capable of rocking hard, yet at other times so soft and quivering and vulnerable, like (sigh) Chrissie Hynde. The Dutch band plied a mix of indie rock, a love for Neil Young and Velvet Underground riffs, and were going to be the next big thing. It didn't quite play out that way and they parted with label Matador, but have continued to put out records on their own. The last few have shown them unafraid to experiment, getting quieter and adding strings. Their latest is Attagirl, and they continue to play with their sound. This record finds them adding synths and drum machines, and the result has them sounding a bit more pop-tastic. It is only on a couple of the LP's tracks where this is evident, and the rest is the same quality stuff they've been doing for years. Here's Dreamaniacs, a shiny, glossy tune. And ooh, that voice. If you don't feel this new direction, take solace in the fact that the US version of the CD has acoustic versions of these tunes on it. Me, I like the slight shift.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Lost Classic Of The Original Post Punk Era

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When I first heard today's tune in 1981 I thought it was going to be a huge hit. Sadly, it was not. The Scottish four piece Scars had the looks and the hooks. All About You has gloriously sharp guitars, a nice pounding disco-ish beat, vaguely funky bass, and a super catchy melody. It's remarkable how good this tune still sounds, though in light of the recent second wave of post punkers it shouldn't be too surprising. It's a great song from a pretty good album that is in desperate need of the remastered reissue treatment. Guitarist Paul Research continues to do music and maintains a website with photos and stories about the band. Included there is the news that Lemon Jelly sampled a big chunk of the Scars tune Horrorshow for their recent hit single Shouty Track, and several members of Scars joined the band live on stage for a performance of the song.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Sergio Mendes On An Easy Listening Tuesday

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Ever since I was 3 or 4 years old, Sergio Mendes and his music has been a part of my life. It started with my parents, who bought a lot of those early Brasil '66 records, and carried into the '70s where my family and I actually went and saw Brasil '77 live in concert. I've always had a soft spot for their music - sure, it's easy listening, but it's so well crafted and I'm a sucker for a bossa nova beat. In the '60s it was swanky, bachelor pad music - Brazilian rhythms + jazz applied to classic western pop tunes by the likes of Bacharach or Simon & Garfunkle or the Beatles. In the early '70s the group embraced their musical roots, and became an earthier, more traditionally Brazilian band - lots of crazy percussion and chants. By the time the '80s rolled around they had morphed into too much of an MOR act, and I lost interest. The older stuff still gets me going though, and I will buy the records if I come across them in the used bins, or if they are remastered and reissued on CD - which hasn't happened enough! Here are a couple of tunes from two different eras of the band. Pretty World is Brasil '66 at it's prettiest - gorgeous orchestration, lovely horns and the sweet voice of Lani Hall, plus a great melody all make this one a treat. By the time 1975 rolled around Sergio was making the transition to a more American style of pop music, and from his self titled LP of that year comes If I Ever Lose This Heaven. Kicking off with a wicked little breakbeat riff (can't believe this one hasn't been sampled!), it's pure r'n'b - funky bass and drums, disco strings and horns perfectly orchestrated by Dave Grusin, and the soulful vocals of Bonnie Bowden and Sondra Catton. Very groovy.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Return Of The Moody Ones

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Brit trio Doves released their third LP stateside last week. Some Cities is clearly their attempt to break out of the moody, mopey, melancholic groove they've perfected over the last couple of records. The record kicks off with two fast and loud songs in a row, which is almost unheard of on a Doves record. First single Black And White Town even rides an upbeat, Motown rhythm. It's a much more direct album, but they haven't forsaken the spaced out-ness altogether. As always they push a nice mix of classic, epic British rock, Northern soul and psychedelia. The production (by Ben Hillier who did Blur's Think Tank) is really clean - it's not nearly as murky souding as the previous stuff, and I think it heightens the whole experience to hear everything so clearly. Despite talking up the rockers I'm giving you The Storm, one of the slower, moodier tracks on the album. Featuring a lovely Ryuichi Sakamoto string sample and a chunky Gainsbourg-esque bass line, it builds and builds into a squall of feedback guitars and harmonica. Very tasty.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Funky Friday's Brazilian Girls

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I didn't want to like the new self titled LP from Brazilian Girls. Does the world really need another culture-hopping, genre mashing (cringe) trip hop album? I had read a few reviews, and listened to a bit of it on a listening station at my local music emporium when I took the plunge. A few spins later I was sold. Musically it jumps from downtempo to house to dubby ska to latin jazz and a bit of rock, all expertly played by the 3 guys in the band and warmly sung by the lovely, forthright Sabina Sciubba. It's warm and melodic and sexy, and often quirky and amusing. Sabina sings in French, Spanish, German and English, and the band backs her up with slick precision, adding all manner of nice sonic touches. To answer my own question at the beginning of this post - yes, when a record is this warm and witty and groovy and fun, we do need it. Here's a couple of tracks - Don't Stop is a warm house-y number, and Lazy Lover is one of the slinky slower tunes. "Lazy lover, Casanova, you roll over when I want more." Perfect...

Thursday, March 03, 2005

An '80s Obscurity

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Leisure Process were a duo comprised of sax player Gary Barnacle and singer Ross Middleton. If you own any eighties albums that have sax on them, it's most likely Gary Barnacle playing - Visage, Pet Shop Boys, The Ruts, Paul McCartney, Phil Collins and PIL are among the many bands he tootled for. He was also an official member of jazz funkers Level 42 for a while. Ross Middleton came out of the Scottish indie pop act Positive Noise. They recorded a couple of singles, but I don't think they ever made an album - I never saw one, and googling gave me zilch. The singles were produced Martin Rushent, who over the years had become "the man" in British music, having produced Altered Images, the Stranglers, Buzzcocks and the Human League among others. Leisure Process' sound was typically Rushent - tight, synthetic funk tracks with Ross' vocals delivered in a manic, new wave style. I dug the singles alot, and thought they had chart potential but of course they were largely ignored. I especially dig this 12" version of A Way You'll Never Be - it has such enormously pounding drums and some super poppin' bass, courtesy of Level 42's Phil Gould and Mark King. You may not like what these guys did in their own band, but there's no denying their musical skills. The tune also features a cool James Bond like xylophone riff that gets me every time, and since Gary is in the band it has a big sax solo. You can definitely hear a bit of the Human League's synth action going on too, and that makes it doubly tasty to me. Nothing classic, but a fun little '80s obscurity nonetheless.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Golden Republic

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I picked up the self titled debut by The Golden Republic a few weeks ago. A four piece from Kansas City MO, they are being lumped in with the new wave of new wavers that have been dominating the indie rock scene. The album was recorded in New York at Tarquin Studios, and produced by Peter Katis, who also did Interpol and Robbers On High Street's albums, so they are part of the scene. This record is a little different though - there's a bit of soul, a dash of punk and some very '70s T.Rex glam moments on here too. It struck me the other day that it also sounds a lot like some of Soulwax's stuff from the Much Against Everyone's Advice album - a good thing in my books. NYC is definitely more of the new wave thing, and hooked me with it's shiny synths and the super catchy "uh-oh-oh-oh-oh's" in the chorus. It's also got a nice bouncy bass line and some cool guitar riffing. A record that I didn't expect much from, but have ended up enjoying quite a bit.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Scritti Politti - Early

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I was scanning some new music release page on the internets last week when I came across a listing that made me bolt up in my seat - Rough Trade had compiled a bunch of the earliest Scritti Politti recordings from the late '70s and early '80s and released them in remastered form as Early. I snapped up a copy that day at my local shop, and have been playing it every day since. I first encountered the band when I heard The "Sweetest Girl" on the radio, and was fascinated by it's rudimentary drum pattern, killer dub bass lines, gorgeous melody and the remarkably odd voice of Green Gartside. It remains of my faves today. I was sold, and bought up the ensuing 45s (with their ultra-cool covers that parodied product labels like Dunhills and cognac bottles) and LPs, where over the years they turned into a slick, Arif Mardin produced synth funk act. I never got around to buying any of this older stuff though, so for me this compilation is a real boon. Most folks who know Scritti from their super polished and funky mid '80s stuff would probably be surprised to hear some of this earlier stuff. It's raw and ragged, though still full of those funky touches and reggae flavor. "It sounds like some anti-produced labour of negativity, kind of structurally unsound and exposed." is how Green himself describes it in the liner notes on the CD cover. Doubt Beat is a good example of this dynamic - scratchy guitars, dub bass, propulsive post punk beats (all of the drummming is fantastic on this record) and a very catchy chorus. You can definitely hear inklings of where the band's music would end up. My "buy of the week"!