Thursday, June 30, 2005

West One (Shine On Me)

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The Ruts - a punk rock four piece, part of the second wave of punk acts that exploded out of England in the late '70s. Featuring Malcolm Owen on vocals, Paul Fox on guitar, John "Segs" Jennings on bass and Dave Ruffy on drums, these guys had the musical chops that so many of their peers didn't. They were super tight and capable of rocking some fierce riffs, and they incorporated hefty doses of dub and reggae stylings into the mix. Malcolm's voice was reminiscent of Joe Strummer, and musically they shared much with The Clash. I always felt that they deserved the acclaim that the first wave of punk rockers had, but they never got the props. They seemed to be heading for the big time when Malcolm was discovered dead of a heroin overdose in July of 1980. My first exposure to the band was on a bizarre and cheap Virgin Records compilation called Cash Cows - it has tracks by the Human League, Gillan, PIL, Japan, Mike Oldfield, Captain Beefheart, The Skids and a few other odd and sods (including one of yesterday's Fingerprintz tracks) that were not related. I always thought that it was actually a pretty entertaining compilation because of it's wide variety. Anyway, the Ruts song featured on that LP was the single West One (Shine On Me) which was released shortly after Malcolm's death, and it's a shining example of what these guys were all about - the super tight rhythm section hold down a pounding backing track, Paul Fox attacks his guitar, Malcolm's voice is sweet yet gruff, and there's even a lovely sax solo courtesy of Gary Barnacle (who became a member of the band for a while). It's a great song, and to me hints at the greatness that should have followed. The rest of the band soldiered on after Malcolm's death as The Ruts DC, but never achieved much success.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Some '80s Obscurities

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It's day three of my '80s flashback week and today's featured act is Fingerprintz, who were a post-punk/new wave combo. They signed to Virgin Records and released three albums over three years, 1979 to 1981. The band members were Jimmie O'Neill on vocals & guitar (he had previoulsy written songs for Lene Lovich), Cha Burns on guitar, Bogdan Wiczling on drums (who went on to be in Adam & The Ants and play for Bill Nelson) and Kenny Alton on bass. These guys also served as singer Rachel Sweet's backing band for a while. Yes Eyes is taken from their second album, 1980's Distinguishing Marks. It's a blazing, catchy new wave pop tune with great yelped vocals that kicks off with a big riff and pounding beats. On their next album, 1981's Beat Noir they altered their sound and moved away from the new wave stylings into funkier material. The Beat Escape is a prime example of the new direction - big dance-y disco beats, a funky ass bass line, some cool sax. None of the records proved very successful, and the band fell apart. Jimmie O'Neill & Cha Burns went on to form mid '80s band The Silencers - a much more successful group who are still together today.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Music For Stowaways

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Freshly departed from the Human League, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh adopted the name British Electric Foundation. In 1981 they released an album on cassette called Music For Stowaways, which was 8 tracks of instrumental electronic music that picked up from where they left off - edgy experimentalism mixed with pop smarts. Included on this album is Groove Thang, a funky track that rides a banging martial beat and features the stellar bass poppin' and guitar riffing of then unknown John Wilson. It's a great track. The tune reappears later in the year as the first single from Heaven 17's debut album Penthouse And Pavement, retitled (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang. They are now a trio with vocalist Glenn Gregory, and the song is now a politcally charged call to shake your ass and get rid of the Reaganites. Much like yesterday's post, the words ring true in today's political arena - just substitute Bush for Reagan!

(Everybody move to prove the groove)
Have you heard it on the news
About this fascist groove thang
Evil men with racist views
Spreading all across the land
Don't just sit there on your ass
Unlock that funky chaindance
Brothers, sisters shoot your best
We don't need this fascist groove thang
Brothers, sisters, we don't need this fascist groove thang
History will repeat itself
Crisis point we're near the hour
Counterforce will do no good
Hot you ass I feel your power
Hitler proves that funky stuff
Is not for you and me girl
Europe's an unhappy land
They've had their fascist groove thang
Democrats are out of power
Across that great wide ocean
Reagan's president elect
Fascist god in motion
Generals tell him what to do
Stop your good time dancing
Train their guns on me and you
Fascist thang advancing
Sisters, brothers lend a hand
Increase our population
Grab that groove thang by the throat
And throw it in the ocean
You're real tonight you move my soul
Let's cruise out of the dance war
Come out your house and dance your dance
Shake that fascist groove thang
(Shake it!)

Monday, June 27, 2005

Celebrate The Bullet

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All of this week's posts are going to be of the '80s flashback variety - a bunch of old records ripped into the digital age for you to enjoy. To start things off in banging style I offer the title track from the 2-Tone ska combo The Selecter's second LP, 1981's Celebrate The Bullet. Singer Pauline Black has said that Celebrate The Bullet is her favorite Selecter song. I love it too. It's a mid tempo reggae rocker with some gloriously twangy guitar, great stretchy basslines, punchy horns and plenty of atmosphere. It was released in close proximity to the assassination attempt on then US President Ronald Reagan (coincidentally the same year that The Pope and John Lennon were shot), so as a result it got banned by the BBC - despite it's anti violence message. I think this tune holds up pretty well today, and it's message still rings true too!

Celebrate the bullet,
Put your finger on the trigger,
But you don’t have to pull it,
'Cos you know it won’t bring them,
Back to you, back to you.

Celebrate the bullet,
But you have to snigger,
You told ‘em all to shove it,
‘Cos you know it won’t bring them,
Back to you, back to you.

Celebrate the bullet, bullet, bullet, bullet, bullet, bullet,
Celebrate the bullet, bullet, bullet, bullet, bullet, bullet,
Celebrate the bullet, bullet, bullet, bullet, bullet, bullet,
Celebrate the bullet, bullet, bullet, bullet, bullet, bullet,

Celebrate the bullet,
Put your finger on the trigger,
But you don’t have to pull it,
‘Cos you know it won’t bring them
Back to you, back to you.

Celebrate the bullet,
It all seems to get much bigger,
Do you really have to prove it,
‘Cos you know it won’t bring them,
Back to you, back to you.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Would You Like To See My Sex Tape?

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Back at the beginning of the month 20 Jazz Funk Greats posted a link to the video for the song Paris Hilton by MU. I'd heard a track by them on the excellent Channel 3 compilation from Output Recordings and never investigated any further. Until I watched that video. It's goofy and lo-fi, and vocalist Mutsumi Kanamori's antics are wacky, and after a couple of listens I was sold. I picked up the album Out Of Breach (Manchester's Revenge). Created with her hubby Maurice Fulton, it's a very challenging, entertaining mix of state of the art electronics and edgy post-punk rock instrumentation, all topped off by the ranting and raving lunacy that is Mutsumi Kanamori. It is definitely not going to be liked by everyone, but if you can handle a little experimentation you will dig it. It's funny stuff with lyrics that will make you chuckle, as will some of the song titles - Stop Bothering Michael Jackson, We Love Guys Named Luke and Throwing Up. Paris Hilton is pretty amusing too. It's also one hell of a pounding electro-house track. It's got big booming beats and sharp buzzing synth bass and lots of all-important cow bell, as well as a bunch of old skool electro handclaps. It should having you shaking your ass in no time. The chicken squawks are what make this tune great for me - I don't know why, but they just do. You'll hear what I mean, and hopefully you'll find them funny too!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

I Believe In California Soul

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Tim Burgess is best known as the lead singer of UK rock band The Charlatans. Back in September of 2003 he released his first solo LP I Believe. His band was on hiatus, and he was living in L.A. and the resulting album showed off a decidedly sunny California disposition. Anyone looking for music that was like his band's will surely be surprised on what's on offer. It's a very soulful take on California rock - "I believe in California soul" he sings on the title track. His falsetto voice is in full swing on the record, and musically it touches on the Stones, Marvin Gaye and maybe even a little bit of Prince. Well, the album finally got a US release in April - almost two years later! - and has been expanded to include a few bonus tracks (one of which is an odd cover of Bob Marley's Who The Cap Fit - I'm not too sure if I really like it). The track I share today is one of the bonus cuts, an instrumental version of the title track called I Believe In The West Coast. I know, I know, you don't get to hear Tim singing, but this tune is too damn groovy, and features some truly tasty saxaphone blowing. While it isn't going to blow you away, if you're a fan of The Charlatans you might like Tim's solo stuff.

Monday, June 20, 2005

RJD2's Instrumentalism

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Today's tunes come from In Rare Form, an album full of previously unreleased instrumental tracks from ace hip-hop beatmaster RJD2. Some of the tracks are from his own records, some are from the collaborations he's done with others. The bottom line though is that they are all great, pumping tracks. The beats are fresh, the samples tasty, and the grooves will definitely get your head bobbing. As much as I dig raps on stuff, I really prefer instrumental hiphop so this set really hits all the right spots for me. I had a really hard time picking tunes to post because they're pretty much all slammin' - I chose Saliva and The Takeoff. These are not the best tracks on the album - you'll have to buy the record for yourself to get those - but they're still pretty fresh, and a good indication of what is on offer. Bonus points to anyone who can name the source of the music on The Takeoff - I know I know it but for the life of me I cannot remember what it's from!

Silence Is A Rhythm Too is on a well deserved vacation with the family this week - I piled the wife and kids into the van and hit the road Saturday. We are in Indiana visiting friends who have a computer, so there might be a few more posts this week. In any event, daily posts will return next week so be sure to come back!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Funky Friday On The Scritti Tip

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"Where the words are vodka clear..."
It's the third and final day of Scritti Politti posts in honor of the 20th anniversary of the release of Cupid & Psyche 85. Absolute is another great single from the album. It's got a booming beat, fab Fairlight action, crystal clear synth stabs and those gloriously soulful "oooh, I love you"s, as well as one hell of a cool break - that gamelan gong-y sounding bit in the middle. Typically sharp Green lyrics too. It's fantastic.

"I need love for the power..."
Here's a little bonus album track for you. If you read the comment from yesterday's post you would have seen where John called Don't Work That Hard this album's secret weapon. He's right. For me it's all about the furious bass poppin' of Marcus Miller - too damn funky! - and that blazing, "attack the guitar" solo by guitar legend Robert Quine - it inspires me to flail at my air guitar while I shake it.

For some more Scritti flavor head over to Lost In The '80s for the Chaka Khan tune "Love Of A Lifetime" - written by and featuring vocals from Green. Good stuff.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

How Your Flesh And Blood Became The Word

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Today it's another great single from Scritti Politti's Cupid & Psyche 85 - The Word Girl / Flesh And Blood. A return to reggae rhythms - they have always had a role in Green's music - it features the distinctive toasting of South London militant DJ Ranking Ann. It's a uniquely Scritti take on lover's rock. The Word Girl (Flesh And Blood) (Version) is the remix from the b-side of the 12". It's got a great skank to it, and I like the melody. Sweet.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Gift Of Schizo

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This month marks the 20th anniversary of the release of one my all time favorite '80s albums - Scritti Politti's Cupid & Psyche 85. To celebrate it's birthday the next couple of days' posts here are all going to be Scritti-centric. The arrival of the LP was announced by it's first single Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin). I was a fan of the band at the time, having bought all of their singles to this point. When I first heard this record it floored me. It was such a radical reinvention of the the band's trademark sound - from rough and scruffy to tight precision. Gone were the post-punky flavors, replaced by slick New York City electro-funk riffs played by session musicians. From DIY to Arif Mardin so to speak. Instead of the politics of politics, it was all about the politics of the heart. Green has a remarkable lyrical ability - writing lines like "There's nothing I wouldn't take, Oh, even intravenous. There's nothing I wouldn't take To get to be approved. There's nothing I wouldn't be Oh that's the gift of schizo. There's nothing that's new to me I've seen it all before now sugar." - they sounded like nothing else to me at the time. I played this record to death then, and I still love it today. For your listening pleasure enjoy the 12" B-side remix, Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin) (Version). It's technology sounds a bit dated today (those gated snares are so '80s), but it's gorgeous melody still manages to send shivers down my spine. I love the clipped funkiness and the ka-chang of Paul Jackson Jr.'s guitars, and the super precise drumbeats of Steve Ferrone. As a little bonus I recommend visiting this page over at Scritti Cola - a cool fansite where you can listen to a rough demo recording of this tune - obviously from the Songs To Remember era. It's fascinating to hear how much this tune changed from this to the version that eventually got released!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Click-Click Drone

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Last week I finally got my mitts on a copy of the remastered and expanded Metamatic, John Foxx's classic solo debut after his departure from Ultravox. Originally released in 1980 - 25 years old this year! - it's cold and metallic, composed entirely on synthesizers and drum machines. Even the cover is drab and grey and bleak. A move away from the aesthetic of a band, it was at the forefront of the UK "futurist" movement that was growing that year - though it's definitely more intelligent and "arty" than a lot of it's peers. It blew me away because it sounded so different. It can accurately be described as minimal techno. It's all about detachment. The singles barely made the top 40 while his old band Ultravox (with new singer Midge Ure) and Gary Numan bit his style and topped the charts. I am amazed at how otherworldly this stuff still sounds today. I love this record. The first 2 songs are the big singles, the 3rd tune is a bonus track (one of 7 on this reissue) that reminds me more of his old band's material.

Burning Car
Miles Away

Monday, June 13, 2005

No More Shoes

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I'm finding Stephen Malkmus' latest album to be pretty entertaining. It's the usual hit and miss collection of sun kissed stoner rock, with sideways looks at new wave, disco and even a wee bit of synth-y pop. I have enjoyed all of the Malkmus records to a certain degree - ditto with Pavement. I really like this track - No More Shoes. It's a 7 or 8 minute guitar-spazz jam, featuring some great Steely Dan moments - the guitar solos are pure early '70s Dan, and even the title sounds like a Dan song. In my head I see Jeff "Skunk" Baxter rocking Malkmus' face off in the studio. Sweet, dude.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Funky Friday On The Slick Euro Tip

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The Austrian Posse
Richard Dorfmeister (yes, the one from Kruder and...) & Rupert Huber's project Tosca have a new LP out. Called J.A.C., it's a typically laid back, jazzy, blues-y dubbed out collection of mostly downtempo grooves. There are a few more vocal tracks than usual, but it's essentially more of the same music they've been doing for the last few years. Since I'm a sucker for their slick grooves, I particularly enjoy Damentag, one of the more uptempo tracks on offer. It rides a great disco beat, has some funky ass bass and lot's of dreamy, blippy keys. Perfect for tooling around the house or getting ready for a night out.

"You think you're chocolate but you're chewing gum..."
Scandahoovian chanteuse Annie has been the buzz of the blog world for over a year now. Her debut Anniemal was out last year - everywhere except here of course. Patience pays off though - the LP got it's US release this week. Featuring production from Richard X and Röyksopp's Torbjørn Brundtland, it's an absolutely smashing collection of candy coated dance pop. Catchy, with all manner of beats and hooks and sugary gloss, it's smart and sassy and deserves to be huge. If you haven't already heard it (and a lot of you probably already have) you will love the single Chewing Gum which is a fun, summmery tune that floats over killer sampled beats from the Tom Tom Club's classic Genius Of Love. The rest of the album is just as much fun - if you like catchy electro dance pop (Kylie? Saint Etienne? Madonna wishes she could've made this record) you will really dig this album.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Instrumental Head

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Death In Vegas' Satan's Circus was released to the world last year. Us Yanks had to wait for it's US release a couple of weeks ago. Over the years they have mutated from the grimy, rockist-electro-big beat roots of their debut Dead Elvis into a straight up grimy rock band (The Contino Sessions) and then into a grimy Krautrockin' groove machine (Scorpio Rising, which nicely blended the electro and rockist tendencies). Satan's Circus picks up nicely from where they left off - lots of drone-y synths, fuzzy guitar riffs, and grooves stretched out and worked over. Zugaga is so Kraftwerk - the riff is pure homage. I have enjoyed all of the musical avenues these guys have taken and this one is no different. Head is a nice space-y yet rocking instrumental, and a good indication of what the record is all about. What's also cool about this release is that it's a 2 disc set - the second disc is the band live at the Brixton Academy, with tunes from all of their albums. While musically it fails to tread any new ground, I like both of the CDs a lot. Good for listening to while driving.

Check This Out
Jockohomo has some killer tunes up right now - LCD Soundsystem's "P-Funk Is Playing At My House" is HUGE and then there's Dsico's insane cover of The Power Station's Some Like It Hot. It's all good.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Maximum Bleep

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The god/grandfathers of electronic music Kraftwerk are currently on a small US tour. Is Minneapolis on the tour? No. The nearest they came to me was Chicago last
weekend. Since I work full time and am married with two kids it takes a lot of effort to get to a show like that. Suffice it to say I didn't make it - boo. This week they released a 2CD live set called Minimum - Maximum, recorded on last year's world tour. It's the closest I'm gonna get to seeing 'em - the booklet is filled with cool photos from the shows, and the tunes are ace. Since the very first Kraftwerk record I ever owned was the 7" of Pocket Calculator, backed with Dentaku (same song, lyrics in Japanese) I give you the live in '04 versions. The beats are a bit faster, but it's still the same ace slab of blippy, bloppy bleepy pop brilliance.
Pocket Calculator

Play the two in the order shown as they run into each other - and don't forget to do your best robot dance!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Scottish Play

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Four gentlemen in their 50s take to the stage. These blokes have been playing together since 1976. They are Wire, and they proceed to unleash an unrelenting attack on your eardrums. They are taut and tight and precise with their riffs, and the assault makes me think "geez, I thought you were supposed to mellow with age." Their new LP is a CD/DVD combo called The Scottish Play : 2004. It's a film and it's soundtrack, based on their appearance at the Triptych Festival in Glasgow in April of 2004. They play a lot of newer stuff and a few choice oldies. Surgeon's Girl and 106 Beats That are oldies from their 1977 debut Pink FLag. These tunes are almost 30 years old now and they sound as fresh as ever. My only complaint about the Wire of today is that I wish they'd lighten up the assault a little - those old records had their heavy moments, but there was a clarity to them that the newer stuff lacks for me. Still, it's good to see a bunch of geezers play as hard and as well as they still do.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Ode To L.A.

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Take one part Jesus and Mary Chain, add one part Phil Spector's girl-group-wall-of-sound and sprinkle heavily with the wonderful vocals of afore mentioned Phil's ex-wife Ronnie Spector. Then mix it all up with a couple of retro-rocker Danes, simmer, and voila! It's The Raveonettes' Ode To L.A.. It's like it's 1966 all over again. Ronnie's uh-oh-ohs make me oh-so-happy. From the band's latest LP Pretty In Black, which I'm kind of surprised to admit I like a hell of a lot. In fact, I think I like it better than their last. It isn't breaking any new musical ground, but these two excel at this retro pop stuff.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Funky Friday - 3 Flavors Of Hip Hop

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Common has dropped a great new LP called Be with the help of hip-hop"s man of the hour Kanye West. It's a return to his trad roots after Electric Circus' more experimental vibe - I personally loved that album. Since Kanye's on board you're getting the freshest beats, the chipmunk vocal samples, the smooth soulful stylings, and Common's typically conscious flow. His heroes The Last Poets feature on the hard hitting The Corner, where they're telling the same stories from their different generational viewpoints. I love the beats on this track.

Gorillaz are back with another very entertaining album, Demon Days. Produced with DJ Dangermouse instead of Dan the Automator, it's funky and dark and apocalyptic. It also features a bunch of notable guests on vocals - Dennis Hopper, Shaun Ryder, Roots Manuva and De La Soul, who are on Feel Good Inc.. This is really more of a pop tune with a rap on it - it's got a great riff, and the video is a real beauty (it's on the bonus disc of the 2 disc version).
I love that Damon is able to get out of the Blur thing and do something so different. Another big record.

Also back in action this week are UK live band hip-hop crew The Herbaliser. Their new album Take London on NinjaTune hit shelves this week. It's their typically jazzy, cinematic take on hip hop - lot's of British gangster movie samples and several hard hitting raps from Jean Grae (and Roots Manuva again!) make this one a smash for me. She's on fire on Nah' Mean, Nah'm Sayin' which rides a super tight funk riff and has some awesome horns. Fantastic stuff, and a very good album.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

More Women Who Rock

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The last couple of days worth of posts have all featured women who rock so I'm sticking with that theme today. Axes is the name of the third album from Brighton four piece Electrelane. These girls play largely instrumental indie rock that incorporates art-rock, post-punk, prog and krautrock and even some classical flavor. They are masters of establishing and working a groove, building up and breaking down and then up again. It's music that is beautifully embellished with horns and the occasional choral arrangement, and also features some terrific piano pounding. Atom's Tomb is short and sweet - starts off mellow and gradually builds, adding layers of piano and massed voices. I love the vibe they bring, making music that is somehow very traditional yet also totally inventive and experimental. I don't think it's quite as good as the last album (The Power Out, one of my faves of last year) but it's still a pretty good listen.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Germ Free Adolescents

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The remastered reissue gods are smiling upon us. Last week brought the US release of the expanded edition of the classic Germ Free Adolescents from punk legends X-Ray Spex. Fronted by spazzed out Poly Styrene and featuring the scronky sax of Lora Logic, this band only recorded this one album - a collection of bouncy, perky pop punk. The reissue has 11 bonus tracks - the band's first two singles and seven tracks recorded as Peel sessions. This version of Germ Free Adolescents is one of the Peel session tracks - it's a bit less punchy than the studio recording, and also has a lot more keyboards on it. It's lovely. There is also a two disc version of this available with the second disc being mostly live stuff. A tremendously fun album.