Saturday, 29 November 2008

Great Record # 1

Formed in Esex in 1975 Eddie and the Hotrods were at the fore front of the pre=punk Pub Rock movement along with fellow Essex boys Dr Feelgood and bands like Brinsley Schwartz and Graham Parker and the Rumour. To some at least the are sighted as having a major influence over the sound of British punk and who am I to argue. Indeed at a 1976 gig at the Marquee in London the Sex Pistols supported them.

They made some great r 'n' b tracks in their time (that'd be the good/proper r 'n'b not the shite put out by a myriad of bland soul singers) and wrote some amazing power pop tunes too. Their biggest hit was 'Do Anything You Wanna Do' which was co-written by Ed Hollis (brother of Talk Talk's Mark Hollis) and Graeme Douglas (who was originally a Kursaal Flyer). To me it is their finest moment.

I don't have many claims to fame but I did work with Graeme Douglas's Mum Doris when I was in my teens anmd early twenties.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Taxing Times.

I'm current studying for tax exams, which, as you can imagine is a tad dull. There are some who undoubtedly get excited at the thought of Capital Gains Tax Rollover Relief but I can assure you that I am not one of them.

I have therefore been listening to a lot of music to lighten my drab day pouring over income tax calculations and here are just some of the tunes that have helped me get through the day.

Pocahaunted are from California and are a band I have only recently found out about. Bethany and Amanda produce a lovely floaty psychedelic ambient droney noise. Marvellous music to study to because there are no lyrics that interrupt the concentration. This track is called 'Ashes Is White'

I have also been playing the new album by the marvellous Swedish band Sad Day For Puppets to death. They are another in the long tradition of excellent Scandinavian indie pop bands. They hail from Stockholm and produce a lovely upbeat sound with vocals from Anna Ekhund that remind this listener of Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star fame.

This track is called 'Little Light'.

Both bands have Myspace pages and are well worth checking out.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Live - The Telescopes, Aspen Woods, One Unique Signal - The Millers 12 November 2008

This gig took place in an upstairs room in a pub around the back of Guys Hospital in South London. The venue is tiny but the sound quality in the room was excellent; far better in fact than venues such as The Hammersmith Apollo where a recent Mogwai gig was spoilt because the sound balance was dreadful.

My mate Jim and I booked up for this gig several weeks ago as we are both Telescopes fans of old, I last saw them in about 1992 in Notre Dame Hall just off of Leicester Square headlining a evening that included The Golden Section (fronted by Paul Tunkin of Weekends and Blow Up Records fame) and the wonderful Slowdive. I remember them being very loud and raucous. They have changed personnel a lot since then and I went to this gig more for reasons of nostalgia than anything else as I know that there recent stuff is now minimalist and droney rather than being anything structured. In any case a nightmare with the band timings meant that The Telescopes didn't go on until 10:50 so we ended up seeing about 10 minutes before having to leave.However it was still one of the best nights at a gig all year though because I heard the music of two incredibly good bands for the first time.

First up were Brentford's One Unique Signal. They are just what I like in a band, rhythmic, noisy guitars and repetitive loops. All very shoegazey and marvellous. They remind me of Spacemen Three, Joy Division (vocally at least) and the much missed and might Loop. We were given a free copy of their excellent 2007 album "Tribe Castle and Nation" which seeing as it was only a fiver to get in was extremely generous. They filled the room with a fantastic aural onslaught and I for one can't wait to see them again.

This is a track from their latest EP Dismemberment. It is called Bishops (thanks to Nick from OUS for the link to the download).

One Unique signal were followed by the equally fantastic Aspen Woods. The Woods mix psychedelia, shoegaze and a marvellous brand of Byrds like jangly rock into their sound.They are a band who obviously enjoy playing live and have honed their performance very carefully so it is tight, musical and memorable, as well as containing some damn good wig outs. There is nothing like a good dose of loud guitars with loads of fuzz box, reverb, and flange to satisfy the mind and soul in my book and both Aspen Woods and One Unique Signal provide them by the bucket load.

Aspen Woods also have an excellent album out. Called "New World Disorder" it has featured pretty heavily on my iPod this week and has become one of my favourites of 2008.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

A Bit Of Class.

There have been some truely great singers in popular music. Frank Sinatra could hold a tune like nobody else. Even when he was in his mid-seventies (when I was priviliged enough to see him live) he knew exactly how to sing a song to suit his range. I've always been a fan of Tony Bennett too. He is the singers singer, people like Sinatra often cited Bennett as the master. He certainly has found a whole new legion of fans after appearing at Glastonbury and performing an MTV Unplugged set in 1994.

However much a fan I am of this two gentlemen my favourite 'voice' belongs to Jack Jones. Both Sinatra and Bennett and the great Mel Tormé (a man with perfect pitch) rated US singer Jones very highly and with fans like that he must be something pretty special. He is someone who oozes cool and who found a sudden resurgence when the Easy Listening clubs of the mid-nineties started playing his version of Bacharach and David's 'Wives and Lovers', gorgeous slice of sixties crooning (with very dodgy lyrics about the little lady being there for her man).

This though is my favourite. Girl Talk.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Great Cover Versions # 1

I am a big fan of the cover versions. There is a great art to reinterpreting a classic (or in some cases not so classic) song in an interesting way. Unfortunately today's pop industry is intent on churning out insipid karaoke versions of shite songs. There is no hint of any thought behind these 'covers' as they seem to be little more than a direct copy. However there are artists out there who take a song an really shake it up.

In an occasional series I want to post some of the best and most unusual. To start with is one of my very favourites. In 1988 N.W.A. released their seminal album "Straight Outta Compton". It is arguably one of the first 'Gangsta Rap' records with it's stories of guns, drive-bys and dodgy attitudes to woman. It is a fine album though and its title track is one of the true classics of hip-hop.

Nina Gordon is the lead singer of Veruca Salt an American grunge band whose most well known song is probably "Seether" which came from their debut album "American Thighs" in 1994. Gordon left Veruca Salt in 1998 and later recorded "Straight Outta Compton" in a style so far removed from the original that it completely reinvents the song.
Every person I have ever played this song to has been blown away. I reckon you will be too.

Monday, 3 November 2008

The End Of The World As We Know It

Tomorrow could turn out to be one of the most important days in recent history. If the US votes in Barak Obama as President he will be the first black person to hold office. He looks and acts like a statesman to me and I'm hoping that the polls are correct and that Obama's healthy lead turns into enough electoral college votes to secure victory.

The alternative is John McCain and Sarah Palin who if they win?.....well that great musical satirist Tom Lehrer sums it up very nicely.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Life In Mono.

I have been travelling around on trains a bit of late and it is a perfect time to plug in the headphones, turn up the iPod and get lost in music. My current mood has seen me playing a lot of what is rather awkwardly called 'Post Rock'. What ever it is called it is a style of music that inspires, amazes and just plain makes me smile in wonder.

My first real awareness of the genre (see I'm really trying not to use the phrase), was the day I first saw Mogwai in 1997. They blew my socks clean off and I have been hooked ever since. I've seen the Mogs 9 times now and they still can amaze me. Their recent gig at Hammersmith Apollo was a disappointment because the sound mix was dreadful but even then they exploded into general fabulousness when they played 'Like Herod'.

I went on to discover the music of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, A Silver Mount Zion, Fly Pan Am and Do Make Say Think from Canada, Beware of Safety from Portland Oregon and God Is An Astronaut from Ireland. However there is a band that for me are top of the list. They are quite mesmerically beautiful. They describe their music as more classic than 'pop' and I understand exactly what they mean. Here are the amazing Mono from Japan.