Monday 29 February 2016

Charlotte Sometimes

I've always had a bit of a weakness for a good rock chick - and they don't get much better than Charlotte Hatherley. She first came to our attention when she joined Ash aged just 18 in 1997, playing in front of 50,000 people at the V Festival just a week later! Her time in the band as guitarist and backing vocalist did eventually lead to her writing and singing the odd track. In fact, her first appearance as lead vocalist came on Grey Will Fade, the b-side of There's A Star. So well received was it that it led to Charlotte recording a solo album with the same title.

'Grey Will Fade' is a bloody fantastic pop record, full of skewed rock songs with jagged melodies and razor-sharp riffs. The first track to be released was Kim Wilde, a kind-of tribute to the 80s pop legend. It remains a huge fave of mine (I'll be doing a piece on it in the near future). Other singles Summer and Bastardo are also terrific and for a while I found myself preferring Charlotte's solo stuff to Ash - and given Ash's track record for brilliant singles, that's saying something.

Following the recording of Ash's fourth album 'Meltdown', Charlotte left the band. A year later, her second album 'The Deep Blue' came out. It marked a big change in her sound; a more experimental, progressive approach to the music meant there was little in the way of the pop songs or loud guitars of her work with Ash or her debut solo record. It was certainly a more challenging listen, but there was still room for some cracking tunes in the vein of her first album, especially this one:

Third album 'New Worlds' in 2009 saw a return to the new wave pop sound of 'Grey Will Fade' - my fave Straight Lines sounds like XTC; she'd previously covered This Is Pop! for a b-side - but there was a little more sophistication to this record. White, the lead single, showed how Charlotte was maturing as a songwriter. Mind, its accompanying video - in which she bears a passing resemblance to Chrissie Hynde - had her going backwards, quite literally...

That was her last solo album to date, but she hasn't retired. Charlotte has worked with both Bat For Lashes and KT Tunstall as well as starting the rather good electronic project Sylver Tongue. Last year saw her score the soundtrack for the short film 'The Last Man'. A new solo album has been mentioned, though when we'll see anything from that is guesswork at best for now. Hopefully, we'll get something later in the year.


Saturday 27 February 2016

The Devil's Music

Devil Came a-Calling by Prefab Sprout

I might be about to lose half my audience here, but... I was never a Prefab Sprout fan. There, I said it. The King Of Rock And Roll is one of my most hated songs, a wretched earworm of the worst kind, like Agadoo. Just thinking about it gets the damn thing going round and round in my head. Bugger, there it goes again. That said, it seems Paddy McAloon is far too nice a chap to ever bother ol' Satan. Yet according to this song it actually happened. It appeared on Prefab Sprout's last album, 2013's 'Crimson/Red', though in reality it was really a Paddy solo record.


Friday 26 February 2016

From Inside The Pod Revisited #15

This is the last revisit to my old place. It was nice to go back but you can't live in the past. It's time to move on. 'Deserted' was actually the last podcast I posted back then. I had others planned, but the lack of hits and downloads I was getting got me down and I jacked it in. It may have explained the difficulty I had in finding stuff to write about (as I explain below).

Of course, this means I now have to come up with something original rather than digging up old stuff. Better get to work then. In the meantime, enjoy the final pod. The words, as ever, remain untouched from the original post nearly FOUR YEARS ago!

Pod 30: Deserted
first published April 2012)

I've had this pod ready since before I published the last one. Trouble is, inspiration deserted me when it came to words. Deserted: good word.  My mind has been a lifeless desert while trying to write this piece. No camels, no nomadic tribes, not even an oasis of ideas. My muse turned to sand - thousands of square miles of the stuff and not much else. The Pod 29 cassette thing came to me all of a sudden. I hoped the same thing would happen again. But it didn't.

It's not the first time I've suffered from writer's block, but it's never any less frustrating. What makes it moreso is that I have plenty more podcasts lined up, just very little in the way of text to go with them. There's one featuring acoustic versions, one of some 'lost singles' I recently rediscovered, and I'm now up to five pending re:Coverings! That's not to mention plenty more delightful odds and sods pods like this one. I hope my muse returns soon, but she can be an awkward bugger.

Oh and yes, as I write this, I have become aware of the paradox of writing about not being able to think of anything to write...

1. Akira The Don Steven Wells (He Was The Greatest) [2009, Living In The Future]
If you read the NME during the 80s and early 90s, you will be familiar with the work of Steven Wells, someone who may well have suffered from writer's block in his time, but probably just dealt with it by writing lots of swear words. Love him or hate him, you could not ignore his inimitable, abrasive style which inevitably contained many expletives and the use of his Caps Lock key. His last job was with the Philadelphia Weekly where he wrote of his fight with cancer whilst remaining as hilarious as ever. He sadly lost his battle in June 2009. Akira The Don, often erroneously referred to as a 'Welsh rapper', despite being born in the Midlands and nowadays living in London, paid tribute to 'Swells', one of the best writers of his generation, with this single. It pretty much sums up one of my journalistic heroes to a T.

2. Meinir Gwilym Wyt Ti'n Gem? [2002, Smôcs, Coffi a Fodca Rhad EP]
Released when she was just 19, Meinir Gwilym's debut got the critics wetting themselves. Sadly, very few outside the Welsh-speaking heartlands have ever heard it. These days she's a presenter on S4C, though a new album is in the works. Yay!

3. Dawn Of The Replicants Ten Sea Birds [1998, One Head, Two Arms, Two Legs]
This quirky Scottish lot were actually around longer than I thought. I don't know why I lost touch with them after their early singles and debut album as they were as different a band at the time as any. They split in 2007 after 10 years together.

4. Lush Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep [1990, Alvin Lives (In Leeds): Anti-Poll Tax Tracks]
I loved Lush.  OK, so I was actually in love with Miki Berenyi (who had flame-red hair two decades before it became de rigeur amongst 20-something women trying to look all edgy). I remember a ridiculously sweaty gig in Exeter a week after their Top of The Pops debut, I couldn't take my eyes off her!  This track is a rarity, taken from the same obscure charity album that I lifted Cud's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' from for Pod 17. The original, by Middle Of The Road, was number one the very week TheRobster was born unto this crazy world. And thus my fate was determined...

5. Sleepy John Estes Clean Up At Home [(1938) 1975, Sleepy John Estes 1938-40]
The story of Sleepy John Estes (as are those of many legendary bluesmen) is an intriguing one. I'll leave you to look it up, but nevertheless his influence was lasting. Bob Dylan referred to him in sleevenotes, and his songs have been covered by the likes of Led Zeppelin, the Kinks, Ry Cooder and Eric Clapton. This early recording was made a couple of years before a two-decade hiatus.

6. Senser Crucible [2004, SCHEMAtic]
A phenomenal live band (at least they were when I caught them back in 1994), Senser blend old-school hip hop with dance music and thrash metal. A potent mixture for sure, but throw in a heavy dose of political and social comment for good measure, and you can expect some sort of explosion or another. Admittedly, this track leans a little more towards the thrash side of things, but I'm not apologising for that. Rock it most certainly does!

7. Beth Jeans Houghton I Will Return, I Promise [2009, Hot Toast Vol. 1 EP]
My favourite album of 2012 so far is the debut offering from Beth Jeans Houghton. It's a veritable treat of idiosyncratic pop that blows much of everything else I've heard this year out of the water. It's certainly a little more unconventional than her early stuff, like this pretty little country tune from a couple years back, but even here there's a distinct hint of kookiness straining through.

8. Wire Another The Letter [1978, Chairs Missing]
Seminal. There's a word that accompanies pretty much any reference to Wire's first three albums ('Pink Flag', 'Chairs Missing' and '154'). It is an overused word, but in this instance, it couldn't be more accurate. Defined as "highly original, influential and important... something fresh and unusual", it tells us all we need to know. I find it very difficult to pick a favourite out of the first two Wire records, they're both pretty special. Hmmm... nope. Can't do it, sorry!

9. The Lemonheads Different Drum [1991, Favorite Spanish Dishes EP]
There have been many versions of Mike Nesmith's 'Different Drum', and I have yet to hear a bad one. I suppose it's hard to screw up such a great song (though I haven't heard Pete Burns' attempt, I have to admit). The most famous is the 1967 smash hit by the Stone Poneys, fronted by a young Linda Ronstadt. The Lemonheads, being no strangers to covers, make a decent job of it. But as I said, it's hard to screw it up - it is such a great song.

10. Gallon Drunk Loving Alone [1993, From The Heart Of Town]
I love the dark, swampy nature of Gallon Drunk's music. It's hard to believe they're British and not American. This particular song sounds not unlike something Nick Cave might have come up with at some point. Funny then that frontman James Johnston later became a member of Cave's Bad Seeds.

Get it here.

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Welsh Wednesday #75

#75: Nythod Cacwn by Band Pres Llareggub

Right - genre-bending time. Brass bands are synonymous with Wales. The sound of a plaintiff Welsh ballad being performed by a famous colliery band is spine tingling. But one thing you won't hear them doing very often is hip-hop and Super Furry Animals covers! Band Pres Llareggub (trans: Llareggub Brass Band) break the mould, for that is exactly what they do.

This remarkable 8-piece have been causing a stir on the Welsh festival circuit and last year released their debut EP which featured Welsh rappers Mr Phormula and Gwyllt. They also featured on BPL's debut album, released in October, along with Lisa Jên and Mirain Haf of 9Bach, Côr Y Penrhyn male voice choir and septugenarian actor John Ogwen. If the album title 'Mwng' sounds familiar, it's because it is a cover of Super Furry Animals album of the same name. The whole thing. Track for track.

The results are intriguing and off-the-wall in places, but well worth investigating whether you're a SFA fan or not. I had real trouble deciding which track to post today, but finally settled on Nythod Cacwn which features the talents of Gwyllt.

Oh incidentally, for those who don't know, Llareggub is the name of the fictional town in Dylan Thomas' classic play 'Under Milk Wood'. It's 'bugger all' backwards!

Here's a brilliant live take:

Monday 22 February 2016

It Came From Japan #8: Melt-Banana

Having formed in 1991, Melt-Banana have become one of Japan's best musical exports. Their blend of grindcore, punk, industrial rock and pop is somewhat unique and continually entertaining. The duo (Yasuko Onuki and Ichirou Agata) have released a dozen-or-so albums and numerous EPs and singles. Drummers come and go - often drafted in on a temporary basis only - but still Melt-Banana continue to make one heck of a racket.

Naturally, John Peel loved them and they recorded a couple of sessions for him. They were right up his street of course, which means they will certainly not be to everyone's taste. You have to 'get' this sort of thing to enjoy it. I do.

Knowing where to start in Melt-Banana's discography is difficult. What I've decided to do is give you a song from their most recent record, 2013's 'Fetch', and a track dating from 1998, their searing version of the Damned's Neat Neat Neat. They're not afraid of a good cover, this lot. Over the years they've taken on songs by an impressive range of artists: Nina Simone, The Birthday Party, Toots & The Maytals, Kraftwerk, Queen, The Beach Boys, Tom Tom Club... styles, genres - pah! Means nothing to Melt-Banana, everything's fair game.

While the band's more recent output has arguably been more accessible than their previous work, it's still not what you'd call 'radio-friendly'. A splendid noise indeed.


And here's a live clip I love - particularly the guitar noises! Bloody awesome stuff, if you ask me.

Saturday 20 February 2016

The Devil's Music

Little Demon by Screamin' Jay Hawkins

I'm proud to share my birthday with Screamin' Jay Hawkins (18th July, in case you're wondering). He epitomises the wildness I wish I had in me and the strangeness that I do! It's anyone's guess what he's singing about here, but a "pretty little demon... with fire in his eyes" has something to do with it. This song was released on a single in 1956 alongside Hawkins' legendary I Put A Spell On You.


Friday 19 February 2016

50 songs to take to my grave #43: Endless Art

My first memory of this song was while listening to Janice Long in the bath. I was in the bath, Janice Long was on the radio. You knew that though, right? Anyway, I heard this peculiar song which hooked me for all of its three minutes. It consisted essentially of an Irishman reciting a list of musicians, writers, artists and poets along with their birth and death dates. There was a cello in it and a bit of Beethoven too. I stopped playing with my boats and listened intently. I held on to catch the name of the band and song... and missed it! There was no Internet in those days to look these things up, and that was it. Gone.

Then, a couple years later, I heard it again! I can't remember where or when, but this time I manage to hear who it was by. I found the 12" in one of my local indie stores and I was well happy. The first time I heard Endless Art, it was the lead track on A House's 1990 'Bingo' EP. This time it was a single in its own right, having been lifted from the band's third album 'I Am The Greatest'. It's still a great song now, 25 years on. In fact the album is superb too, one that MrsRobster and I enjoyed during our early years together.

Now, of course, some people like to moan and find a problem in everything. Some people couldn't just take Endless Art as a fine pop song, they had to label it as sexist because it only contained the names of male artists. This was somewhat rectified when the b-side of the single featured an alternative version which named exclusively female artists.

In 2006, A House vocalist Dave Couse recorded a new version with the band's former guitarist Fergal Bunbury. This time the list included artists who had passed away since the original was released. I suppose it's one that could run and run. I mean, here's my go at a 'since 2006' version...

   Dennis Hopper 1936-2010
   Lou Reed 1942-2013
   Arthur C. Clarke 1917-2008
   Etta James '38-2012
   Rik Mayall, Bo Diddley, Michael Jackson R.I.P.
   Captain Beefheart '41-2010
   Pete Postlethwaite 1946-2011
   Ian 'Lemmy' Kilminster '45-'15
   Whitney Houston 1963-2012
   Alan Rickman, Leonard Nimoy
   David Bowie 1947-2016

What do you think???

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Welsh Wednesday #74

#74: Judge Yr'self by Manic Street Preachers

I can't believe the Manics haven't actually featured in this series before now. OK, so they have appeared numerous times on the blog but it seems wrong - hell, not just wrong, inconceivable - that they don't have at least one Welsh Wednesday post.

The track I've gone for is not one of their better-known ones, but it is a bit of a gem. Following 'The Holy Bible', the band planned to submit a track to the soundtrack for the movie Judge Dredd, mainly because Richey was a fan of the comic book character. It was recorded, but before it was finished, Richey disappeared. In no mood to continue with the song, Judge Yr'self was shelved. The next thing we heard from the Manics was 1996's mega-anthem A Design For Life.

Fast-forward to 2003. Judge Yr'self was dusted off, given a proper mix and even had a video made. It appeared on the b-sides album 'Lipstick Traces' and fans finally had the chance to hear what was possibly the last track to feature Richey. It certainly has more of a 'Holy Bible' feel to it than an 'Everything Must Go' one, and too good to have been left on the shelf.

Monday 15 February 2016

Memories of 2016 gigs #1 & #2

I'm not sure we're going to get to quite as many live shows as last year - 2015 was a particularly good year. But even though we've waited six weeks for our first shows of 2016, it's been worth it with two absolutely ear-blistering shows to kick us off...

#1: Bob Mould
The Globe, Cardiff - 10 February 2016
Support: Estrons

Bob Mould? At The Globe? What a prospect. If someone had come up to me and offered me a large bag of cash in exchange for my ticket, I'd have probably turned them down. Bob Mould, for chrissakes -  unmissable. My excitement reached new heights a few days before the show when I saw that Estrons were supporting. You'll remember them - they were the subject of a particularly popular Welsh Wednesday post a couple weeks back. Sadly, we arrived a little late and only caught their last two songs, but I can honestly say this band have it in them to be the next Wolf Alice. Taliesyn is a brilliant and striking frontwoman and the band as a whole sound amazing. Look out for them.

It's not often you get a bonafide LEGEND on your doorstep. When you do, you really hope they don't disappoint. Bob Mould nowadays looks like a kindly granddad, but he still rocks harder than most bands whose members are less than half his age. From the opening blast of the Sugar classics A Good Idea and Changes, this was fast, furious, ferocious stuff. Staying true to the power-trio line-up that has served him well throughout his career, Bob and his band seemed to be on a mission to cram as much into 75 minutes as they possibly could. Rarely pausing between songs, it was relentless. You can imagine the conversation during rehearsals:

Bob: "I wanna play all these songs."
Band: "But Bob, if we're going to play all those, we are going to have to play like bastards."
Bob: "Then play like bastards we shall!"

The set was rooted firmly in crowd-pleasing territory. With six Sugar songs (four of them from 'Copper Blue') and another five Hüsker Dü numbers, the long-terms fans were kept well happy. Perhaps strangely though, the solo stuff all came from his most recent three albums, including a selection from his as-yet unreleased new one. Mind you, I'm not complaining. I'm of the opinion that his recent solo career is as good as anything he's done.

Main highlights for me were Hey Mr Grey, Hoover Dam, If I Can't Change Your Mind (with a new vocal melody) and Hate Baby Doll. He even squeezed in a cover of Generation X's Your Generation which was every bit as brilliant as you think it was. Damn, I could write 10,000 words about this show with consummate ease, but I'd better reign myself in. I think you've got the message: this legend did not disappoint, even if he didn't play New Day Rising. I can forgive that. The rest of 2016 has a lot to live up to.

MrsRobster's verdict: The poor girl's been suffering with a bad back for more than a week. When I asked what she thought after the show, her reply made me think she was high on some extra-strong pain killers or something. "Like a curry that's really hot," she offered, cryptically. "Eh?" I understandably answered."Well, a curry that's too hot, you can't really taste it. A gig that's too loud, you can't hear it. I couldn't enjoy it."
A nice analogy, but sadly, this was one of those very rare occasions when MrsRobster was wrong. Bob and loud go together like poppadoms and mango chutney. You can't have one without the other. It sounded great to me!


#2: Snuff
The Globe, Cardiff - 12 February 2016
Support: Bad Cop Bad Cop, Spoilers

If Bob Mould was loud, the volume greeting us as we arrived at the Globe two nights later was deafening. Spoilers, from Canterbury, had found 12 on the volume knob and were blaring their fast, heavy punk at a ridiculous level. My ears actually were buzzing. MrsRobster came prepared - she had her earplugs and it proved to be a wise move. Fortunately, by the time the next band came on, it had been turned down to something far more bearable. A shame the band quickly became rather tiresome. Bad Cop Bad Cop are four women from LA who kind of look how you'd expect an all-girl punk band from LA to look. They sound like the Go-Go's would sound if they had more distortion pedals but left all their good songs at home. I'm not sure any decent punk bands have ever come out of LA. Let's face it - it doesn't have much to rebel against.

This Snuff tour is a triple celebration: the 30th anniversary of the band's existence; the 20th anniversary of the band's comeback record 'Demmamussabebonk'; and the release of a new 7-track EP 'No Biting'. Every Snuff gig feels like a celebration of sorts though, it's just a lot of fun all the way. The set did contain quite few songs from 'Demmamussabebonk' and the new record, but it did span the band's entire career with more than a few old faves thrown in: Somehow, I Know What You Want, Martin, Soul Limbo (aka the theme from the cricket), etc.

The audience played a big part in the show too. There was a box of song titles and fans were chosen at random to draw one for the band to play. A completely unrehearsed version of I Think We're Alone Now - a song they hadn't played for years - was aired because the bloke who requested it from the audience looked "really scary". Even one of the new songs prompted a mass singlalong, but then everyone knows the theme to Black Beauty, right? The main set ended with Arsehole, at which point the entire place went nuts, pretty much everyone singing "What an arsehole / What a fucking wanker" as one.

The final song of the night was another uproarious singsong, Snuff's famous version of the theme to Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads. No one could have left this show without a smile on their face.

MrsRobster's verdict: "Better than Bob Mould." Is that because she wore earplugs this time? "Probably." I did catch her smiling a few times, so I'm sure she enjoyed it!


Here's the video for Galloping Home (Theme From Black Beauty) from the new EP:

Saturday 13 February 2016

The Devil's Music

Devil Song by Beth Orton

Here's one that'll have the hairs on your neck standing up. We all know Beth Orton makes some pretty wonderful music, but her third album, 1999's 'Central Reservation', was always something pretty special. One of its highlights is Devil Song, a track that for me is more about facing up to personal demons than to old Lucifer himself. Perhaps by way of some kind of atonement, Beth's next album 'Daybreaker' would include God Song.


Friday 12 February 2016

50 songs to take to my grave #42: Understanding Jane

I know very little about the Icicle Works. I think I once had Birds Fly (Whisper To A Scream) on some 80s chart compilation and that was about it, until my mate Steve who I worked with in Our Price recommended Understanding Jane. There was a Best Of coming out and a newly remixed version of Understanding Jane was released as a single. Steve was usually right about such things, but in this case he was even more right than usual.

It is a great song. You know I'm a sucker for a good chorus, and this has one, but the whole damn thing is one almighty earworm that twists and turns in your brain and takes up permanent residence. The band had a troubled history, mainly because of singer Ian McNabb's control freakery, but you'd never guess it from listening to Understanding Jane.

The purists will hate me for this, but I always preferred the remixed 1992 version to the original. It just sounds fuller and bolder. That's the version I'm taking with me, anyway.

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Welsh Wednesday #73

#73: Cymru, Lloegr a Llanrwst by Y Cyrff

Y Cyrff (trans. The Bodies) will long have a place in the hearts of North Walians. They were never particularly well-known outside their own nation, but they left a rather indelible mark. Forming in 1983 at school in Llanrwst, Conwy, they were initially supported by their geography teacher. In their decade together, the band released one album and a number of singles and EPs.

Y Cyrff played a fondly-remembered show at the 1986 Eisteddfod, leading to Wales' biggest record label Sain signing them. Welsh TV and media began to take notice, and it wasn't long before London came calling and the band played slots on Whistle Test and The Tube.

Perhaps their peak moment came in 1989 with the release of the 'Yr Atgyfodi' EP which opened with a song that has become an anthem among the Welsh-speaking heartlands, particularly their hometown. Cymru, Lloegr a Llanrwst (trans. Wales, England and Llanrwst), is named after their hometown's motto. It alludes to a time in the 14th century when Llanrwst declared itself an independent state with its own flag. In 1947 the town council claimed to have sought its own seat on the UN Security Council, this assumed independence still very much in place after 600 years!

Y Cyrff split in 1993. Two members of the band - vocalist Mark Roberts and bassist Paul Jones - went on to form another much-loved band who also had a bit of a Welsh anthem themselves. I posted that one back here.

Monday 8 February 2016

Vintage Vinyl #15

This piece briefly appeared for an hour or so last month on the day David Bowie died. I replaced it and held it over so it wasn't in danger of being overlooked.

Echo & the Bunnymen - Seven Seas  limited 7" double-pack
Bought from: Retro-Vibe, Cardiff
Price paid: £5

Ouch! A fiver? Well, it is a limited edition and it is a double. This is the only thing I've bought to date from Retro-Vibe which is located in Cardiff High Street just a stone's throw from the castle. It's not a bad little shop, but for some reason it doesn't excite me like some of the other places I've visited (The Record Shop, D'Vinyl, etc).

You probably know the main track on this single. If not, who are you? Sort yourself out! Seven Seas is unfairly placed in the middle of the Bunnymen's third album 'Ocean Rain' immediately following The Killing Moon. It's a really good track but can't compete with its predecessor. On its own though it hold up pretty well.

The main interest in this set lies in the b-sides. Both this 7" pack and the 12" carried four acoustic tracks recorded for Channel 4's 'Play At Home' series. Subtitled "Life At Brian's - Lean And Hungry", it featured the band playing in Brian's Diner in their Liverpool hometown along with a few locals. There are some interesting takes on Bunnymen originals - the aforementioned Killing Moon, Stars Are Stars and Villiers Terrace (in which famous Liverpool FC managers get namedropped alongside Haile Selassie!) - plus a fun run through All You Need Is Love, which also references Bob Dylan's Rainy Day Women, another Beatles track She Loves You and the Bunnymen's own Read It In Books.

These tracks appeared on the reissue of 'Ocean Rain' along with a version of Silver from the same sessions.


Out of interest, the 'Play At Home' series also included New Order, Siouxsie &The Banshees and XTC among others. A few of them are scattered across You Tube if you can be bothered to look for them. Here's the first half of the Echo & The Bunnymen one featuring some of these songs. Look out for Gladys - she's awesome!

Saturday 6 February 2016

The Devil's Music

Lucifer Over Lancashire by The Fall

I don't know about you, but I think Mark E. Smith would probably scare Satan. The guy doesn't suffer fools gladly, does he? If the big guy downstairs doesn't meet with our Mark's expectations I can imagine some words being said. In a barely comprehesible Mancunian drawl, of course. Lucifer Over Lancashire was the b-side to Mr. Pharmacist in 1986. A fine single indeed, both sides of it.


Friday 5 February 2016

50 songs to take to my grave #41: That Great Love Sound

I've followed the Raveonettes ever since their first single in 2002. They've made some absolutely cracking records, even if there have been one or two rather average things too. One of their shining glories, however, was their third single, the lead track from their first full-length album 'Chain Gang Of Love'. That Great Love Sound is a blast from start to finish; that fuzzy bass, that reverbed twangy guitar, those trademark dual vocals - and that chorus.

The Raveonettes have made a career out of making retro sound so up-to-date it almost defies time itself. This is arguably their finest moment, though they have run it pretty close a few times. In fact, That Great Love Sound only very narrowly beat the glorious Ode To LA (featuring the legendary Ronnie Spector) to a place on this list, and 2014's album 'Pe'ahi' is a career highlight. One of my fave bands, for sure.

Wednesday 3 February 2016

Welsh Wednesday #72

#72: Anthem Y Weriniaeth Newydd by Gwenno

I note that Gwenno's wonderful (and award-winning) debut album 'Y Dydd Olaf' made a few people's best of 2015 lists. The only reason it was never even a contender for mine was because it originally came out in 2014. It did, however, win the 2015 Welsh Music Prize, Best Welsh Album at the 2015 National Eisteddfod, and was given the Deluxe Edition reissue treatment by her new label (the semi-legendary Heavenly). Add to that all the critical acclaim, radio airplay and numerous remixers clamouring to get their paws on its contents, AND having her face painted on the side of the famous Cardiff music venue Clwb Ifor Bach (see above), and I suppose you could claim 2015 is when it all happened for Gwenno.

So why is she not world-bleedin'-famous while the terminally irritating "I've only got one song"-Adele continues to sell millions of turgid MOR ballads and gets her mug splashed over every single mainstream news article that so-much as mentions the word 'music'? Isn't life just so unfair?

I featured a track from the album back last May, so today I'm giving you one of the new songs that appeared on the bonus disc of last year's reissue. Anthem Y Weriniaeth Newydd (trans. Anthem For A New Republic) really reminds me of Stereolab. It's largely instrumental with some lovely incidental vocals from Ms. Saunders, rather retro-sounding save for the very current electronics. I know Brian and CC were turned on to Gwenno the last time she featured here, and Swiss Adam is a fan as well. Maybe this one will convince the rest of you.

And if you're taken by the Gwenno mural, here's the story behind it:

Monday 1 February 2016

This Monday Reggae Feeling

Gospel Train by African Head Charge

Spiritual psychedelic dub. Now there's a sub-genre I've never featured before, and to be honest, perhaps I'm stretching things a bit by including this in a reggae series. But hey, everyone's welcome here as long as the vibes are good. Gotta say, the vibes on African Head Charge's fifth studio album 'Songs Of Praise' from 1990 are most excellent. I hazily recall hearing this record first in my days working at Our Price. I thought it was the weirdest thing I'd ever heard. It's certainly not your average reggae record, but Adrian Sherwood's masterful production holds it together.

The band revolves primarily around percussionist Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah along with pretty much whoever he hooks up with. Two of his most famous members include Skip McDonald (aka Little Axe) and the legend that is Jah Wobble. Most of AHC's records to date have been released on Sherwood's On-U Sound label, though band and label went their separate ways in 1994. Following Bonjo's dalliances with his own label and a repatiration to Ghana, he returned to London in 2005 to once again work with Sherwood. Two new albums have since emerged, both through On-U Sound.

'Songs Of Praise' is the only African Head Charge record I have and it has long been hailed as an underground classic, a peak the band has struggled to scale ever since.