Saturday 30 April 2016

The Devil's Music

The Devil's Chasing Me by The Reverend Horton Heat

I love the Reverend. He really fucking kicks ass, seriously. If the Devil really was chasing him, my money would be on Reverend Jim leaving ol' Lucifer for dust. It'd be a hell of a chase, all the same. Definitely going to give you some more of his tunes in the future, but for now here's The Devil's Chasing Me from his second album released in 1994.


Now I don't normally do such things for this series, but I couldn't not post this performance of Jim and the boys playing this song a couple years back. Exceptional!

Friday 29 April 2016

50 songs to take to my grave #46: Kim Wilde

Remember waaay back (29th August, 2014 in fact) when I posted this? 'Twas one of my most popular posts. Seems I'm far from the only one who thought Ms Wilde's debut was a shining moment. Charlotte Hatherley clearly thinks the same. In 2004, while still a member of Ash, she announced a solo record. The first taste of it came in the form of a free download of a song named after the 80s pop princess.

Kim Wilde didn't sound like Ash. It was poppy as hell, only poppy in a skewed XTC/Wire kind of way. It's skitty and jagged and about the most fun you could squeeze into a four minute pop song. MrsRobster thinks it sounds like Charlotte's trying to play several songs at once, the way it judders from one key to another at unexpected junctures. It was all so wonderfully erratic. In Ash, Charlotte was just the guitar player. On her own she dazzled and bewildered. She was so obviously meant to go out on her own.

Despite the quirkiness of the song, it's unashamedly pop through and through. Those backing vocals really give the game away: "Oooooooo ba-ba-ba-oooooooo..." as does the fact that it gets into my head and swims round and round and round. I loved it from the first moment I heard it, and I still love it now. Curiously though, it's one of those rare times the edited single version beats the album version. While only 22 seconds shorter, it just seems right. The 'full' version extends the closing sequence and it sounds quite odd - not the good odd as in the rest of the song, but odd as in contrived. So it's the slightly shorter mix I'm taking with me.

And the title? Well, while there's no mention of Kim at all in the lyrics, two of her early songs are referenced. 

As a bit of a bonus for you, and as a means of linking my Kim and Charlotte posts together, here's an updated version of Kim's best known song featuring Charlotte.

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Welsh Wednesday #84

Sewn Up by Cian Ciarán

Since the Super Furry Animals hiatus, keyboard player/electronics wizard Cian Ciarán has kept himself busy. He regularly shows up as a DJ at various events and gigs, he formed the brilliant Zefur Wolves with his girlfriend (I featured them in a much overlooked Welsh Wednesday post back here), and he's released two solo records.

The first of these solo offerings, 2012's 'Outside In', was very much a laid-back, woozy summer record, though Cian imbued it throughout with various socio-political messages. The opening lyric, for instance, is "Whatever happened to all the people who give a fuck?" The following year, he cranked it up a gear. 'They Are Nothing Without Us' was altogether angrier and more confrontational. The guitars are very much to the fore and Cian's lyrics are more vicious. In Sewn Up, Cian rails against the cost of capitalism:

  "You morally corrupt fucking murderers
  And you think you've got it / All sewn up in your little back pocket
  But I won't help you fatten your wallet / And I hope that you choke on your profit."

Both albums are really, really good listens and confirms that Super Furry Animals is a band stuffed to the brim with brilliant musicians and songwriters. Gruff Rhys may be the more famous of the bunch, but Cian may just edge things for me on the strength of his non-SFA output.

Here's the super-psychedelic video that has bugger all to do with the song...

Monday 25 April 2016

It Came From Japan #10: Tricot

So we've had shoegaze, punk-pop, doom metal and experimental noise throughout this series. How about some math-rock to wrap things up? I know, stupid labels and categorisations - especially 'Math-rock'. Like wtf is that? This, maybe...

Great video, isn't it? Tricot have been going for about 6 years now and have put out a number of EPs and two albums (entitled 'T H E' and 'A N D'...). They were a four-piece until their drummer quit citing the tried and tested "musical differences" as the reason for her departure. She's never been replaced, which is probably why all three remaining members have a go playing drums in the video for E above. In fact, their second album featured five different drummers.

They're touring again now to promote new EP 'Kabuku' from which the single Pork Ginger is taken:

Regrettably I missed their show in Cardiff recently as I only found out about it a few days before and already had stuff planned. They're apparently awesome live, which doesn't make me feel any better having missed them! Such is their live appeal that they are getting quite a lot of good press outside their native Japan, especially in the UK and US which makes a change for a non-English language act. We could be hearing quite a bit more from Tricot in the not too distant future. I hope so, anyway.


So that's it from the Land Of The Rising Sun for the time being. I've really enjoyed this series. Wonder where I'll take you next...?

Saturday 23 April 2016

The Devil's Music

I never was a huge Prince fan, but for a period I thought he was pretty awesome, and some of his songs are truly phenomenal. My cousin John had a couple of his early albums and I remember loving 'Purple Rain'. I also remember, when I was about 17, really fancying a girl who used to catch the same bus to work every morning. One day I plucked up the courage to talk to her and found out she was a massive Prince fan. I wished I was more into him so I could hold a more authoritative conversation with her about the great man, but alas I floundered. I never did muster the courage to ask her out. Maybe my lack of knowledge of Prince didn't do me any favours anyway, so rejection was probably inevitable.

I hadn't planned to post this today, something else was lined up, but with 2016 being such a fucking heartless bitch, draining the world of immense talent while also keeping every member of fucking Duran Duran alive, I felt I should pay tribute to one of the most unique rock stars the planet has ever seen. Prince never touched my soul like Bowie did, but there's a big argument to say he was nearly as influential. Wherever it is that pop stars go when they burn out, it's glowing a shade of purple this week.

Dance With The Devil was written for the Batman soundtrack in 1989 but didn't make the cut. It takes its title from the Joker's famous phrase "Did you ever dance with the Devil in the pale moonlight?" and remains officially unreleased. However, it leaked in 2011 on the gargantuan 34-disc (yes, thirty-friggin'-four CDs!) bootleg 'Work It!' There are, apparently, countless unreleased albums, films and videos in Prince's personal archive. I have no doubt some will see the light of day at some point in the no-so-distant-future.


Friday 22 April 2016

50 songs to take to my grave #45: There She Goes, My Beautiful World

Throughout this series, and its companion 50 Albums, you may have been thinking to yourselves: "Where's the Nick Cave?" Actually, you probably haven't. But just in case you were, it's a fair question. The reason it's taken so long is because I found it so difficult to choose which song and which album. In the end, I managed to get the songs down to just two. But my rule of one song per artist meant I had to choose:

There She Goes, My Beautiful World or The Ship Song?

Most people, I'm sure, would have opted for the latter. But as I've said many-a-time before - I am not most people. Of course The Ship Song would rightly feature in any worthy 'Best Songs Ever' poll, but I've taken the surprising step of going for a song that came some 14 years later. When Nick and crew released the ambitious double-pack 'Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus' in 2004, us fans were rather shocked at what we got. The boys had gone gospel. Or should that be gothpel? Anyway, it wasn't a bad thing. On the contrary, it was a quite brilliant set of songs. The big standout for me was this song about writer's block, where Nick's literary knowledge and trademark sense of humour combined to create possibly his most uplifting moment to date. Nick laments the loss of his muse while reflecting on how the great writers got their inspiration:

  Karl Marx squeezed his carbuncles while writing Das Kapital
  And Gaugin, he buggered off, man, and went all tropical
  I look at you and you look at me and deep in our hearts babe, we know it
  That you weren't much of a muse, but then I weren't much of a poet

As I get older, it gets harder and harder to put a smile on my face. This song does it to me every time though. I never thought the Bad Seeds would include a gospel choir, but jeez it works in so many unexpected ways.

Now, I recently replied to a comment left by JC in which I noted there wasn't nearly enough Nick Cave on this blog. I vowed to put that right, starting here. Expect plenty more over the coming months as he really is worth a series of his own. In the meantime, enjoy the sounds of Nick's beautiful world...

And here's a quite sensational live clip filmed by Channel 4. A typically energetic performance of the great man, his ever-incredible Bad Seeds and a top quality quartet of backing singers doing the gospel bit. At one point towards the end, Nick even lets the backing singers take over. He was probably exhausted from all that running about on stage and was taking a breather, but still. If this isn't the best thing you see and hear this week, I'll eat Warren Ellis' mando-guitar-thing...

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Welsh Wednesday #83

#83: Racing Birds by Big Leaves

How many bands start when the members are just 11 and 12 years old and manage to last 15 years? Believe it or not, that's the Big Leaves story. Originally formed in the North Wales village of Waunfawr in 1988 as Biganifs, they put out some self-made cassettes and two 7" singles. When a Dutch concert promoter misheard the band's name and billed them as Big Leaves, the band decided to adopt the moniker on a permanent basis.

Most of their recordings are performed in Welsh, but there are some English tunes which helped raise their profile. Racing Birds from 1999 is one such example. Then-Radio One DJ Mark Radcliffe liked it so much, he played it twice in a row on his show!

After half a dozen EPs and two albums, Big Leaves split. Brothers Meilir and Osian Gwynedd went on to form the rather excellent Sibrydion, who I've just realised have not featured on Welsh Wednesday at all! Unforgivable. I shall correct that.

Monday 18 April 2016

Just because....

In a few weeks, Marissa Nadler releases 'Strangers', her seventh album. She's made some wonderful music, and from what I've heard of the new one so far that trend is going to continue. Her last album, 2014's 'July' included Firecrackers, a spine-tingling few minutes that just captivates me every time I hear it. It's about as lovely as music can get. JUST BECAUSE of that, I'm insisting you listen to it. And JUST BECAUSE I'm so fucking good to you, I'm including the video too.


Saturday 16 April 2016

The Devil's Music

Satan's New Wave Soul Losers by Love Tractor

Love Tractor were one of the so-called founders of the Athens, GA. music scene. The scene would include the B-52's, Pylon and R.E.M. among its most prominent names. Love Tractor never really got beyond the college radio circuit, but they did do a much-heralded cover of Kraftwerk's Neon Lights. Today's track has the best title of all those in the series so far. What exactly is a 'new wave soul loser', and who would be a good example of one?


Friday 15 April 2016

50 songs to take to my grave #44: Sweetness And Light

Here's a record that takes me right back to a difficult time in my life, yet makes me feel so happy and warm. And let's face it, who couldn't feel like that when listening to this track? This was only Lush's third release and their first 'proper' single (following the 'Scar' and 'Mad Love' EPs), yet I was already madly in love with Miki Berenyi and turned to Lush whenever I needed a bit of a lift.

At more than 5 minutes in length, Sweetness And Light was Lush's longest song by far at that point, but it could have been even twice as long as that and I'd never want it to end. Some of that is down to its masterful production by Tim Friese-Green - better known for his work with Talk Talk. Everything just sounds so perfect. Miki and Emma's voices are set just far enough back in the mix to give that dreamy, ethereal feel without struggling to be heard. While the guitars are prominent, they are subtle as well, layered and textured with just enough effects to glisten and sparkle, but not too many as to distract from those gorgeous wraithlike vocals.

Sweetness And Light shows Emma Anderson is a quality songwriter. I really don't think she was given nearly enough credit for her role in the Lush story. It was, apparently, her new songs that convinced bassist Steve Rippon their current reformation was worthwhile. Sweetness And Light is going to be one of the highlights of the upcoming shows I'm sure. I envy every single person who's going to be there.

I always preferred Lush over their peers - Ride, Curve, MBV, Pale Saints, etc. They just had that something extra about them. Miki probably... I did struggle a little to decide what I was going to include in the series, but Sweetness And Light was always going to nick it. It has held up so well over 26 years, and I still find myself turning to it in my low moments.

It was called 'shoegaze' at the time; nowadays it's tagged as 'dreampop'. I don't give a crap what people call it, to me Lush just represent beauty, joy, sweetness and light.


Here's the video featuring a rather unsatisfying edit of the song. But look, it's Miki... ahhh...

Wednesday 13 April 2016

Welsh Wednesday #82

#82: Original Murder by Dub War

Newport produced some wonderfully loud bands during the 90s. One of the loudest was Dub War, a ragga-rock band fronted by the inimitable Benji Webbe. Long before I moved here, I knew who they were thanks to my mate Higgz who had their debut mini-album 'Dub Warning'. I was immediately taken by the track Original Murder, still my favourite track of theirs and one of their scariest.

Original Murder (re-titled Mental) was later re-done in 1995 for Dub War's debut full-length 'Pain', which was followed by their second and final album 'Wrong Side Of Beautiful' in 1996. Sadly, a dispute with their record label Earache led to Dub War splitting.

Benji joined metal supergroup Mass Mental alongside members of Suicidal Tendencies, Bad Religion and Ugly Kid Joe before returning to Newport to form ragga-metal band Skindred. Dub War reformed for a one-off show in Newport at Christmas 2014 (which I bloomin'-well missed!), but last year also played the Download Festival, and the brilliantly-named Velvet Coalmine Festival in the valley town of Blackwood, which also featured Gwenno, Slaves and the Meat Puppets.

Currently, all three of Benji's bands remain active, and he also put out a solo reggae album in 2015 entitled 'I Haven't Been Nicking In Ages'. More recently, Benji was in the news after he was attacked with a knife by two drunken women in Newport, leaving him needing 24 stitches![1]

Which kind of brings us back to Original Murder with its chilling cries of "BLOODTHIRSTY!"

Here's a piece on a TV show back in the day (not sure which show) about the Newport music scene. It not only features Dub War, but also the late, great John Sicolo, owner of the legendary (and much missed) music venue TJ's.

[1] Follow-up story - they got them! 

Monday 11 April 2016

Vintage Vinyl 17

Tom Robinson - War Baby 7"
Bought from: Slipped Discs, Carmarthen
Price paid: £2

During the half-term break in February, MrsRobster, TheDoopster and I headed west to visit TheMadster. She's in her first year of uni in Carmarthen and loving every minute of it. She's studying Personal Training (Health & Fitness), working part-time in a well-known sporting goods chain store, helping her course tutor coach some of his athletes at the local club and taking an additional course in gym instruction. She's also drinking lots of alcoholic beverages, because let's face it, it's great being super fit and athletic, but everything in moderation, eh!

None of this has anything to do with today's record, other than the fact that while we were visiting, we strolled around Carmarthen and, in the middle of its indoor market, I found Slipped Discs, a small space crammed with records and CDs. As is my wont, I spent half an hour sifting through the 7" singles while the family deserted me and went for coffee and cake across the road.

One of the things I picked up was a track I hadn't heard in many, many years, but have vague recollections of liking round the time of its release. War Baby appeared on one of those old compilation LPs I mentioned on the Associates post last time around. By 1983, Tom Robinson was a few singles into a solo career following the breakup of the Tom Robinson Band five years earlier. This was his first hit as a solo artist, reaching the dizzy heights of #6 in the UK.

War Baby has two of the worst things about 80s music - an over-enthusiastic sax, and the now cringeworthy sound of that electric piano underpinning everything. Yet, aside from that, War Baby is a really good song. Robinson wrote it during a turbulent time in his life, having 'done a Bowie' and moved to Germany to escape a personal crisis. He lived for a while in Hamburg before moving on to East Berlin. The song is about the divisions between East and West Germany, loved ones on two different sides, two different nations, yet one country, one nationality. The Cold War was at its height with Maggie and Ronnie stoking it as much as it pleased them. The wall wouldn't come down for another six years.

Musically War Baby is very much of its time and I would really like to hear a modern take on it (without that bloody sax) as lyrically it is still sadly pertinent. We may have a united Germany, but plenty of divisions and separations remain around the world.

  "I don't think I could stand another ten years of this fighting / All this stabbing and wounding, only getting my own back
  Corresponding disasters every night on the TV / Sickening reality keeps gripping me in its guts
 All my friends talk and joke and laugh about Armageddon / But like a nightmare it's still waiting there at the end of every day."

Even in the superficial, selfish decade that was the 80s, there was clearly still plenty of room for some politics in the charts. Whatever happened to those days, huh?

Oh, and here's an interesting fact to leave you with: Tom Robinson is the only person to have presented shows on BBC Radio 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Live, 6 Music and the World Service, a feat not even Peely could match.


Saturday 9 April 2016

The Devil's Music: a reggae special

Chase The Devil by Max Romeo & The Upsetters
Lucifer by Junior Murvin
Suzanne Beware Of The Devil by Dandy Livingstone

To close reggae week, not one, not two, but THREE Devil songs for you. The first comes from Max Romeo. Max was banned by the BBC and from performing live in much of the UK back in the late 60s, his material deemed to be overtly sexual. His fourth album 'War Ina Babylon' was recorded with Lee Perry & the Upsetters and released in 1976. It included Chase The Devil, his best known song largely because of it being heavily sampled in the Prodigy's massive 1992 hit Out Of Space. It has since been used by Kanye West, Dreadzone and The Qemists.

Junior Murvin is, of course, best known for his song Police and Thieves which was famously covered by The Clash on their debut album. Murvin's album of the same name from 1977 - which like Max Romeo's 'War Ina Babylon' was produced by Lee 'Scratch' Perry - also contained Lucifer, a vitriolic song about hunting down those who stole, traded and enslaved Africans in history's dark past. None shall escape Murvin's wrath: "Get all the brothers of Lucifer, get all the evil doers of Lucifer." Run, motherfuckers - he's not jokin'!

In 1972, Dandy Livingstone scored a sizeable UK hit with Suzanne Beware Of The Devil. It was a song he had previously produced in 1968 for Nicky Thomas. Livingstone had been recording ska, rocksteady and reggae since 1964, both as a soloist and as a member of various duos. He was hugely prolific, putting out more than 50 singles and six albums before the end of the decade. Among his hits were covers of Sam Cooke's Another Saturday Night, Fats Domino's Ain't That A Shame and Sandie Shaw's Puppet On A String. However, perhaps his most famous song is one he co-wrote with trombonist Rico Rodriguez called Rudy, A Message to You. Rodriguez played on a later, and more famous, version of the song with a bunch of young British upstarts called the Specials. You may have heard of them. Dandy's recording career waned from the mid-70s before coming to an abrupt halt after his final single release in 1980. No new material has emerged from him since.

Does the Devil skank, d'you reckon? He damn well ought to, out of defiance if anything!


Friday 8 April 2016

Punky Reggae Party

The coming together of reggae and punk in 1977 is well-documented. No point me repeating it. Therefore, I present to you a short post containing a reggae song referencing punk bands and a punk band playing reggae.

A stand-alone single in Jamaica as a longform 9-minute version, Bob Marley's Punky Reggae Party became available internationally in cropped form on the b-side of Jamming. In it, Bob sings of one awesome-sounding get-together: "The Wailers will be there, the Damned, the Jam, the Clash / Maytals will be there, Dr. Feelgood too." Apparently, Bob wasn't terribly enamoured of punks, but he appreciated that they aligned themselves with black immigrants as outsiders of the society of the time and this was his way of paying tribute to that spirit of togetherness.

The Ruts timeless debut album 'The Crack' was on my original longlist of 'albums to take to my grave'. Jah War is my fave track. Not only that, but it's the best punk/reggae crossover track of all time and the most convincing white-boy reggae track of the era.


Wednesday 6 April 2016

Welsh Wednesday #81

#81: Cariad by Twmffat

Welsh reggae for Reggae Week? Surely not! Well OK, not reggae in its purest form, but certainly reggae influenced - just listen to that bass. I have to confess to knowing very little about Twmffat. Most of what's out there appears to be in Welsh. I have, however, managed to piece together the following:

Frontman Ceri Cunnington used to front Anweledig, a ska-funk outfit from Blaenau Ffestiniog who were once voted Best Band at the National Eisteddfod and supported the likes of Catatonia, Super Furry Animals and Stereophonics.

Twmffat is Welsh for 'funnel'. Twmffat the band play reggae and ska influenced songs mixed with folk music and a punk rock attitude. They formed in 2009 and to date have released a full length album 'Dydi Fama'n Madda i Neb' and, most recently, 2014's 'Tangnefedd' EP.

Not bad work for a non-Welsh speaker, I think you'll agree. I can also tell you that 'Tangnefedd' means 'peace', but don't ask me what that album title means. Today's track, however, is taken from said LP and it's an absolute stormer. Cariad (trans: Love) appears to be the band's preferred set closer at their live shows. I'm not surprised. I'm telling you now - you may not understand a bleedin' word of it, but guaranteed you'll be singing it all day!

Monday 4 April 2016

This Monday Reggae Feeling

I've decided that this entire week is Reggae Week on ITTL. No reason, just thought it would be a good idea. I doubt many of you will object...

Lucky by Easy Star All-Stars featuring Frankie Paul

So here's the concept: Record label forms house band; calls on the talents of various reggae legends to fulfil vocal duties; re-records classic rock albums in a roots reggae style. That's basically it. A great idea.

Easy Star records was formed by four reggae enthusiasts in New York City in 1996. None had any business experience, and only one was a professional musician. Regardless, they started from scratch, formed the band and backed some of the genre's finest both in the studio and live. In 2003, Easy Star All-Stars released their first album 'Dub Side Of The Moon', a reinterpretation of Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side Of The Moon'. The version of Money, has to be heard to be believed. Rather than the sound of cash registers rattling and ringing at the start, we get the lighting and smoking of a bong!

But it's the follow-up that really is the must-have. In 2006, 'Radiodread' was released, a complete reworking of Radiohead's seminal Britpop classic 'OK Computer'. Among the ranks of guest singers were Frankie Paul, Horace Andy, Sugar Minott, Toots & the Maytals and The Meditations. It's utterly compelling and in all honesty it's the only version of 'OK Computer' I will listen to nowadays. Even Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood agree, citing The Toots version of Let Down as "truly astounding". It is too, but I'm going to let you find that one for yourselves.

Today, I'm going for one of my other standouts from the album. Frankie Paul was once dubbed 'The Jamaican Stevie Wonder'. This might be partially due to him being blind, but I've no doubt his vocal talent is also part of the reason. In fact, Mr Wonder himself persuaded Frankie to take up a singing career after hearing him perform in school. Since then, he has become one of the world's most prolific recording artists, putting out no fewer than 50 albums between 1982 and 2008. His take on Lucky, the original of which is almost regarded as something of a Holy Grail amongst Radiohead fans, is just wonderful. What a great voice the guy has. I also love the dub breakdown at the coda.

Sadly, Frankie's health has hindered him somewhat in more recent years. He hasn't released anything since 2011's 'Most Wanted', and just a couple months ago had surgery to remove one of his feet and part of his leg. Easy Star All-Stars meanwhile have since recorded versions of 'Sgt. Pepper' and Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' (neither as good as their first two), as well as an awesome dub remix version of 'Dub Side Of The Moon' and a couple of original albums too.


Saturday 2 April 2016

The Devil's Music

Devil's Spoke by Laura Marling

If anyone has anything bad to say about Laura Marling, they can just about blimmin' well come and say it to me first! Laura is a treasure, even when she invokes the spirit of Robert Johnson. Especially so, in fact. Devil's Spoke came as something of a surprise. It opened her second album 'I Speak Because I Can', and perhaps because of the folky melancholy of her debut, blew me well off kilter. It's still very folky - acoustic guitars, banjo, etc - but dark and ominous too. On Devil's Spoke Laura showed the first signs of her inner rocker.


Friday 1 April 2016

Foolin' around...

I had two posts lined up for today. The first was a stupid prank which involved listing an old Whitesnake track called Fool For Your Loving as one of my '50 songs to take to my grave'; the second, to replace the first at midday, was the 'ha ha, April Fool' revealer, which you would probably have guessed anyway.

At the last minute, I just thought - what nonsense! It wasn't very funny and so many others will be doing something similar, only much better. So in the end I decided to post this instead. The songs and the vid from the proposed second post remain as I still think they are all rather wonderful (especially the All About Eve one). I've spared you Whitesnake. No one deserves that.

Apologies for even thinking you'd accept a silly, puerile joke like that in the first place. It will not happen again. Enjoy the tunes. I promise they are what they say they are, not  Rick Astley in disguise.


And one more - from Whistle Test in 1977: