Wednesday 29 June 2016

Welsh Wednesday #93

Vodka & Wine by Murry The Hump

For a while back at the turn of the Millennium, it looked as though Aberystwyth's Murry The Hump might just become a little bit huge. They put out a slew of singles on various indie labels between 1999 and 2001 and with each release the acclaim grew and grew. Their debut single The Green Green Grass Of Home was not a cover of the Tom Jones classic, but rather a song about marijuana. It was Single Of The Week in NME. The follow-up Thrown Like A Stone was voted #1 in John Peel's Festive 50 in 1999.

The famous fans followed: Steve Lamacq, Alex James of Blur, Joe Strummer... JOE STRUMMER! They played gigs with everyone from the Stereophonics to Bonnie Tyler; the Levellers to Deacon Blue; Shed Seven to Björn Again. BJÖRN AGAIN!! Signing for Too Pure, should have provided Murry The Hump with the platform for megastardom. Indeed, their debut album 'Songs Of Ignorance' received countless plaudits, including review in the Times, the Independent and the Guardian. THE GUARDIAN!!! The world was their oyster.

So what went wrong? Well, quite simply, it became a job. "It stopped being fun and we found we had to promote things and that's when things started getting quite tense," according to singer Matthew Evans. So they split. Within a couple of years, three of the band reformed as The Keys, who are not only still going, but also had their very own Welsh Wednesday feature back here.

Vodka & Wine featured on that much acclaimed, and really rather good, debut album. You surely cannot resist any song with an opening line this good..

Monday 27 June 2016

Wild High Horse(s)

Very possibly my favourite clip on You Tube. Like, ever. The Jim Jones Revue were a phenomenal live band, MrsRobster and I caught them in Cardiff a few years ago. This clip shows the band performing High Horse from their third album 'Burning Your House Down'.

Who'd have thought a bunch of Brits could blow the Yanks away when playing them at their own game? Seriously great stuff this, makes me grin like a twat every time I watch it.

Jim's new band Jim Jones And The Righteous Mind are well worth checking out, if you haven't done so already. Somewhat darker than his previous incarnations, but sounding pretty good nonetheless.


Saturday 25 June 2016

The Genius Of Nick Cave

#4: Nick The Stripper

You can forgive people for not being into the Birthday Party. They made some rather challenging music which, while enormously influential on goth and so-called alternative music, they were never going to be a Top 40 chart act. Not in a million years. My fave Birthday Party track is Big Jesus Trash Can, but there's no decent footage of that online. There is this video of Nick The Stripper though, a no-less disturbing song about incest. Cave has more than his fair share of repugnant characters in his work, but Nick The Stripper could be one of his most abhorrent.

Friday 24 June 2016

50 songs to take to my grave #50: You'll Never Walk Alone

I'm wrapping the series up with one of the greatest anthems of all time. It was never meant to be, but when 40,000 Liverpool FC fans get together at Anfield, You'll Never Walk Alone becomes arguably the most rousing anthem ever performed. You can keep all the other versions ever made (and there have been a few) - I'll take the Kop singing for the glorious Reds every single time. Brings tears to my eyes. This is the last thing I want to be played at my funeral. Very, very loudly!

UPDATE: I've added this clip from 2019, the night the glorious Red Machine won the UEFA Champions League Final in Madrid (sorry Jez).

The full story of the song is best read here. In the meantime, here's a couple other worthwhile versions. Scousers, Germans and a rather famous American doing the honours:

Not sure why Die Toten Hosen appear to show an allegiance to Bayern Munich - they are Fortuna Dusseldorf fans. Fair play though, they can belt it out! Here they are live...

And finally, Webbie posted this marvellous article sometime back featuring a whole host of versions.

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Welsh Wednesday #92

Tête à Tête by Euros Childs

I featured Euros Childs and my favourite song of his right back near the start of this series. No one cared. Hopefully there will be a little more interest in this one. To this day, Euros releases some great stuff. Last year's album 'Sweetheart' was his 9th in the ten years since the demise of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci. Better still, everything he puts out is available for free via his website.

In 2014, he put out an instrumental album of classical piano pieces. But you're not getting anything from that today. Instead, I've gone for a typical bit of Euros Childs quirkiness. Tête à Tête is from his 2013 album 'Situation Comedy' and it has a very silly accompanying video.

Dedicated to the Wales football team after the brilliant result on Monday night. Come on boys! Last 16 here we come!

Monday 20 June 2016

Vintage Vinyl 19

Public Image Limited - Rise 7"
Bought from: D'vinyl, Cardiff
Price paid: £1

Somewhat unbelievably, this was the first PiL record I ever heard. Surely not. I used to listen to the chart show on Radio 1 every Sunday evening for years as a kid. I'm sure I must - must - have heard This Is Not A Love Song during its Top 5 ascent in 1983 when I was 12. I must have. But I really don't remember it. I was 14 when Rise entered the charts in late January 1986, and one thing stood out to me that I really didn't approve of. (I can't believe I'm about to admit to this...) I actually thought this record was a rip off of... *deep breath* ... You May Be Right by Billy Joel! Seriously. Listen to this from 3:41 and hear what I mean. And please don't hate me for it.

Whilst I am sure John Lydon holds a great deal of admiration and respect for Our Billy (as we love to call him), I'm now convinced You May Be Right was not the inspiration for Rise. In fact, it really didn't take that long before I actually started to like it. It was a year, maybe two, later that I rediscovered Rise thanks to one of my regular visits to my Aunt Margaret and Uncle Stuart. As was my wont, I would drift off into the front room and up into the attic where I would root through my cousin John's records. On one occasion I stumbled across 'Album', the imaginatively-titled fifth album by PiL. I took it home and played the bloody thing to death. It kind of intrigued me, though I had absolutely no idea why. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that Rise was a good minute and a half longer on the album. By this time, PiL was essentially Lydon and whoever he could bring together to play for him. Here, it's a remarkable line-up: Steve Vai on guitar, L. Shankar on violin, Miles Davis' drummer Tony Williams, and bassist Jonas Hellborg. A curious ragbag of jazz, rock, world and experimental influences, yet for some remarkable reason it worked so well. The Lydon magic.

Rise has become a bit of an anthem. Lydon wrote it for Nelson Mandela so it was something of a rallying cry at the time, awash as it was with slogans and chants:

  "May the road rise with you."
  "Anger is an energy."

This was the record that turned me on to Lydon. From here I actually went to the Pistols. I'd love to have a cup of tea and a chat with Johnny. I think we'd get on quite well. We're both cantankerous old bastards and whine more often than we should; we both despise authority yet wish no physical pain or harm on people; and to top it all, my mother-in-law once told me she thought I looked like I could be Lydon's love child! So while that may not have been physically possible, it still rates as possibly the coolest and most complimentary thing she's ever said to me. She often says nice things about me, fair play, but that's another level, isn't it?

Anyway, I never actually owned a copy of Rise, so I grabbed it without a second thought when I spotted it in D'vinyl. I reckon a quid is underselling it somewhat, but I'm not arguing.


Here's an amusing Top of the Pops appearance. John hated having to mime, and it's quite evident why. The band is entirely different to the album line-up, here featuring Don Letts on keyboards and Hugo Farnham of Gang of Four on drums.

And finally, here's a brilliant piece from Swiss Adam who covered the career of John Lydon last year. This is his PiL episode which includes the original video for Rise and a quite spectacular performance on a US TV show.

Saturday 18 June 2016

The Genius Of Nick Cave

#3: Stagger Lee

'Murder Ballads' was equal parts disturbing and hilarious. The video for Stagger Lee illustrates this perfectly. Nick's interpretation of the legend of infamous bad-ass Stagger Lee pulls no punches in its graphic violence and sexual imagery. In the video however, he wears a pink petite Take That t-shirt; the stage has kitsch flashing lights; then there's the rather camp dancers at the front. It's absurd. But wonderfully so.

Friday 17 June 2016

50 songs to take to my grave #49: Interstate 5

I originally wrote this for my Genius of David Gedge series and it first appeared in September 2014. I said at the time I was considering it for this series as well, and it remained on the shortlist as I approached the last 10. In the end, it had to get into the final list and the Weddoes become one of only a few acts to make both my songs and albums series (albeit very different incarnations of the band). I've tweaked the original article a bit, but most of it remains intact.

OK, briefly for those of you who don't know the story. The Wedding Present went on hiatus in 1996 while Gedge indulged in a new project, Cinerama, with girlfriend Sally Murrel. The couple split in 2003 following the release of Cinerama's third album 'Torino'. He continued however, recording a new album. It was after the recording had finished that it was suggested the new record, entitled 'Take Fountain', sounded more like a Wedding Present album due to its proliferation of guitars. And so it was decided - after a layoff of some eight years - the Wedding Present were reborn.

The first fruit of these labours was a song I consider to be among the best David Gedge ever made. Interstate 5 could be described as a bit of a slow-burner. In fact, it's a bit slow, full-stop. At six minutes long, it was never going to be a radio hit either. It's a curious choice of comeback single, yet it took my breath away. It's a great song, all about a bloke's consternation at being used by a woman as a one-night-stand, a typical Gedge juxtaposition of the perceived sexual norms.

  I have this nagging fear / That sex was all you needed
  I tried to persevere / I guess I've not succeeded

It does build gradually - starting with a single repeated chord, overlaid by a chiming second guitar playing a simple melody. The rhythmic pulsing of that same chord runs throughout the song, rarely giving way until the bridge when Gedge acknowledges there were doubts about the femme fatale's motives at the time of the episode in question:

  And yes there was one particular glance / That made me afraid
  That you were just seeing me as a chance / Of getting laid

The resentment of the protagonist is felt in the closing minute and a half as those guitars get louder and more agitated at our hero's predicament. There's no doubt that Instersate 5 really was a mission statement from the boy Gedge - the Wedding Present were back! I agree, this was no Cinerama track. The album emerged to rave reviews and much joy at the return of one of indie music's great names.

That in itself raises an interesting point though - it was only a name. The record was recorded as Cinerama, only a late decision to attribute it to the Wedding Present really drew people's attention to it. Would it have been so hailed as a Cinerama record? Would I have cared so much about a new Cinerama record? Discuss.

(Here's the astonishing video recorded in locations the length and breadth of the UK. One of my favourite vids of all time in fact.)

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Welsh Wednesday #91

Are You Satisfied? by Marina & The Diamonds

Marina Lambrini Diamandis is not a typical Welsh name, yet she was born in the valley town of Brynmawr and grew up in the border village of Pandy, attending school in Monmouth. She released her first music through the internet where she gained a steady but loyal following. Before long, she was snapped up by 679 Recordings who, in 2010, put out her debut album 'The Family Jewels'. That's when things took off.

The single Hollywood reached #12 in the UK chart, its follow-up I Am Not A Robot was also a sizeable hit. 'The Family Jewels' received masses of critical acclaim, and the subsequent tour took in a hugely successful slot on the John Peel stage at Glastonbury. Marina cites Madonna, PJ Harvey, Brody Dalle and Daniel Johnston among her biggest influences, though I'm not sure you can pinpoint any of those in her sound.

Marina's second album 'Electra Heart' disappointed the critics though, and I can't remember a single track on it. Last year's 'Froot' was better received, but her debut remains unsurpassed. I played it quite a lot when it came out, perhaps the poppiest thing I was listening to at the time. Are You Satisfied? was the opening track and is, for me, a high point.

Monday 13 June 2016

Memories of 2016 gigs #4

#4: Yak
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff - 9 June 2016
Support: Cabbage

Dunno what it is about volume at gigs these days, but not for the first time this year, MrsRobster and I were violently assaulted by a merciless salvo of LOUDNESS to the utter detriment of the show itself. Loud is good, but too loud is most certainly not. What you get is a piercing noise that ironically means you don't actually hear much of what is going on. Believe me, I've been to enough gigs in my time to know what I'm talking about.

That aside, I was looking forward to seeing both bands on tonight's bill. Once more, it was Swiss Adam who tipped me off about a band. In this case, it was support act Cabbage from Manchester. Their sole release, a 5-track EP called 'Le Chou', showcases their warped, satirical brand of psyche-pop. With socio-political messages abound, weird lyrics about dinnerladies masturbating in school dinners, and even a few good tunes, Cabbage have been creating something of a buzz up North.

A small (very young) crowd gathered at the front and were appreciative to the point of personal contact, one young lady even being picked up and swirled around by the singer. The best song was one of the band's newer ones, Necroflat In The Palace, with its chorus that proclaims "I was born in the NHS / I want to die in the NHS." It's about the apparently close relationship between Jimmy Saville and the Royal Family. So not your average pop song. But then, any band named Cabbage could never be your average pop band.

I was chatting to a bloke in the Gents (as you do!) during the interval who said: "Well Yak have got something to live up to," clearly impressed by the support act. He raved about the headliners having seen them a few months before in the tiny downstairs bar at Clwb. "I've heard a lot about them," I told him. "I love the album." "Ah, fuck the album," he retorted. "It's live you have to experience them."

With that build up, and everything else I've heard about Yak to date, I was expecting something mind-shreddingly awesome. And maybe, in the end, along with the LOUDNESS, that was the problem. Yak came on and instantly the place started throbbing. There wasn't a large crowd there, and most of those who were present were barely of legal drinking age (it wasn't a great night for the bar, put it that way), but within seconds a vibrant, energetic mosh pit was in full swing.

If you've not heard of Yak, think The Stooges, MC5, early White Stripes, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Spacemen 3, classic-era Sub Pop bands, the Velvet Underground (in their loose, improvised jamming mode) and a few ultra-heavy doom metal chords thrown in for good measure and you're nearly there. Led by a guy who used to sell antique furniture to Thurston Moore (true!), Yak's live shows have become something of legend in the very short time they've been together. And they started strong, rocketing through a slew of tracks from their debut album: Harbour The Feeling, Hungry Heart, Smile, Use Somebody, Alas Salvation, Victorious, etc. Aside from the occasional address to the audience, it was a continuous barrage of aggressively brilliant noise, the songs coming at us like machine-gun fire. And then, at some point, it just dipped.

I'm not sure what it was, but both MrsRobster and I started to lose interest in the last 15-20 minutes or so. It felt like they'd played all their songs so were just recycling some riffs they'd already played and worked them into some directionless jam. A real shame because up to that point, they were fantastic.

There's definitely something going on with Yak. They may never headline Wembley, but they could well be touring arenas in a year or two's time. They just need to make it to an hour of awesomeness before that happens.

MrsRobster's verdict: On Yak: "If they'd played just the first half hour it would have been brilliant." On the mosh pit: "Not so much a mosh pit, more like a creche!"


Saturday 11 June 2016

The Genius Of Nick Cave

#2: Red Right Hand

As the third brilliant series of Peaky Blinders reaches its conclusion, I thought it fitting to have its theme tune as this week's choice Cave cut. Red Right Hand has long been a fave among Cave fans and is one of his best known songs, but its popularity has gone through the roof since the Shelby family's antics graced our screens. I hope that's not all it is remembered for.

Friday 10 June 2016

50 songs to take to my grave #48: Sit Down

I first wrote about this song in March 2014, back in the early days of this blog. It's the one article I periodically revisit and read through in full, along with the comments left. It's like some kind of therapy, I suppose. I did think about being lazy and instead of writing something new, that I would lift part of that previous article instead. But it just wouldn't work. That piece was way too personal to be rehashed just to fill another article. Besides, while my connection with Sit Down is largely down to sentimental reasons, the reason I bought it in the first place was because it is such a bloody good pop song, so that's what I'm going to concentrate on here.

You all know Sit Down, of course. You also probably know the original that I'm referring to here as well as the smash hit remake. It was the first James track I heard. I think it was on the same video compilation as that Wolfgang Press track I posted a couple weeks back. The full 12" version, which I promptly rushed out and bought from my local indie store, was just glorious. And so it remains. Songs like Sit Down have a tendency to sound all self-righteous and cringey. The thing is though that the way James did it, and especially the way Tim Booth sang it, it actually sounds genuine and warm.

OK, so if I'm being honest here, this song makes it into my grave for mainly sentimental reasons. If I were to choose a James song to listen to right now, it would probably be Sometimes. Or Laid. Or Government Walls. Or Skullduggery (there's an onscure one). Or even something from the new album (which is actually very good). But whatever - a bit of sentimentality never hurt anyone, and I just have too many thoughts and memories attached to Sit Down to leave it out. It kept me going at certain times, this song, and this version remains the best. The remake by the expanded seven-piece line-up just sounded too earnest and, if I may dare, pompous. And don't get me started on those stupid bloody remixes. This is how Sit Down should sound.

I'm not posting the video here as it is for the cruelly butchered 7" edit which should never have seen the light of day. However, here's an article in which Larry Gott and Tim Booth talk about how Sit Down was written. The vid is in the middle of the piece if you dare.

Wednesday 8 June 2016

Welsh Wednesday #90

Desperados by Sibrydion

Quite why it's taken 90 instalments to get round to featuring Sibrydion is a bit of a mystery of my own making. No matter, it's worth the wait. Formed by Osian and Meilir Gwynedd following the dissolution of Big Leaves, Sibrydion make that wonderful 60s/70s-influenced psychedelic pop that the Welsh do so well. Comparisons range from Super Furry Animals to the Beach Boys and everything in between.

Their third album, 2009's 'Campfire Classics', was their first (only!) in the English tongue and, as such, gained them rave reviews in the UK press, not just their native Wales. It is a cracking record to be fair. I could well have gone for any one of a number of tracks for you today, but I've plumped for Desperados.

Sibrydion's last album was 'Uwchben Y Drefn' back in 2011, but a remix album was made available for free via Bandcamp in 2012. No word from them since, but nothing out there to suggest they broke up. Let's just hope it's merely one of those 'hiatus' things...

Monday 6 June 2016

This Monday Reggae Feeling #10

Money Money by Horace Andy

This will be the last Monday reggae track for now, but I will no doubt revive it at some point as it has been one of the most enjoyable of all the series I've done so far. Well, enjoyable for me at least. So, how to bring things to a suitable (temporary) ending? Why, with a stone cold classic, that's how.

'Dance Hall Style' is an absolute masterpiece in reggae production. It came out in 1982, by which time Horace Andy was already a well-established artist with several albums to his name. He is perhaps best known to UK music fans as a regular collaborator with Massive Attack, the only artist to appear on all their albums. Now one of reggae's elder statesmen, Horace can often be seen on the festival circuit and he still releases records of his own, the most recent of which was released in 2013.

The extended dub jams on the CD reissue of 'Dance Hall Style' make it all the more enjoyable. This version of opener Money Money is an absolute must on any reggae mixtape/playlist.


Saturday 4 June 2016

The Genius Of Nick Cave

With the news that a new Nick Cave album and live film is due in September, I present a new series. And one with a difference as this series will not contain any MP3s, but will instead be conducted through the medium of film. Nick Cave is something of a genius, I think we're all agreed, and I'm going to feature some of his finest moments spanning his entire career. Each week there will be a video accompanied by just a few words. I tend to be rather gushing when it comes to writing about Nick, and it's not necessary. You can hear everything in his music. So on to the first one...

#1: Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!

The title track of the Bad Seeds' 14th album is an absolute corker. I love it that Nick forgets the words, but they leave it in the video regardless. The pornstar moustache steals the show...

Friday 3 June 2016

50 songs to take to my grave #47: Pictures Of You

The Cure is a band I have a lot of time for, although I wouldn't class myself as a fan, not in the proper sense. Proper Cure fans are obsessives. Like, bordering on weird. Some of them actually wear their makeup and hair like Robert Smith, even on a Sunday! Anyway, most of what the band put out between 1978 and 1992 was pretty much faultless. Since then, they've only put out four albums which all contained some decent material, but they've struggled to match anything close to their peak.

That peak came in 1989 with 'Disintegration', a masterpiece of goth-pop. It wasn't an album I took to immediately. On the contrary, I didn't own it until several years after its release, and until then had only heard it a few times. I think I was discovering so much new music at the time, the Cure just didn't hit my radar in the way they perhaps ought to have. I did, however, own a few vinyl LPs that I picked up second-hand - 'The Head On The Door', 'Three Imaginary Boys' and the singles comp 'Standing On A Beach'.

Pictures Of You always stood out to me when I first heard 'Disintegration'. For me though, the reason it's included in this series is purely a personal one. MrsRobster once compiled a CD for me in response to one I did for her. She included the album version of Pictures Of You and for reasons I still can't explain it made perfect sense. This was years ago, when the sproglets were still very young, but ever since then I've attached a special meaning to this track; I kind of think of it as one of our songs. The fact it's a blinder helps, but at the end of the day, sentiment wins out and Pictures Of You makes the final list while some other equally great tunes didn't. It was also our Wedding Anniversary on Wednesday, so the timing is somewhat apt to roll this one out.

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Welsh Wednesday #89

Let's Go Round There by The Darling Buds

One of the very early Welsh Wednesday posts featured a track from the Darling Buds' last album. 80 posts in the series later, I'm returning to them. Here's the third single from their debut album, a track that hinted at the more psychedelic direction the band would take on their next record 'Crawdaddy'. Let's Go Round There has long been one of my top three Darling Buds songs. I was thrilled when they (or the current line-up, at least) played it when I saw them last year.

MrsRobster reckons Lets Go Round There sounds like it could have been made in 2016. She's not wrong, its sound is very contemporary. There's quite a bit of music around right now that sounds not unlike this. Psyche is very much 'the thing' at the moment, so perhaps it's time to dig out that second Darling Buds record.

They still play gigs every so often, but there's no new material. A shame perhaps, but then their small back catalogue is of such high quality, you can understand if they don't feel they could quite match it. They recently played Manchester's old-school indie festival Gigantic, and in November they'll be playing the entire 'Pop Said...' album live in Cardiff. Hmm... reckon that's another show to add to the list...

As well as the gigs, these days Andrea runs a children's theatre school in locations across South Wales. The other members from this original line-up have become a dietician, a recording studio engineer and a pub and hotel manager.


I never really liked the video. It's clear the record company had plans for Andrea. She looks like she should be in a Stock, Aitken & Waterman video a la Kylie and Sonia. Having said that, I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking she looks a dead ringer for Tanya Donelly here... This is certainly a good example of the video not suiting the song.