Saturday 30 July 2016

The Genius Of Nick Cave

#9: Worm Tamer

Some find Grinderman's sound disarming. Others might describe it as disturbing, while yet others may just find it downright disgusting. Personally, I think they were one of the best things to happen to Nick and his cohorts. If it weren't for Grinderman, we probably wouldn't have had 'Dig! Lazarus, Dig!!!' by the Bad Seeds. Worm Tamer, from Grinderman's second and final album, is seriously intense. Soundwise, it's pure scuzzy filth, all distortion and feedback mixed with murky sludge. Live, it proved tough to replicate according to Nick, but this version from 'Later... With Jools Holland' in 2011 is pretty damn close. It's clear no instrument is safe in the hands of Warren Ellis, and if you think his beard is something to behold, check out his shoes at 2:26! Ferocious and phenomenal.

My traditional summer wind-down starts next week. Fewer posts throughout August, though this series, and the culmination of Welsh Wednesday, will continue.

Friday 29 July 2016

50 albums to take to my grave #40: Let Me Come Over

Decisions, decisions... you may remember as an addendum to my '50 Songs...' series that I replaced three songs. This was because I had three songs that appeared on albums I really wanted to include in this series. I'd made a rule - albums could not be featured if I had one of its songs on that list. I was torn - should I just leave it as it is and forget the albums? Of course not. These albums are just too good to leave behind. Replacing the songs was easy. But then I faced another dilemma...

There are some acts who I rate as great singles bands. While some of their albums are great too, generally a 'Best Of' compilation pretty much contains everything you really need. I therefore decided to conclude the series with a few 'Best Of' compilations. One of them was Buffalo Tom's 'Asides From', quite simply one of the most best CDs I own. But at the last minute, I had a change of heart.

Buffalo Tom's third album 'Let Me Come Over' was on my original list of albums right from the very start. I realised the mistake I made early on when I featured Velvet Roof as the very first of my '50 songs to take to my grave'. It is one of my all time fave tracks and has been since I bought the 12" way back in 1992. But when I bought the album, that became one of my all time fave albums very quickly. And doesn't it have one of the best front sleeves ever?

Velvet Roof is arguably the 90s' best-single-that-nobody-knows, a rollicking romp of skittish guitars and harmonica solos. Stymied is probably the most inappropriately-named track on the album; it comes bursting out of the traps and hurtles along at a frightening pace - nowt's stopping it. And as for Larry - well if any lead singer has ever written a better song about his cat than this one, I've yet to hear it.

The thing I love about Buffalo Tom more than other bands is their ability to make me adore their slower songs too. Taillights Fade set a standard that was almost matched on subsequent albums (I'm Allowed from 'Big Red Letter Day'; Wiser from 'Smitten'; You'll Never Catch Him from 'Three Easy Pieces'). Mineral and I'm Not There are also right up there with the best tracks in the band's catalogue, the latter seeing vocal duties taken by bassist Chris Colbourn. While his voice may well suit such songs, I've always been a big fan of Bill Janovitz. If I could sing, I'd love to have Bill's voice.

I love BT's sound, those crunching guitars and Tom Maginnis' solid snare breaking through on every beat. Only Sugar could match them when it came to the top power-trios of the 90s. (Uh-oh, I hear the Nirvana and Dinosaur Jr. fans lining up to vent their spleens at that statement. I stand by it.)

When weighing up whether I'd take 'Asides From' or 'Let Me Come Over', I wondered if I'd ever be able to choose between them. In the end, 'Let Me Come Over' won on the grounds that there really isn't a duff track on it. Every song is at least a 4 out of 5 (most are 4½ or over, and there's even a couple of 5s). You'd expect that from a 'Best Of', but not necessarily a standard album. Sure, I'd miss songs like I'm Allowed, Rachael, Tangerine and their excellent stripped-down version of Going Underground, but heck, I do have Velvet Roof, Taillights Fade, Mineral, Larry, Stymied, Darl, Porchlight, I'm Not There..... I think you get the point.

Even though it's been replaced in the final list, you can still read my original piece on Velvet Roof in the first '50 songs' post back here.

Wednesday 27 July 2016

Welsh Wednesday #97

Can't Kick Up The Roots by Neck Deep

I'm not a big fan of the kind of American pop-punk that comes out of places like LA. It's all about skateboarding and life being shit when you just know those kids were raised in affluent, upper-middle class neighbourhoods with their own swimming pools and never having to worry about whether mummy and daddy could afford the mortgage.

Neck Deep make that sort of music, but being from Wrexham they obviously have a different take on things. The sound is there, but instead of declaring their hometown to be rubbish, in Can't Kick Up The Roots they seem to be celebrating where they come from. Let's get this straight - Wrexham is no LA. I've never actually been there, to be honest, but I'm pretty sure you'll find it's just not so sunny or cheerful or rich or glamorous or showbizzy as the City of Angels. You'll probably see that from the video.

In 2014, Neck Deep released their debut album and won the Kerrang! Award for Best British Newcomer. The following year, their second LP 'Life's Not Out To Get You', from which Can't Kick Up The Roots is taken, came out to much acclaim. As I said, it's not really the sort of thing I normally go for, but there's something rather infectious about this track that I can't shake off.

As a sidenote: TheMadster saw Neck Deep in Cardiff last year, spending the evening in the mosh pit. She returned home bruised, dripping with sweat and grinning from ear to ear. "That's my girl," I thought to myself. I was so proud.

Monday 25 July 2016

Vintage Vinyl 20

Supergrass - Mary 7" silver vinyl
The Vines - Fuck The World 7" white vinyl promo
Both bought from: Slipped Discs, Carmarthen
Price paid: £5 and £3

Before you baulk at the prices, I've found a few copies of these for sale online and none of them were as cheap as what I paid for them. They also look nice. We bought some small frames from Ikea for some coloured vinyl singles. These two look good in them, though we haven't decided were to hang them yet.

The Supergrass one is one of my fave tracks on their self-titled third album from 1999. The album itself is dead good, though not quite as good as the one that followed it, 'Life On Other Planets'. I always liked Supergrass, one of Britpop's best and most consistently excellent bands. There's two versions of Mary on the single - the album version and a live version recorded for Steve Lamacq's show on BBC Radio One.

The Vines single appears to be a US promo. It has just the one track - the b-side has nothing cut on it. It wasn't intended to be a proper single, merely a taster from the band's upcoming second album 'Winning Days'. It was listed on the album as F.T.W. In the current climate - the rise of the repulsive Right on both sides of the Atlantic (a la Farage, Trump et al), religious extremism, Putin and, maybe worst of all, that cunt Adele - Fuck The World is probably a very apt statement.

We saw the Vines on Later... With Jools Holland back around the time of their first album in 2003. Craig Nicholls destroyed the set much to Jools' amusement. MrsRobster thought Craig was completely fucked up and, in a rare show of spontaneity, emailed a betting shop the next day and asked for odds on him committing suicide. I couldn't believe she actually did that, the crazy bitch! The bookies told her they don't accept "negative bets", which was probably a good thing. Nicholls was diagnosed with Asperger's shortly after which explained his erratic behaviour somewhat, and is happily still very much alive.

These days Supergrass are no more but Gaz Coombes is making some cracking solo stuff. The Vines are still around, though it's only Craig Nicholls from the original line-up. I've got some White Stripes singles on red and white vinyl that would look good on the wall too. Shame it will mean a trip to bloody Ikea to get some more frames...


As a bonus, here's The Vines with that Jools Holland performance in full:

Saturday 23 July 2016

The Genius Of Nick Cave

#8: Tupelo

In 1962, John Lee Hooker wrote Tupelo Blues a song about the great Mississippi flood of 1927, setting it in the town of Tupelo. In 1985, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds released Tupelo, a song about a great, violent storm in the same town during which a certain Elvis Aaron Presley was born. This was probably one of Cave's best early examples of using Biblical imagery to conjure up a terrifying scene. His love of the blues and American folk music no doubt helping to feed the dark and disturbing mood as the menacing storm wreaks havoc. Tupelo was easily the best song from the first four Bad Seeds albums.

Friday 22 July 2016

50 albums to take to my grave #39: Wonderland

You all know I'm a massive fan of the Charlatans, right? But like my Super Furry Animals choice last week, you probably weren't expecting this album. To be fair, at the time, nobody was. While there was always a bit of a funky element to the Charlatans' sound with Rob Collins' organ on those terrific early records, 'Wonderland' came totally from left field. This was the Charlatans going properly funk and soul on yo' ass.

It was trailed by the quite simply mind-blowing single Love Is The Key, featuring female backing singers and Tim Burgess channelling Curtis Mayfield. It ought to have been the biggest track of the year. It certainly had the phattest groove the Charlies had ever put down and sounded like nothing else they had ever done before. But was it representative of the rest of the album? Well yes, as it turned out. You're So Pretty - We're So Pretty is a glorious blend of the Madchester swagger of old and this new-found funk frenzy with Martin Blunt's bass taking centre stage.

But sandwiched between You're So Pretty and Love Is The Key is probably, for me anyway, the band's finest moment. Judas is so funky it hurts. That bass is so heavy it threatens to crack your skull as it vibrates through your head. As good an opening trio of songs as you'll find on any album ever. The slick, glossy dance-fuelled theme continues through I Can't Get Over Losing You and Wake Up, but there is room for a bit of eclecticism. The lovely If I Fall, and the saucy Is It In You? ("Is it in you? / I'm a burning hunk of love") have more than a slight air of San Franciscan psychedelia about them, while A Man Needs To Be Told is, to all intents and purposes, a country song.

By now Tim was shacked up in Los Angeles, a far cry from his northwest England roots, and clearly the musical influence of the States had taken hold of him and, by association, his bandmates. Only a couple years before this they made a record that sounded like a paean to Bob Dylan. The soul direction was definitely the better route, as far as I'm concerned. I loved 'Wonderland' the first time I heard it, and 15 years later, I still love it, perhaps even more than I did back then.

For the record, I consider 'Wonderland' to be a 10-song album, ending with the fabulously decadent Ballad Of The Band. It's a fitting closing track to a massive-sounding record. In the UK and a few other territories, we got two extra tracks, neither of which do anything for the album; one sounds like a demo and the other a b-side. It's a mystery to me why they were included at all. They are the only negatives and I regard them purely has bonus tracks that were tacked on at the end as an afterthought. Take them out of the equation, and 'Wonderland' is damn near perfect. The Charlatans have long been one of my favourite bands, but their albums can be somewhat hit and miss. This is an undoubted hit all the way.

Wednesday 20 July 2016

Welsh Wednesday #96

French Lessons by Future Of The Left

I've already espoused Cardiff's Future Of The Left in numerous previous posts, but today I'm featuring an altogether different type of track from them. It's quieter and more reflective. According to bassist Julia Ruzicka: "French Lessons is a song (and it is a song) about love and marriage, principally concerned with the idea that both are a trap where both sexes are forced to fill predetermined roles which limit then crush their human spirit and joy. This, of course, is absolute horseshit. If you make it dull, contemptible or lifeless then that's on you. There's a bit at the end about a unicyclist, who really exists in space and time. He emailed us. He wasn't happy."

I shall, of course, take her word for it. Julia, as well as being a brilliant bass player, also seems to dabble in making videos for the band. She directed and produced the one for French Lessons. Can't tell you if it has anything whatsoever to do with the song - who knows what goes on in an artist's mind - but I'm pretty sure there's no mention of penguins in the lyrics...

Monday 18 July 2016

Blur - The Lost Album

The annual birthday post, so I decided to make it a big one. When I posted about Blur's brilliant second album 'Modern Life Is Rubbish', I mentioned there was a planned record that the label rejected because it contained no obvious singles. Some of its songs ended up on 'Modern Life', but most of them only saw the light of day as b-sides. Details of this 'lost album' have never been revealed, thus one can only speculate as to what it might have actually sounded like.

However, I did once have a go at compiling it having been inspired by an article penned by Stuart Maconie and David Cavanagh in Select magazine in 1995. This article covered every song ever released by Blur to that date, including all those intended for that second Blur album. So taking my cue from Brian and George who commented on my 'Modern Life' post, I decided to revise my attempt at compiling the 'Lost Album' by Blur.

There were fourteen songs originally demoed for Blur's follow-up to 'Leisure'. Of those, only four found their way onto 'Modern Life Is Rubbish': Oily Water, Coping, Resigned and Pressure on Julian. While recording the album proper, the likes of Villa Rosie, Sunday Sunday, Colin Zeal, Blue Jeans, Turn It Up and Starshaped were trotted out and all of them could potentially have been on that record. The band submitted the tapes to Dave Balfe at Food in December 1992, so it's perfectly feasible it could have contained any of the 22 tracks recorded by that point.

Balfe hated it and refused to put it out until the band came up with some singles. Popscene was deemed worthy of a single release, but it flopped and as a result its follow-up Never Clever was shelved. Starshaped had been earmarked, but as far as Balfe was concerned there was no killer first single. Within a few weeks, Damon had written For Tomorrow. Chemical World was penned shortly afterwards purely to keep the US distributors happy. Finally, 'Modern Life' saw the light of day.

My thoughts are what would have come out if those early sessions were deemed worthy by the label? That's how I've approached this little project. I've kept it to 12 tracks (still 50 minutes long, so the vinyl version may have sounded rather quiet), and I've deliberately omitted the instrumental interludes Intermission and Commercial Break, originally titled The Intro and The Outro accordingly. They opened and closed Blur's gigs around the time and may well have appeared on the intended record, but they're rubbish so there's no place for them here!

As I said before, this is purely speculative, but it's well within the realms of possibility. And it's still a really good album. As good as 'Modern Life Is Rubbish'? You decide...

Side One
1. Oily Water
I waxed lyrical about this in my 'Modern Life' article. The first post-'Leisure' recording and the original demo was never redone, deemed good enough to stand untouched. A simply wonderful, wonderful track.

2. Popscene
The great forgotten single. Everyone had high hopes for Popscene, yet it bombed, just scraping the Top 40. One of the great injustices of pop consumerism. It was left off 'Modern Life' out of spite: "We thought, if you didn’t fucking want it in the first place, you’re not going to get it now," Graham later recalled.

3. Pressure On Julian
Dating from 1991, Julian is a reference to Julian Cope. Apparently, owing to Balfe's stormy relationship with Cope while both were members of the Teardrop Explodes, Damon used to deliberately reference the singer just to wind his label's owner up.[1] This early demo version includes a longer middle section that was omitted from the later version re-recorded for 'Modern Life'.

4. Peach
A lovely song that was strangely picked up by US college radio when eventually issued as a b-side of For Tomorrow. It features a harmonium and long-remained a favourite of Damon's.

5. Never Clever
OK, so here's a rarity. Originally touted as the follow-up single to Popscene, it was shelved indefinitely once the former failed to set the world alight. A live version appeared as a Chemical World b-side, but this studio take remained unheard until it showed up on a Food label sampler in Japan in 1997. It's still very hard to find.

6. Garden Central
A brilliant psychedelia-tinged instrumental that was put on the b-side of Popscene. In a Melody Maker article where the Beastie Boys were reviewing the week's new singles, they slated the A-side and reckoned Garden Central should have been the single instead.

Side Two
1. Beachcoma
Written around the same time as There's No Other Way, Beachcoma was demoed and subsequently recorded properly in 1992 for the second album. A lovely woozy track.

2. Star-Shaped
Muted early on as a single, Star-Shaped caused various headaches for the band. It still rates as one of the best songs on 'Modern Life Is Rubbish' and would have been a much better single than Sunday Sunday, but Dave Balfe still didn't think it good enough to release when it appeared on the originally-submitted album. This version is labelled as a demo and appeared in the 21-disc boxset '21: The Blur Box'. I think it's more representative of the sound of the 'Lost Album' than the final version on 'Modern Life'.

3. Into Another (Headist)
One of the last songs demoed, Into Another (then called Headist) became a firm fixture in Blur's live set. It's a safe bet it would have made the album-that-never-was, even if today it comes across as one of the weaker tracks.

4. Miss America
The mood of this track is attributed to how the band felt on returning from their first US tour in 1991. During recording, three of the band went to see Pulp play, while Graham went to the studio to record some guitar parts. When the band returned, Graham was pissed out of his mind and hitting a chair with a stick. You can hear that throughout the song!

5. Bone Bag
6. Resigned
The final two songs were demos recorded at the same time as Oily Water. They too were deemed good enough for release without further tinkering. The former only came out as a b-side of For Tomorrow, which is a shame as it deserved a much higher profile. Resigned, of course, appeared on 'Modern Life Is Rubbish'.

For a limited time only, here's a .rar file of the album (MP3s at 128 only).

[1] Coping may be another example of Balfe-baiting titles. A 'Lost Album'-era version of that song has never been released, despite it being one of the earliest songs demoed, which is why it's not included here.

Saturday 16 July 2016

The Genius Of Nick Cave

#7: Into My Arms

This extraordinary video has to rate among not just Nick Cave's finest, but one of the most touching of all time. Is Into My Arms about love, or is it about grief (or both)? I think it's one of those songs each individual derives his or her own meaning from. It opened the Bad Seeds' 10th album 'The Boatman's Call' from 1997, the quietest and most minimal-sounding record Nick ever made. Some of the songs are about PJ Harvey with whom he'd recently had a rather intense relationship with. It was a major departure for the group, but it is hailed as one of their best records. Apparently Cave played Into My Arms at Michael Hutchence's funeral. If you've not seen the vid before, I should warn those of an emotional and fragile nature that your cheeks might be rather damp after watching it.

Friday 15 July 2016

50 albums to take to my grave #38: Rings Around The World

No surprises that I've got a Super Furry Animals album on this list, surely. The choice of album may have caught one or two of you off guard though. Why 'Rings Around The World'? Well, quite simply it's the sheer quality of the songs throughout.

The band's major label debut certainly has a very different sound to it than its four predecessors, but the Sony budget could clearly stretch to giving the band the freedom to create the sheer breadth of sounds their songs demanded. It was certainly their most expansive album to date, in terms of production and length at least. It was also their most commercial-sounding which I've no doubt was Sony's influence. However, it was still the Super Furry Animals, which means it was still laden with strangeness and eccentricities, albeit in a more lush and ambitious manner.

The opening track drops hints. Alternate Route To Vulcan Street starts with a simple piano riff and builds slowly with electronics and strings. Strings! That was the first big sign that the Furries were taking full advantage of their increased budget. It's Not The End Of The World? and Shoot Doris Day are perhaps the best illustrations of where this new indulgence enhances the band's sound to magnificent effect. In the latter, Gruff Rhys sings: "People never stay the same / It's a fight between the wild and tame." There's no fight going on here - the wild and tame live in perfect harmony, but it's clear Super Furry Animals had no interest in staying the same.

Fears that this may have been a major label sell-out record are unfounded. Receptacle For The Respectable, one of my fave SFA tracks, is simply bonkers. Its techno-thrash breakdown at the end showing that the band's goofy experimental side was still intact, especially as Paul McCartney (yes, THE Paul McCartney) appears on the track munching carrots and celery. Really! It's an intentional piss-take, but one that works in the oddest way. Typical Furries, then. The electronics step up a gear on this record too. The trip-hop influenced instrumental (A) Touch Sensitive is one of the album's standouts, a track where Cian shines. His flourishes abound on many of the other best songs too, not least during the two-minute electro head-fuck that concludes No Sympathy.

Of course, the one everyone knows is Juxtaposed With U, one of my least fave SFA songs. It sounds like the Lighthouse Family on acid! Mind, it could have been worse - it was apparently conceived as a duet with first Brian Harvey (East 17) and then woman-beater Bobby Brown approached to sing with Gruff. Imagine that! Fortunately, both declined the invitation and Gruff sang with a vocoder effect on his vocal in the verses instead. I'm still not a fan of the song, if I'm honest. The final straw for me was hearing it played instore in Asda. I mean ffs! Fortunately, the rest of the album more than makes up for that single faux pas.

While I'd pick Receptacle For The Respectable and the wonderfully catchy title-track as the two for a homemade best of, there's no denying the real treat comes right near the end. Run! Christian, Run!, a song about an apocalyptic suicide cult, is simply sublime. A career highlight, in my opinion, and a jaw-dropper at their Cardiff comeback concerts last year.

The ever hip and trendy NME described 'Rings Around The World' as the Super Furry Animals' "worst album". As usual, they completely missed the mark. It was (and arguably remains) their most ambitious, cinematic even. It is their most polished and accomplished. It could even be their most accessible to the uninitiated. The band would never make another 'Rings Around The World'. That's no doubt deliberate and no bad thing either. But in a back catalogue of extraordinarily high quality, where there is nothing less than excellence, 'Rings...' remains king.

Wednesday 13 July 2016

Welsh Wednesday #95

Those Kids Have No Idea Whatsoever Of What Went On At Stalingrad by Stay Voiceless

Here's a band I know next to nothing about, but the song is simply too good to ignore, and it has a cracking back story. Stay Voiceless are a trio from the south east Wales valleys and describe themselves as "day ruiners". Their two singles to date would suggest they are anything but. The second of these boasts the ludicrous title above.

Welsh Hollywood actor Michael Sheen features on this track. Last year, he attended the People's March for the NHS in Tredegar and gave a stirring speech about the values and importance of the NHS, while railing against our scum Conservative government's continuing campaign to underfund our most valuable public service and sneak in privatisation. Stay Voiceless vocalist Chris Morgan was there too. He recorded Sheen's speech and, spurred on by its message of fighting for what you believe in, he wrote Those Kids..., a song castigating those who have failed communities and public services.

Chris later wrote to Sheen and asked him if the band could use his speech in the song. To their amazement, not only did he reply, but he said yes. On top of that, Sheen also tweeted his approval of the song to his followers on its release. It's a corker too.

And in case you can't make out Martin Sheen's words: "Bevan said: 'We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run down.’ So when people are too scared to say what they really mean, when they’re too careful to speak from their hearts, when integrity is too much of a risk, it’s no surprise that people feel disengaged with politics. There is never an excuse to not speak up for what you think is right. You must stand up for what you believe. But first of all – by God, believe in something."
Who can possibly argue with that?

Monday 11 July 2016

Memories of a thousand* gigs #50

(* probably not actually that many, but who’s counting?)

#50: Gruff Rhys

Sherman Theatre, Cardiff - 18 December 2014
Support: Martin Carr
Also in attendance: MrsRobster

This one stands out as being the most unique gig I've ever attended. So much so, in fact, that it shouldn't really be labelled as a gig at all; it was more a lecture interspersed with songs. Sound bizarre? Well of course - we're talking about Gruff Rhys here, after all. This show (the first of two he played at the Sherman Theatre on consecutive nights) was part of his 'American Interior' tour. The album and show tell the story of 18th century Welsh explorer John Evans and his ultimately futile trek across America in search of a Welsh-speaking tribe of Native Americans. So naturally it was always going to be a bit different.

Opening was former Boo Radleys singer Martin Carr. He roped in Cardiff folk trio Barefoot Dance of the Sea to sing backing vocals. I was never a big fan of the Boo Radleys, and his solo set failed to inspire me also. It was pleasant enough, but nothing to get me excited enough to check him out further.

Gruff didn't need anyone to help him out. His supporting cast consisted solely of a stuffed John Evans puppet, an acoustic guitar, a keyboard, a few effects and an iPad. The latter was used to control a PowerPoint presentation which illustrated the story. The stage set would normally have been rather sparse, but this being the festive season, the Sherman was hosting Cardiff's big panto Arabian Nights and its props and scenery (sand 'n' all) remained in place while Gruff set himself up in the middle of it all. He played songs from 'American Interior' and regaled the audience with softly-spoken, frequently funny tales of John Evans' adventure. Even though we all knew Evans' search was in vain, Gruff's sympathetic delivery made us all root for him regardless.

The songs were far more stripped down than the versions on the album, but this merely added to the intimate feel of the whole thing. The Sherman is small as theatres go and everyone is pretty close to each other. Come the end, Gruff treated us to a few of his other solo songs - The Court of King Arthur (my favourite song off 'Candylion'), If We Were Words and a few others from the award-winning 'Hotel Shampoo', and to round off on a seasonal note, Post-Apocalypse Christmas from his 'Atheist Xmas' EP.

Yes, the most unique show we'd ever been too, and one of the most enjoyable as a result. 


Saturday 9 July 2016

The Genius Of Nick Cave

#6: The Weeping Song

Under-appreciated at the time, the sixth Bad Seeds album 'The Good Son' is now regarded very highly. It marked a departure from its dark, sinister predecessors with Nick moving to Brazil, falling in love and spending time in rehab lending a quieter, relaxed and reflective mood to the record. The Weeping Song may be its darkest moment - a duet between Nick and Blixa, Nick is the son, Blixa is the father. The video is another example of pure hilarity though. There was either no budget, or the budget was spent on stuff other than the video! Either way, it's charmingly cheesy, and the pair of them look like they're having the best time.

Friday 8 July 2016

Daughters, Bullies & The Mac

Lissie's latest album 'My Wild West' - her third - sounds a little too much like Lana Del Ray in places for my liking. But two-thirds of the way through is Daughters, an absolute peach of a song in which she channels Stevie Nicks. A very good thing.

Daughters was written for WaterAid, as the video suggests. Its message is clear enough so I won't dwell on it, I just think it's the best thing she's done for quite a while. I've written about Lissie before and mentioned the Stevie Nicks resemblance then. Not that I want to labour the point or anything, but she also does a terrific version of one of Fleetwood Mac's best songs:

And just for the hell of it, here's a live version of my favourite Lissie song:

Your MP3 for the day is another cover, one which compliments tomorrow's post:

Wednesday 6 July 2016

Welsh Wednesday extra: Diolch yn fawr bechgyn

Thanks for everything boys, you did us proud. Lost the match, but undefeated in spirit. See you in Russia 2018!

Welsh Wednesday #94

Dybyl Jin a Tonic by Meinir Gwilym

Staying on the alcoholic beverage theme of last week... Anglesey's Meinir Gwilym featured in the second Welsh Wednesday post back whenever it was (September 2014, actually), and she was also on one of my reposted podcasts. This track is a lighthearted number from her second album about having a drink with a schizophrenic stranger while "laughing at the guy with the guitar". Bit harsh, seeing as she's a musician herself. But still. It's all in Welsh of course, but I've included a lyric video below which has English translations.

No booze next week, I promise. I have something a little more sobering lined up for you. Having said that, I'm sure you'll all raise a glass with me to cheer on Wales tonight. COME ON BOYS!

Monday 4 July 2016

Memories of a thousand* gigs #48 & #49

(* probably not actually that many, but who’s counting?)

I'd almost forgotten about this series. Just a few more tales to recount before it ends for good. Here's two short reminiscences of very different rap shows from the 90s before the final instalment next week.

#48: Senser
The Lemon Grove, Exeter University - circa 1994

Oh lord, 22 years ago! It's no wonder I forget who the support band was or who I went with. Neither can I find any trace of the actual date of the show. No matter, I think my head is still rattling from the explosive delivery of Senser. Political rap-rave-metal that tears you to shreds and scares mere mortals shitless. I can still see Heitham al-Sayed yelling his fierce polemic in my face. This show slayed me and, at the same, made me feel really fucking alive!

Still going strong, Senser have just released a new album. They played Cardiff last month on our wedding anniversary. That's the only reason I didn't go and see them again.


#49: Fun Lovin' Criminals
Great Hall, Exeter University - October 1998
Also present: Jim and Stu

I went to this one with two of my then-bandmates. Musically the band was great, but the two overriding memories I have are:

1) Top banter from Huey Morgan. To a pretty girl in the audience: "Hey baby... oh, wait, is that your boyfriend? Cause I don't wanna cause any trouble. He's... he's not your boyfriend? [deep and seductive voice] Hey baby..."

2) Being told off for dancing by some hip student girl in front of me. "Calm down!" she said. Like, what the fuck? There was no mosh pit, just people enjoyin' the groove. She was down the front but just wanted to stand completely still. I couldn't believe it. I told her to lighten up and dance before carrying on. Never experienced that either before or since. Bizarre. It was around this time I began to lose my faith in the younger generations. I was still only 27 myself...


Saturday 2 July 2016

The Genius Of Nick Cave

#5: Fifteen Feet Of Pure White Snow

Post-'The Boatman's Call', Nick and the Bad Seeds faced a period of critical ambivalence. It wasn't that the albums that followed were bad, they just didn't excite in quite the way their previous work did. It took another couple of records before the critics started salivating again. Yet there were some real pearls during this time. Fifteen Feet Of Pure White Snow may, on the surface, sound like a tragic tale of children being buried in severe winter conditions. But it's actually somewhat allegorical; the 'snow' is a powdery substance so beloved of celebrities. For the video, Nick roped in a few friends who, in their time, reputedly quite enjoyed a little 'snow flurry'. A couple of them are quite famous...

Friday 1 July 2016

50 songs to take to my grave: corrections

When I started this series, I didn't even expect the blog to still be running by this stage, which is why it was originally just 20 songs to take to my grave. The same with the 50 albums series. I suppose in many ways it was inevitable I would be a little hasty with some of my choices.  My main rules were: only one choice per artist for each list, and the song cannot feature on one of the chosen albums.

There's still another bunch of albums to get through, but I desperately want to include a couple that would otherwise be excluded owing to some songs I've chosen. Therefore, I reserve the right to make a few last-minute changes to my 50 songs list to allow me to have the albums I want. Cheating? Perhaps, but hey, we all make mistakes right?

To be honest, the list of songs that didn't make the final 50 is pretty awesome in itself, so by making these changes, I'm not really causing a dip in quality. It's like replacing Lionel Messi with Luis Suarez, or something.

So the three I'm losing are:
  Velvet Roof by Buffalo Tom
  Sheela-Na-Gig by PJ Harvey
  Green And Grey by New Model Army

And in their place...

The Story Of The Blues (pt. 1) by Wah!

John Peel once said: "Most artists spend a lifetime trying to write a classic. Pete Wylie's written five!" He was right, some of Wylie's songs are just pure genius. I don't know why I never became obsessed with him. I remember hearing The Story Of The Blues on a chart compilation record I bought in 1982; I would have been 11. It remains one of the finest examples I know of how perfect pop music can be. I know the purists will berate me for not having the full version here, but let's be honest - the first half (or 'pt. 1') is all you really need.

London Can You Wait by Gene

I can remember once writing Gene off as poor Smiths imitators. I hadn't heard London Can You Wait at that stage. In fact, I still hadn't heard it until after the band released their second album, which was when they won me over. I went back and listened to their early stuff properly and realised what a numpty I'd been. London Can You Wait, Sick, Sober & Sorry and Speak To Me Someone were neck-and-neck in their bid to be included here, but I went for the former because it's the song I most associate with Gene. It's just wonderful, every little aspect of it.

Seether by Veruca Salt

So OK, I can't answer this question: how the flippin' heck did this one not make the original 50? Sorry, my bad. Seether was one of the great singles of the 90s. If Kim Deal hadn't written Cannonball, she would have given her right arm to have written this song. And maybe half a leg too. Veruca Salt were awesome, especially that first album. Seether was always going to be impossible to top, but they came pretty close: All Hail Me, Forsythia, Volcano Girls, etc. Even last year's comeback album was more than decent. But Seether is the one, unquestionably. I can sleep easily now.