Wednesday 31 August 2016

"Are you afraid of me?"

One of my fave bands of the early 90s was Silverfish who totally shredded my ears on the two occasions I caught them live (both of which I've written about) - once as a support act, the other as headliner. They were wonderfully nasty, committing an aural assault so vicious I left each show with bruises.

I'm still a huge fan of their debut album 'Fat Axl' and am wondering why it's not in my final '50 albums to take to my grave' list. Their first two EPs weren't too shabby either - T.F.A. has become a track that I could scream to more than 50% of people I know (a number of them being managers in the NHS...)

Then came Big Bad Baby Pig Squeal, the Riot Grrrl anthem that led the 'Fuckin' Drivin' Or What?' EP, even though Silverfish were never actually part of the Riot Grrrl scene. I once nearly bought a Hips Tits Lips Power t-shirt. In hindsight, I'm glad I didn't. Nevertheless - WHAT. A. TUNE. THIS. IS!!! (Tip: skip the first 32 seconds of the clip below to get to the actual video...)

While the next album 'Organ Fan' had its share of decent tracks, it didn't sit with me as well as 'Fat Axl'. The final two EPs disappointed me, although Vitriola from 'Silverfish With Scrambled Eggs' was a corker.

Hard to believe that after Silverfish split, the gravelly-voiced Lesley Rankine would go on to do this:


Saturday 27 August 2016

The Genius Of Nick Cave

#13: Straight To You

Widely regarded as one of the Bad Seeds' finest moments, Straight To You not only featured in many best songs of 1992 lists, it also subsequently appeared in the NME's '500 Greatest Songs Of All Time' published in 2014. It appeared on my fave Cave album 'Henry's Dream' and also has one of my fave Cave videos. As a single, it reached a criminally low #68 in the UK charts, which is all you need to ever know about the tastes of the British record-buying public. This was the same year that Bryan Adams spent 16 weeks at number one. Bryan-fucking-Adams - a guy not even fit to lick the shit from Nick's shoes. The more I think about it, MrsRobster and I should have had this played at our wedding. When I think what we went through in our early years together only to still be here some 20 years later, it seems to tell our story. I could never say that about Bryan-fucking-Adams, that's for sure!

Wednesday 24 August 2016

I want it now!

Pardon the post title - I couldn't resist it.

You can tell Veruca Salt were considered a success when they were allowed to make videos like this for their second album. Volcano Girls is a terrific song and even rivals Seether to these ears. Shutterbug mentions Bristol, and Louise sings "telly" to mean TV. When did any American last do that?

I'm going to be in all sorts of trouble from a certain young lady for writing this, but surely I can't be the only one who found Louise Post to be exceedingly cute? All the same, they were never quite the same after Nina Gordon quit the band. Thank goodness the original lineup is back together. So here's one from last year's brilliant reunion album 'Ghost Notes'.


Saturday 20 August 2016

The Genius Of Nick Cave

#12: These Boots Were Made For Walking by The Boys Next Door

After last week's post, I'm winding it back 35 years - THIRTY-FIVE YEARS! - to Nick Cave's very first record. Things started even earlier than that. Cave and a bunch of his mates - who included Mick Harvey and Phill Calvert - formed a band at their school in Melbourne in 1973, playing songs by Bowie, Roxy Music, Lou Reed and the like. They continued after school with Cave, Harvey and Calvert being joined by bassist Tracy Pew. They turned their attention to the British and American punk scenes and started writing their own songs. The final piece of the jigsaw fitted into place in 1978 with the arrival of second guitarist Roland S. Howard. The shift in sound he brought the band helped fuel pretty much everything they did thereafter. Their first release was this cover of a song made famous by Nancy Sinatra. The song and the video were made before Howard joined, hence why it sounds like nothing that appeared on their debut album the following year. Sure, it'll never be remembered as one of Cave's defining moments, but it's notable for it being the first recorded output by a group of musicians who would later become The Birthday Party, one of the most controversial - and influential - bands of the 80s. And don't you think Nick looks more like Gary Numan here than Gary Numan did in 1978?

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Welsh Wednesday 100

Look Horizon by John Cale

So this is it. The century has been reached, and (for the time being at least) so has the end of Welsh Wednesdays. I think it's run its course but it's been a lot of fun and I may well revive it at some point as I still have quite a few tunes I want to feature, as well as what will inevitably be lots of new stuff. 

It's interesting when you do a long-running series such as this. I've found that some things I think will go down really well garner very little interest at all, while some other unlikely posts end up being quite popular. I just cannot predict you lot!

Anyway, to round things off in fitting style (for now), we return to one of Wales' most legendary and innovative artists. Someone (Dirk, maybe) recommended John Cale's 2003 album 'Hobo Sapien' some time back. It was his first album in seven years and was a major critical success. It's not an easy record to listen to in places, but then that's exactly what you expect from Cale. It has a heavily electronic sound, contrasting dark, ominous moments with bright, poppy twists.

There's a hidden track in the pregap, a re-recorded version of Set Me Free which originally featured on Cale's previous record 'Walking On Locusts'. It's a wonderful track, and I was tempted to post that one, but instead I went for Look Horizon. Very Bowie-esque, I think, though I'm hesitant to compare Cale with anyone as he's more likely to have influenced than to have been influenced. Let's not forget, Bowie made no secret of his love of the Velvet Underground. Even so, I can't help thinking Look Horizon might have fit on a number of Bowie's albums, including the last two. In case you're wondering, the female voice on this is Cale's 18-year-old daughter Eden.

A new Wednesday series starts in September, taking us beyond Welsh borders. Until we return, diolch am wrando.

Saturday 13 August 2016

The Genius Of Nick Cave

#11: Higgs Boson Blues

When Nick spoke of the Bad Seeds' 15th album 'Push The Sky Away' prior to its release, he described it as an album of ballads. However, it wasn't, he claimed, another 'Boatman's Call'. How right he was. 'Push The Sky Away' turned out to be one of the best records of his entire career. I'd even put it in my top 3. These songs were certainly not ballads in the conventional sense, but they were far from the loud feedback-swathed racket that graced 'Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!' and the Grinderman records. Two songs in particular stand out as among his best ever work. One of them will feature later in this series, but the other - today's pick - is simply astonishing. This version of Higgs Boson Blues is longer than the album version and sounds live, although I think that may just be Nick's vocal. To this day, his lyrics about Miley Cyrus crease me up, particularly: 

  "Hannah Montana does the African Savannah
  As the simulated rainy season begins
  She curses the queue at the Zulus
(zoo loos???)
  And moves on to Amazonia
  And cries with the dolphins."

Wednesday 10 August 2016

Welsh Wednesday #99

Sega Segur by Ffa Coffi Pawb

Ffa Coffi Pawb (trans: Coffee Beans for Everybody) formed in 1986 and boasted an unchanged line-up until their dissolution in 1992. They were one of Wales' favourite indie bands but, because they performed in the Welsh language, were barely noticed beyond the confines of their homeland. Of course, Peel played them, and there were even one or two appearances on obscure TV shows in England, but other than that, very little in the way of recognition.

So how come you may have heard of them? Well, two of their members went on to form bands that became much more well-known. Drummer Dafydd Ieuan became a founder member of Catatonia with ex-members of Y Cyrff and an unknown singer by the name of Cerys Matthews. He later quit to team up with his brother Cian Ciaran and former Ffa Coffi Pawb bandmate Gruff Rhys to form Super Furry Animals.

Sega Segur was a single from Ffa Coffi Pawb's third and final album 'Hei Vidal!' from 1992. Listening to it, you can totally hear how Gruff and Daf may well have influenced the sound of their later band. It would be three years before SFA would release their first recordings, but you could have sneaked Sega Segur onto either of those first two EPs and you probably wouldn't have noticed it was a different band!

The other two members of Ffa Coffi Pawb didn't leave the biz after the band split. Rhodri Puw joined Gorky's Zygotic Mynci and Dewi Emlyn became tour manager for both SFA and Gorky's.

Very excited to hear the news that Super Furry Animals are touring in December, playing both the first two albums in their entirety. The final date is in Cardiff. Guess who'll be in the thick of it....!?!?

Saturday 6 August 2016

The Genius Of Nick Cave

#10: Henry Lee

Another fave from 'Murder Ballads', and like Stagger Lee from a few weeks back, this one also has its roots in traditional folk music. This one, however, hails from Scotland. The tale is told here. Nick roped in Polly Harvey to sing the female character. The pair hit it off in such a big way, they had a rather passionate, if short-lived, love affair. Fortunately, there was no bad blood between them when they broke up, unlike poor Henry Lee and his vengeful spurned lover. The chemistry between Nick and Polly is evident in this marvellous video - a single four-minute shot that portrays more messages than a thousand words could ever hope to. Come on - it's Nick Cave and PJ Harvey. Could there ever be a more perfect combination?

A trailer for the new Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds album and Concert Movie event has just been released. In it, Nick talks of something "so catastrophic" happening to a person, it changes them forever. He is, of course, alluding to the tragic death of his teenage son Arthur last year. Intense and moving.

Wednesday 3 August 2016

Welsh Wednesday #98

Molly Drove Me Away by The People The Poet

You may remember a couple months ago I featured a band from Pontypridd called Climbing Trees. Well, also from Ponty is The People The Poet. They're a four-piece who came up with a novel way of writing their first album. They had friends and fans send them true stories of events in their lives, and these stories were used to base the songs on. The album was released late 2013 and entitled 'The Narrator'. It's a damn fine listen. 

The band also run a charity called Music Is My Medicine, after a saying used by an early fan and supporter of the band who was diagnosed with breast cancer. They wrote a song Pink Ribbon for her and set up the charity with a view to raising money for Cancer Research UK. It was through this that the idea for the album was born - to have people suggest ideas for music to help others through certain times in their lives. Molly Drove Me Away is a song from that debut album.

A new 6-track EP 'Paradise Closed' came out in the Spring and that's well worth investigating too. Some cracking tracks on there, the video for one of them is lined up for a post in the autumn. Why wait? It'll make sense when I post it, believe me. For the trivia buffs among you: The People The Poet's guitarist is Tyla Campbell, son of none other than Motorhead's Phil Campbell. Tyla's brother Todd produced the album. Pretty talented family, then.