Saturday 28 July 2018

What's the Deal, Kim? #3

The Amps were Kim Deal's project following the dissolution of the 'Last Splash' Breeders line-up. Originally intended as a solo project while Kelley was in rehab, Kim recruited Breeders bandmate Jim McPherson on drums, Luis Ferma on bass and Nate Farley on guitar.  She adopted the pseudonym Tammy Ampersand and called the band Tammy And The Amps, later shortening it to just The Amps.

They were far less polished than the Breeders, but the resulting album 'Pacer', released in 1995, certainly had Kim's trademark melodies. There was no follow-up, the band morphing back into The Breeders when Kelley came back on board the following year (though with a new drummer). However, it took a further six years before the third Breeders album 'Title TK' materialised.

Full On Idle featured on both 'Pacer' and 'Title TK'. It's a raucous blast of punk - probably the most raucous Kim got after the Pixies split - and this live version recorded for French TV was even more furious.

In 2003, Kim and Kelley contributed a track to the Hedwig & The Nasty Inch tribute album 'Wig In A Box'. Although credited to The Breeders, the line-up on Wicked Little Town was essentially just the two of them. It's a thing of beauty such of the kind you expect from the Deal sisters.

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Singing for Tim

Today I present one of the very best things to ever appear on this blog. Correction: one of the very best things to ever appear on any blog anywhere ever. David Minnick is a musician, songwriter and producer from Detroit. His most recent project involves acapella group The 180 Gs and what they've made together is quite spectacular. 'Singin' To God' is an exact recreation of 'Sing To God', the classic double album released by our favourite mavericks Cardiacs. Yes, 90 minutes of one of the greatest modern epics produced almost entirely by voices (there's a kazoo on Dog Like Sparky, a few "environmental sounds" and some other "body percussion"). You have to hear it to believe it.

I know very little about David Minnick or The 180 Gs, but I have a hunch they may be one and the same, which makes this work even more audacious. Perhaps the very best thing about this though is that half the price of each sale of the album is donated to Tim Smith for his ongoing medical care. So sample these tracks and then buy the thing. If not for Tim, for yourselves. For your happiness and wellbeing. Praise him, praise him.

And because it's not on YouTube, here's Dirty Boy, one of the greatest songs ever written, probably. No - definitely.

Wednesday 18 July 2018

The big, bad birthday post: 90s ABC

I suppose as you get older, it's natural that you look back and reminisce. I'm no fan of nostalgia, I believe in looking forward, especially where music's concerned. But I can't help it sometimes, especially when I stumble across a long-forgotten video on You Tube and think "Blimey, I loved that track." So today, on the occasion of my 47th birthday, I present an ABC of the early 90s - three records I really loved back in the day. I've never really forgotten them, they've all been played a number of times in the intervening decades, but probably not enough. It's a rather shoegazey selection (hence the shoegazey pic at the top), but if we just change the word 'shoegaze' to 'dream pop', we have a bang-up-to-date genre! Yes, it's all just words...

While the tunes are excellent, by contrast, check out the videos - three of the most 90s cliche-ridden clips you're ever likely to see!

From 1993, Homeboy was one of my most favourite songs of the year. By far the best track on the band's debut album, I so wanted to be in a band who played this. Actually, I wanted to be in Adorable playing this track. I still love it, a fantastic song. The vid has people jumping in water with guitars and the band in sillhouette. And guitars being swung around.

I bought The Belltower's 'Exploration Day' EP in 1992 on a hunch and was glad I did. Outshine The Sun is a cracking pop tune and remains so, even if it has dated a little. The video sees the band playing outdoors in a field, and with gaffa tape over their mouths. And guitars being swung around.

Pearl by Chapterhouse came out in 1991 and pretty much defines 90s shoegaze to me. Another wonderful track which just a few years later was sampled by Siouxsie And The Banshees for Kiss Them For Me. The vid? Close-ups of wistful-looking band members, more water, psychedelic backdrops... the only thing missing? Guitars being swung around.

I'll try and dig out some new stuff for my next post...

Thursday 12 July 2018

Memories of 2018 gigs #3

The Breeders
Support: Pip Blom
O2 Academy, Bristol - 10 July 2018

It's still hot here. Hot gigs can be fun, but when it's been sweltering all day it's sometimes not what you're looking forward to that much. Fortunately, Bristol's O2 Academy is air-conditioned so it was actually OK in there. For a while, anyway. Plus The Breeders were in town, and I'd crawl over hot coals in a Saharan heatwave for Kim Deal, so nothing was going to put me off.

The sell-out crowd wouldn't need warming up in a literal sense, but support act Pip Blom certainly got things off to a pacey start. Hailing from Amsterdam and named after their lead singer, erm, Pip Blom, they were one of the more energetic bands I've seen of late. Pip is the daughter of former (Peel favourites) Eton Crop frontman Erwin Blom so she has good musical genes. I'm sure many of my regular readers would enjoy tracks like School, I Think I'm In Love and current single Pussycat. (Brian, I'm especially thinking of you!) Their Bandcamp page is rich with their offerings to date. Highy recommended stuff.

So where do I start with The Breeders? Well, I have this fear. I fear that, when you hold someone in such high regard - when you idolise their work, when they've got you through some tough times, when they continue to restore your faith in popular music - at some point they're going to let you down. It's the law of averages, right? So my fear was that The Breeders would not - could not - live up to my expectations. They could never be as amazing as the picture I have of them in my head. Right?

WRONG! When Kim, Kelley, Josephine and Jim came onstage and launched into New Year and followed it up with Wait In The Car, they already had me convinced. For an hour and a half, The Breeders not only lived up to my hopes and expectations, they exceeded them. Everything I love about them - and all Kim's work in general - was on display. The rawness, the quirkiness, the honesty and the sheer all-round fun (even in dark, sinister songs like Walking With A Killer and All Nerve) was in abundance.

The set drew mainly from the new album and the seminal 'Last Splash', which is understandable seeing as this line-up made them. All the new songs sounded great. My favourite track on the new album, Howl At The Summit, was immense and put a massive grin on my face. Josephine's deadpan delivery on Metagoth was another peak moment. That song in particular summed up what made this such a good show. Metagoth is full of weird and wonderful sounds and effects, and live the band succeeds in reproducing them. I'm not an advocate of bands trying to sound the same live as they do on record - what's the point of that? - but The Breeders have tried to make the songs work in the concert setting. They sound like they're supposed to, only edgier and sharper.

There were smatterings of other old faves too: Glorious, Fortunately Gone and Happiness Is A Warm Gun from 'Pod' went down a storm, as expected, as did Safari. But for me, one of the big highlights was Off You, one of Kim's most delicate, beautiful and quiet songs. It has been one of my fave Breeders songs since its release just prior to 'Title TK' in 2002, and it was a wonderful surprise to hear it played here. The crowd hushed as Kim, Kelly and Josephine delivered a quite stunning, spellbinding performance. That was one of those 'wow' moments I've spoken about before. (The last one I had was at last year's Nadine Shah show in Cardiff).

To top it all off, the banter between band members and audience was great fun too. Josephine showed us the toy bubble machine she bought earlier in the day. "Bubbles make everything better," she said. Kim and Kelley mainly took the piss out of Josephine. "How does it feel to be back playing to your people?" Kim asked her British bass player, before making fun of her accent. The crowd got it too. Whenever a shout came from an audience member, Kim looked puzzled and asked Josephine "Do you know what that meant? I need a translator." Kelley sang the violin part in Drivin' On 9 as "we don't have a violin player", after which she was greeted with the largest cheer of the night.

Oh, and then there was Cannonball. And Gigantic. What more do you need to know?

Despite the air-con, the Academy got hotter and sweatier and sweatier and hotter as the night wore on - but I didn't care. When we stepped outside, I wasn't so disappointed about it still being 25 degrees and horribly muggy at 11pm as I was about the show having come to an end. Without a doubt, Kim, Kelley and the gang didn't let me down. My fears have subsided.

Here's the video of that Cannonball performance recorded for US public radio earlier this year:

Wednesday 4 July 2018

Summer graduation

Yesterday we headed westward to Carmarthen for TheMadster's graduation ceremony. The weather was, as it has been for the past couple of weeks, most un-British - baking hot and sunny. We came out of the univarsity's theatre dripping with sweat, but proud. TheMadster is the first of both mine and MrsRobster's immediate families to graduate. Well, apart from my brother who last year successfully completed an Open University degree in Engineering, but he was 44 then and has been doing the job for 20 years! Not that that undermines his achievement in any way - far from it. But TheMadster is the first to do it straight after leaving 6th form, you know what I mean. She attained a 2:1 in Sport and Exercise Science (Personal Training) and can now put BSc (Hons) after her name. Not only that, she's only gone and got herself a job as well. In a gym, no less.

The heatwave is set to continue for the next couple weeks, just in time for the school holidays when it will inevitably piss down for the next month! So while it's here, let's enjoy it with some good tunes. Firstly, a song you cannot ever get enough of, whatever the weather. Sadly, the video has vanished from You Tube so here's a Top Of The Pops performance instead in which Harriet sings live:

This one has long been a favourite of mine and MrsRobster. Great live band, too.

And here's one for TheMadster from one of her favourite bands.

Sunday 1 July 2018

A song for... July

This month's song is 27 years old, which hadn't dawned on me until I sat down to write this. 27???

Winter In July was Bomb The Bass' fourth and final top 10 hit, the second single from their second album 'Unknown Territory'. I say 'their', of course Bomb The Bass was actually just the one guy, Brixton boy Tim Simenon. I've never been big on electronic music, but 'Unknown Territory' was a surprise fave of mine back in the day. It was kind of pioneering in that it moved dance music away from singles and more into the 'unknown territory' of the proper album format. At the same time, it felt like a dance/rock crossover which, although Primal Scream, Happy Mondays and the like were doing something similar, Simenon seemed to be the first electronic solo artist to move in that direction. 'Twas a brave move perhaps, but the result was his most critically-appraised record.

The lead vocal is performed by Loretta Heywood who also co-wrote the song. She re-recorded Winter In July for her 2014 album 'The Boy Across The Road'. I've not heard that version, but the original is just wonderful and hard to beat.