Wednesday, 25 November 2015

50 Years of Tunes - 2009 - Bill Callahan "Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle"

Having discovered Bill Callahan when he was still recording as Smog (in particular the excellent Knock Knock) I wasn't expecting him to turn up with his best album so far into his career. Callahan, like Will Oldham, seems to be an incredibly prolific songwriter who can't produce a bad tune.

Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle, despite it's confusing title is an immaculate album. Special mention for Eid Ma Clack Shaw, a song about Bill dreaming the perfect song but finding the lyrics are nonsense when he wakes up. Ironically this may actually be the perfect song, it's certainly one of my favourite.

2009 - Bill Callahan "Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle"

Released: April 2009
Label: Drag City
Producer: Raven

Track List:

1. "Jim Cain" – 4:39
2. "Eid Ma Clack Shaw" – 4:19
3. "The Wind and the Dove" – 4:34
4. "Rococo Zephyr" – 5:42
5. "Too Many Birds" – 5:27
6. "My Friend" – 5:12
7. "All Thoughts Are Prey to Some Beast" – 5:52
8. "Invocation of Ratiocination" – 2:41
9. "Faith/Void" – 9:44


Wednesday, 18 November 2015

50 Years of Tunes - 2008 - Youthmovies "Good Nature"

I first saw Youthmovies, supporting Hope Of The States in 2003, when they were called Youth Movie Soundtrack Strategies and had something of a Red Hot Chilli Peppers vibe. That was probably more to do with the bare chests than their music and whilst I wasn't entirely convinced by the music they certainly made an impression.

They were the sort of band I doubt I'd have even heard about before the growth of the Internet and it was thrilling to find a band that seemed so perfect playing tiny venues. I didn't see them live again until the year this album (their only full length release) came out and by then they're musical style had changed significantly. I became a huge fan and was disappointed when less than two years later they played their last gig.

A really great band who I was sad to see fall by the wayside so soon.

2008 - Youthmovies "Good Nature"

Released: March 2008
Label: Drowned In Sound

Track List:

1. "Magdalen Bridge"
2. "The Naughtiest Girl is a Monitor"
3. "Soandso and Soandso"
4. "the Last Night of the Proms"
5. "Cannulae"
6. "If You'd Seen a Battlefield"
7. "Shh! You'll Wake it!"
8. "Something for the Ghosts"
9. "Archive it Everywhere"
10. "Surtsey"


Friday, 13 November 2015

Top 5 One Hit Wonders - Chop's Picks

As I mentioned with last week's collaborative vote result, I was surprised by the variety of songs people voted for in this category. I realise now that has a lot to do with what people consider a one hit wonder and, true to form, I've pushed the definition a bit for some of my selections.

1. "Rescue Me" Fontella Bass - I've seen this described as the best song Aretha Franklin didn't sing. Fontella's vocal is very similar in range to Aretha's but this is a marvelous song. She had a number of minor hits in the US but Rescue Me was her only UK Top 30 single.

Some interesting tidbits from Wikipedia - Minnie Riperton provided background vocals, and Maurice White and Louis Satterfield, later of Earth, Wind & Fire, were on drums and bass respectively. Also, discussing the call-and-response sections with The New York Times, she said, "When we were recording that, I forgot some of the words... Back then, you didn’t stop while the tape was running, and I remembered from the church what to do if you forget the words. I sang, 'Ummm, ummm, ummm' and it worked out just fine".

2. "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon" Urge Overkill - A cover of the Neil Diamond song that featured on the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction, it peaked at 37 in the UK charts but gave the band their only UK Top 40 single. So, possibly scraping my definition of a "hit" (especially as Fontella Bass' reached 32 with Recovery the follow up to Rescue Me) but I'm going to include it as it's appearance in Tarantino's excellent second movie (see the 2nd video below) made a huge impression - Uma Thurman dancing round the room while John Travolta convinces himself not to do anything silly with Marsellus Wallace's Wife before walking back downstairs to find that she's just overdosed on bad coke.

3. Echo Beach Martha & The Muffins - A proper hit, reaching number 10 in the UK in 1980. This was one of my favourite songs included on a New Wave compilation called The Sound Of The Suburbs. I always associated it with Chesil Beach in Dorset which might have something to do with the barrier style beach that featured on the cover of the seven inch release.

4. 96 Tears Question Mark & The Mysterians - I first heard this thanks to a cover by the Inspiral Carpets that featured on their first, self-released, album Dung 4. The original was a US number one and in the band's homeland they scored other hits but in the UK this was their only charting single (making 37 in 1966). The Stranglers also covered the song and got to 17 with it in 1990 making their version the best known for UK listeners.

5. Pipeline The Chantays - An instrumental surf rock standard that gave the US band their only UK Top 75 in 1963 when it peaked at number 16. I know this best thanks to the cover that Johnny Thunders included on his magnificent debut LP, So Alone.


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

50 Years of Tunes - 2007 - Les Savy Fav "Let's Stay Friends"

In the words of Jetplane Landing Why do they never play Les Savy Fav on the radio? The only Punk band left in America. I'm guessing if you don't know who Les Savy Fav are you've even less chance of knowing Jetplane Landing but the sentiment is still valid.

It might be a little harsh on the current American Punk scene but Les Savy Fav are a special band, amazing live and remarkably consistent on record. Let's Stay Friends was the first album of theirs I heard and it's an absolute corker.

2007 - Les Savy Fav "Let's Stay Friends"

Released: September 2007
Label: Frenchkiss Records

Track List:

1. "Pots & Pans" – 2:38
2. "The Equestrian" – 3:27
3. "The Year Before the Year 2000" – 2:26
4. "Patty Lee" – 3:51
5. "What Would Wolves Do?" – 2:56
6. "Brace Yourself" – 4:13
7. "Raging in the Plague Age" – 2:43
8. "Slugs in the Shrubs" – 2:40
9. "Kiss Kiss Is Getting Old" – 3:18
10. "Comes & Goes" – 3:01
11. "Scotchgard the Credit Card" – 3:06
12. "The Lowest Bitter" – 4:20


Friday, 6 November 2015

Collaborative Top 5 One Hit Wonders - RESULT

I thought this was a topic that would have fewer options and therefore make it easier to find a clear top five. Turns out I didn't take into account the broad gamut of tastes of those who contributed.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to vote, this really wouldn't work without you. There's a list of the tunes that received two or more votes at the bottom - if you voted for a song and it's not mentioned, you were on your own with your appreciation.

1. "99 Luftballons/99 Red Balloons" Nena - It's 1984 and floppy fringes, headless basses and key-tars are the height of fashion. It was only during the voting for this top five that I discovered the German language original which was also a hit in the USA. This made number 1 in the UK and I remember it being a massive hit at the time, a tune that I initially dismissed for being too poppy but worked it's way into my brain so that I ended up really liking it. It's an anti-war song and I suspect loses a bit of impact in translation though watching them sing it in German it's still sounds remarkably perky.

2. "Uptown Top Ranking" Althea & Donna - This came out in 1977 and was a little bit before my time, or at least passed me by. According to Wikipedia the song was played by accident by BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel leading to the single becoming a surprise hit in the UK Singles Chart, reaching number 1 in February 1978. Althea & Donna were 17 & 18 when it was recorded and became the youngest female duo to claim a UK number 1.

3. "Jilted John" Jilted John - I went to school with a kid called Simon Gordon and inevitably he took a bit of stick after this hit the charts due to the "Gordon is a moron" refrain. Actually I think I probably knew this song more from hearing kids sing it at school than from the actual song. It was a hit in September 1978 and I reckon I only started watching Top Of The Pops regularly in 1979. Back then of course TOTP was the ONLY way of finding out about bands.

4. "Echo Beach" Martha and the Muffins - I've clearly got readers of a certain age as this bit of New Wave Pop was a hit in 1980. I'll be revealing my personal top five next week but without wanting to spoil the suspense you'll be seeing this tune mentioned again. In fact it's the only one of my choices to make the collaborative list.

5. "I Won't Let You Down" Ph.D - Jim Diamond died only a few weeks ago and that might have contributed to this song's late surge into the top five. Ph.D were a British group comprised of Diamond on guitar & vocal, keyboardist Tony Hymas and drummer Simon Phillips. This was the band's only hit in April 1982, though Diamond later launched a solo career and scored a number one single with I Should Have Known Better.

Here's the full list of tunes that received two or more votes;

1 Nena 99 Red Balloons/99 Luft Balloons
2 Althia & Donna Uptown Top Ranking
3 Jilted John Jilted John
4 Martha & The Muffins Echo Beach
5 PhD I Won't Let You Down
6 The Passions I'm In Love with a German Film Star
7 Thunderclap Newman Something In The Air
7 Norman Greenbaum Spirit In The Sky
9 Trio Da Da Da
9 Fontella Bass Rescue Me
11 Tubeway Army Are Friends Electric?
11 Wild Cherry Play That Funky Music
13 Len Steal My Sunshine
13 The Las There She Goes
13 Chesney Hawkes The One & Only
13 M/A/R/R/S Pump Up The Volume
13 Lilys Nanny In Manhattan
18 Modern English Melt With You
18 Zager & Evans In The Year 2525
18 Brian Protheroe Pinball
21 The Knack My Sharona
22 White Town Your Woman
22 New Radicals You Get What You Give


Wednesday, 4 November 2015

50 Years of Tunes - 2006 - Cat Power "The Greatest"

Cat Power backed by some of the best session musicians Memphis has to offer and sounding more confident than she had ever done up til this point.

The Greatest is an album I loved from the first time I heard it and has yet to fade in my affections with subsequent plays.

2006 also saw the remarkable Ys by Joanna Newsome & the excellent Fox Confessor Brings The Flood by Neko Case but Cat Power steals the limelight for me.

2006 - Cat Power "The Greatest"

Released: May 2005
Label: Matador
Producer: Stuart Sikes

Track List:

1. "The Greatest" 3:22
2. "Living Proof" 3:11
3. "Lived in Bars" 3:44
4. "Could We" 2:21
5. "Empty Shell" 3:04
6. "Willie" 5:57
7. "Where Is My Love" 2:53
8. "The Moon" 3:45
9. "Islands" 1:44
10. "After It All" 3:31
11. "Hate" 3:38
12. "Love & Communication" 4:34

All tracks written by Chan Marshall


Wednesday, 28 October 2015

50 Years of Tunes - 2005 - Sleater-Kinney "The Woods"

It is indicative of my sense of timing that I should get into a band just as their releasing their final album before going on an indefinite hiatus.

The Woods is an astonishingly powerful record that often shows me how cheap my various speakers & headphones actually are by pushing them well beyond their natural limits.

Speaker buzz aside, The Woods is a phenomenal album and the record that made me fall head over heals for the majesty of Sleater-Kinney.

I finally got to see them live this year and it was brilliant, probably my gig of the year. Hooray for hiatuses.

2005 - Sleater-Kinney "The Woods"

Released: May 2005
Label: Sub Pop
Producer: Dave Fridmann

Track List:

1. "The Fox" 3:25
2. "Wilderness" 3:40
3. "What's Mine Is Yours" 4:58
4. "Jumpers" 4:24
5. "Modern Girl" 3:01
6. "Entertain" 4:55
7. "Rollercoaster" 4:55
8. "Steep Air" 4:04
9. "Let's Call It Love" 11:01
10. "Night Light" 3:40

All music composed by Sleater-Kinney (Carrie Brownstein, Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss)


Wednesday, 21 October 2015

50 Years of Tunes - 2004 - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds "Abattoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus"

I had a few aborted attempts to get into Nick Cave but for some reason this epic double album was the one where it all finally clicked for me.

It might have something to do with Breathless, the song in the video link below, which is utterly gorgeous and a definite contender for my all time favourite song list.

Both albums are superb and, you'll be pleased to hear, I'm now making good progress with the rest of the Cave canon.

2004 - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds "Abattoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus"

Released: September 2004
Label: Mute
Producer: Nick Launay

Track List:

Disc one: Abattoir Blues
1. "Get Ready for Love" (Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Martyn P. Casey, Jim Sclavunos) 5:05
2. "Cannibal's Hymn" 4:54
3. "Hiding All Away" 6:31
4. "Messiah Ward" 5:14
5. "There She Goes, My Beautiful World" 5:17
6. "Nature Boy" (Cave, Ellis, Casey, Sclavunos) 4:54
7. "Abattoir Blues" (Cave, Ellis) 3:58
8. "Let the Bells Ring" (Cave, Ellis) 4:26
9. "Fable of the Brown Ape" 2:45

Disc two: The Lyre of Orpheus
1. "The Lyre of Orpheus" (Cave, Ellis, Casey, Sclavunos) 5:36
2. "Breathless" 3:13
3. "Babe, You Turn Me On" 4:21
4. "Easy Money" 6:43
5. "Supernaturally" 4:37
6. "Spell" (Cave, Ellis, Casey, Sclavunos) 4:25
7. "Carry Me" 3:37
8. "O Children" 6:51

All songs written and composed by Nick Cave unless otherwise noted.


Friday, 16 October 2015

Chop's Gigs - August/September

Bit of a backlog of these again, 2015 is turning out to be an amazing year for live music which isn't helping my bank balance any.

The Phantoms at The Royal Oak, Hampton on Friday 7th Aug 2015 - I've seen The Phantoms a lot, they're rapidly heading towards the top of my list of bands I've seen the most. They're pals and, despite inevitable line up changes, have been going for over 15 years now. Having previously played regularly at The Grey Horse in Kingston this was their second time at the Royal Oak and I think the new environs suited them.

Mark Lanegan Band at the Concorde 2, Brighton on Wednesday 2nd September 2015 - Mark Lanegan is a relentlessly consistent songwriter and his live band are just as consistent. I'm not sure how steady the line-up is, the last two albums have featured a rolling cast of contributors, but they sound well drilled and very loud.

Brakes at The Lexington on Monday 7th September 2015 - Brakes are a joy to see live. They cram as much fun into an hour as any band I've ever seen. Flying pineapples, false starts, broken drum sticks & audience participation all play a part in the band's return to the London stage and make this a night to remember.

Torres / Du Blonde / Harkin at The Scala on Wednesday 23rd September 2015 - Three singer songwriters all at the top of their game made for a brilliant night of music at one of my favourite venues in London.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

50 Years of Tunes - 2003 - The Necks "Drive By"

An improvisational Jazz trio would not be my usual fare at all but a pal of mine told me a bit about The Necks and the more I heard the more intrigued I got.

Their albums tend to be hour long one track affairs and Drive By may be their most well known piece of work, it's certainly my favourite Neck's album so far.

Live they take a genuinely improvisational approach, I got to saw them at the impossibly hip Cafe Oto last year and was utterly blown away.

2003 - The Necks "Drive By"

Released: 2003
Label: Fish Of Milk

Track List:

"Drive By" (The Necks) - 60:16