Friday, 24 May 2013

Top 5 Songs of 2013 - March/April (& the first half of May)

It's Thursday night and too late to be thinking about writing a new top five from scratch, but it's been far too long since my last and I reckon I can do this one quickly. 2013 has continued to offer up exciting and brilliant new music so I'm fairly positive I can keep this going as a semi-regular post.

1. Anaïs Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer "Willies Lady (Child 6)" - I'd not clicked with Anaïs Mitchell until I heard this track on a Cerys Matthews session. The Child Ballads are a series of traditional ballads originating from England and Scotland and collected by Francis James Child in the late nineteenth century. Mitchell & Hamer's album of selected tunes really bring them to live and Willie's Lady is the tune that most captures my imagination. It tells a great story, features some spellbinding guitar picking and is beautifully sung.

2. Wire "Love Bends" - Marc Riley's influence over my musical taste is becoming all encompassing. I'm not a long standing Wire fan (I do have a compilation tucked somewhere in the dark recesses of my CD collection but I never really took to it) but the lead single from their excellent new album, Change Becomes Us, really caught my attention. There's a corking bass line rumbling along throughout and some wonderfully angular guitar and keyboard noises flying about in between.

3. Charlie Boyer & The Voyeurs "Things We Be" - More 6music goodness. Charlie Boyer & The Voyeurs not only have a good look and a cool name they also have an impossibly thin front man. I've a feeling I'm going to feel massively out of place if I ever catch them live, not that that's ever stopped me, but I love this tune especially the 12 string guitar riffage.

4. Public Service Broadcasting "Signal 30" - British Sea Power pick the best support acts you're likely to see. Unfortunately I missed PSB play with BSP but their name caught my eye and when I finally heard their music (2012's Spitfire) I wasn't disappointed. Public Service Broadcasting use samples from archive public information films and splice these seamlessly into their music. This track rocks out inbetween some brilliant dialogue - "No drinking & driving", "Not even beer?", "Not even water!"

5. Purson "Leaning On A Bear - Another band it took me a while to like, another band introduced to me by Marc Riley and another band who have supported. This song sounds like some long lost rock classic from the seventies. It's a bit of a psychadelic wall of sound but the tune shines through.


Friday, 17 May 2013

Chop's CD Roulette - "Winter Words - Hits & Rareties" by All About Eve

The next entry in the Chop's CD Roulette series is exactly the type of album I was hoping to find. Something I've not listened to for ages, and if I'm honest am not entirely sure why I bought.

@Sidaway1 selected A9 which corresponded to Winter Words - Hits & Rareties by All About Eve (1992)

Winter Words is a compilation released by record label Mercury shortly after an acrimonious split with the band. It features all the bands best known singles from their first three (and most succesful albums) along with a number of rare and unreleased tracks. I'd been a big All About Eve fan up to that point and probably had most of this stuff already but clearly felt there was something essential I was missing. My music purchases are more varied these days, I'm certainly less completist about bands that I like. I suppose All About Eve appealed to the folk element of my musical taste. I also had a bit of a thing for Julianne Regan.

I tweeted this listen live, which was fun and provided some useful interaction along the way.

The first track is Our Summer, an odd choice for an opener as it's an unreleased version, possibly a demo. I vaguely remember it being a live fave but it gets this compilation off to a wonky start. It's a bit of a stodgy mix which doesn't help and is a little underwhelming if I'm honest. All About Eve had recently split with their original record company, Phonogram, so this was a cash in spitefully released to coincide with the band's fourth album, and first for MCA, Ultraviolet.

Track 2 is much more like it. Flowers In Our Hair was the last of the band's four self released singles and is subtly different to the version that made it on to their debut album. Though if I'm honest I didn't notice and only found out thanks to the help of Wikipedia. In The Clouds continues in much the same vein. This is one of their better tunes with a booming bass line and multi-tracked Julianne vocals. Lovely.

I'm trying to work out why I was so into All About Eve. They had a bit of a Goth connection, Julianne singing on an early Mission single and Tim Bricheno eventually leaving the band to play guitar with Sisters of Mercy, but I wasn't into those bands at all. If anything I guess between 1988 and 1992 I was going through something of a transition from Heavy Metal kid through Indie to all stops Alternative. Things got a mixed up as I discovered lots of new music and didn't always filter out the crap.

Ah, Martha's Harbour, pretty sure this is the tune that really won me over. A delicate acoustic guitar melody and a really pretty vocal from Julianne Regan. This was All About Eve at their most folky and definitely their biggest hit. You might remember them performing it on Top Of The Pops when they failed to hear their cue and ended up standing still looking silly while the song played. Think they got to go back the following week to do it properly.

Every Angel sounds a bit more rocky. Definitely one of my favourites from their live shows. Tim giving it some on the Guitar and a nice vocal from Juilianne. I think, if I'm honest, the main attraction to All About Eve for me was Julianne Regan.

I'm so shallow.

On Twitter @substandardnerd recommended Julianne Regan's other band Mice. They released one album in 1996 called "... Because I Can". I've a feeling someone lent me a copy of this ages ago and I never got round to playing it, so will try and dig it out.

Wild Hearted Woman and What Kind Of Fool round off the singles from their debut album. This compilation is helpfully in chronological order so next up are the singles from second album Scarlet & Other Stories. Road To Your Soul shows the bands sound maturing a little. Tim's guitar sounds warmer and they've taken advantage of the benefits of a plusher recording studio. Scarlet is a fine album though, I saw them play the Royal Albert Hall two nights in a row on this tour, which is a little hard to comprehend now. I had a a real cross section of friends who also liked them so went with people I probably didn't see many other bands with.

The title track Scarlet has a really nice semi-acoustic (I'm guessing) guitar intro. There's a bit of Spanish guitar too and a lovely vocal. Hints of Kate Bush which explains why at least one of my mates liked them (Hello Martyn!). December starts slowly but builds into quite a dramatic tune. There's a hint of Marillion in the guitar sound, believe it or not.

Tim Bricheno left the band after Scarlet (having split up with Julianne too). Marty Willson-Piper replaced him on guitar and Farewell Mr Sorrow was the first single from the new album Touched By Jesus. There's a fresh sound about this track, more of a pop sensibility perhaps. Marty's guitar sound is not massively different from Tim's sound, but does bring something a little different to the band. Strange Way is not quite as captivating and is the second song (and second single) written about Tim Bricheno. Ouch! Dreamer has a bit of fuzz pedal and indicates a slight shift in direction. I think Marty gave the band a new lease of life but unfortunately that wasn't reflected in sales.

We're into the rareties now which might have been the lure that coerced me into buying something with so much stuff I already owned. Paradise is up first but not hugely memorable. Candy Tree is a track that I think dates back to AAE's earliest days. I saw them play this live and was desperate to get a copy. Bit of a folk-rock vibe kicking off.

Somehow we still have four tracks to play. Drowning is first, it's got an echoey intro, quite atmospheric. Wild Flowers seems like an identikit AAE tune - Add a bit of acoustic, dig out a semi hippy lyric, get Julianne to sound wistful, job done. Ah, two "new" unreleased tracks close the album. Theft was apparently wrongly titled and should have been called If I Had You. That's blindingly obvious if you listen to the song. Then it's all over with Different Sky. Both tracks feature Wayne Hussey of The Mission on guitar, which kind of brings us full circle.

Not sure I'll be digging this out again in a hurry but it did bring back some nice memories. I suspect I've also used the word lovely more than any sane person really should.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Guest Top 5 - Bands Featuring Members of Jane's Addiction by Here_Comes_B

After a few weeks of non-top five blathering you'll be relieved to see me hand the reins over to someone who actually knows his subject really well. This is @Here_comes_B second guest top five of the year. If he carries on at this rate he'll have done more top five posts this year than me! Mat's previous guest post was about bands or solo artists associated with the Brian Jonestown Massacre. I mentioned in that intro Mat was a fan of Jane's Addiction too, so here he is to complete the circle.

I grew up with the music of Jane's Addiction. It's been with me all of my adult life, through thick and thin. They're one of the bands I've always tried to see when they've been in England and I've seen them about 8 times since 1990 (with Eric, without, as a support band (for The Wonderstuff), on festival bills and headlining). I liked the sense of theatricality about them. That the visual and art aesthetic was equal to the music and the message (probably a reason why the group photo on "Strays" failed to inspire since the other LPs had featured some art). Their music seemed to encapsulate a bit of everything: love, sex, death, art etc. They also seemed to thrive on conflict, which is why Ritual de lo Habitual is my number one album of all time (I think they all pretty much hated each other by then, half were full time junkies and Perry was keeping the vast majority of the money as he wrote, sang and did some production. They didn't record it together, just went in separately and recorded their parts). When they split in 1991, I was obsessed with buying up all the music they put out separately (Deconstruction, Porno for Pyros, Dave Navarro's "Trust No One", Perry's electronica LP Song Yet to be Sung, Eric Avery solo LPs and later, the 2 Jane's sans Eric LPs they did) to try and recapture some of that Jane's voodoo magic. Here's the top 5 of the non-Jane's output.

Psi Com

5) "Xiola" Psi Com (Perry Farrell and some LA goth/punks) - This for me is the first Jane's Addiction song. I wish they'd rerecorded it under the Jane's banner. It's only got Perry on it (from Jane's) but probably has some of his most Perry-est singing ("Xiooolaaaaaaaah"). It's also about the same person (Xiola Blue) that "Three Days" is about. It's proper LA goth/punk sounding too. Dates to about 85.

4) "Fire in the Hole" Deconstruction (Eric Avery & Dave Navarro from Jane's...guest vox from Gibby Haynes)-
Surely born out of the Lollapalooza tour (Butthole Surfers played the first one I think), this track welded Texan madman Gibby Haynes onto LA psychedelic rock from Eric and Dave following the Jane's split. 2 minutes 30 in, it has a guitar solo worthy of Jane's at their peak, obviously it follows on from Gibby screaming.

3) "Kimberly Austin" Porno for Pyros (Perry Farrell & Steve Perkins of Jane's plus Peter di Stefano & Martyn LeNoble) - For all the chaos and ferociousness of Jane's, there's always been a pretty, simple side too (see "Classic Girl" or "Summertime Rolls"). This one is much the same: "I like to watch her sway, she's luck before I'm going away". Pure lovely.

2) "Sadness" Porno for Pyros (Perry Farrell & Stephen Perkins from Jane's plus Peter di Stefano) - But for the production, which is a bit tinny, this would be one of the best songs Perry has done. The right mix of psychedelia, menacing banshee vocals and interesting rhythm holding it all together.

1) "All Remote & No Control" Eric Avery - "Strays" by Jane's sans Eric was a straight up rock record in my opinion. It has its moments but lacks something. This track from Eric Avery, off of "Help Wanted", for me, demonstrates where some of that voodoo went. This LP and the one he's doing now ("LIFE.TIME" up on Bandcamp) have some truly wonderful art rock on them with Eric's lovely, almost baritone vocals. "Maybe" off the same LP has one of the all time great indierock duets, Eric singing with Shirley Manson (of Garbage, who Eric has toured with playing bass). "Fade (after Elliot's Hollow Men" off the current LP is well worth a look, while yer here).
"This is how the world ends. This is how the world ends".

Honourable mentions to "Awesome" by Satellite Party (Perry & Etty Farrell, Stephen Perkins and him from Extreme) which Etty told me came from when they had one of their babies ("what I behold is awesome"). Gets me every time. Also to "Song Yet To Be Sung" from Perry's solo electronic LP of the same name. Also to "Bali Eyes" off of the 2nd Porno for Pyros LP, pure beautiful. Finally to "Underground" off of "The Great Escape Artist" which is every bit as magical as anything off Ritual or Nothing's Shocking. "I'm a hustler, hustler, I'll never give up the underground".

Eric Avery


Friday, 3 May 2013

Chop's CD Roulette - "The Black Light" by Calexico

Next up on Chop's CD Roulette is the second album by "desert noir" maestros Calexico. A concept album about the desert of Arizona and northern Mexico that displays touches of Americana, Indie and Tex-Mex influences.

@sonikkicks selected B25 which corresponded to The Black Light by Calexico (1998)

Calexico were effectively a duo at this point, by the next album I think they had expanded into a full band, but this album still features several contributions from other musicians. Joey Burns and John Convertino had been original members of Friends of Dean Martinez before joining up with Howe Gelb's Giant Sand. They became something of a rhythm section for hire (they are both brilliant on their default instruments) and formed Calexico as a means to unleash their multi-instrumental talents. I got into them in 1999 around the same time I was discovering Lambchop and beginning to get interested in Americana.

The album kicks off with Gypsy's Curse which has a wonderful twanging double bass line intro that sets the scene perfectly. Convertino's brushed drums and the swirl of accordion help build this instrumental, evoking the dusty streets of a Mexi-Cal border town. This feels like a largely instrumental album (though playing it back made me realise how many tracks do have vocals) and Fake Fur continues the theme. More double bass but with percussion provided by maracas and marimba to give it a more latin tempo. The guitar is reminiscent of a Ry Cooder soundtrack.

The Ride (Part 2) is the first track to feature vocals. Though Joey's voice is understated and restrained. Another short instrumental follows, a melancholy violin led tune called Where Water Flows. Then the title track picks things up again. The Black Light is one of the album highlights for me, that trademark drum and double bass combo setting the tone again and a lyric about following a girl to the darkest edges of town - "Follow her hair to the dark end of the street ... Out past the border patrol ..."

Sideshow jazzes things up a little with it's "Roll up, Roll up" guitar line and fairground accordion. Similarly Chach ups the Latin ante with more maracas, a swell of horns & trumpet parping and a pretty piano coda. Missing is the longest track on the album. A slow and melancholy tune with an almost whispered vocal.

Minas de Cobre is probably my favourite track. It has some fine pedal steel guitar and a great riff. There's the tap tap sound of something wooden providing percussion, and then the horns kick in and are amazing. This sounds a little like a Mexican Tindersticks.

I'm starting to run out of words to describe each track. That's probably a sign I should find a different way to write these in future. Over Your Shoulder is a gentle guitar led tune that echoes some of what has gone before. The album continues in that vein with five sub-three minute tracks which help evoke the sense of this being a soundtrack to an imaginary film. These are mostly instrumental though Trigger has a vocal that talks of an accidental shooting. Stray has a nice bass led intro and talks of a man moving away after the death of his lover. There's some corking Trumpet parping on this one too. Old Man Waltz wraps up the run with an accordion led waltz following on from a screechy violin introduction that conjures images of silent comedies.

Bloodflow is the final installment of the story, continuing the theme of the man struggling to cope with the death of his and trying to "avoid the tap on the shoulder, from that one in the long black cape". It's an oblique lyric but it's possible the man commits suicide unable to cope with the grief. Don't hold me to that though, I'm rubbish at listening to lyrics. Whatever the truth the album ends on an upbeat note with the instrumental Frontera. It's got a booming back beat and some lovely brass melody and possibly hints at the desert remaining beyond the life of people and things. I could be reading too much into this. It's a wonderful final tune though and ends the album on a bit of a high.