30 June 2008

Flash and the Pan - Down Among The Dead Men

Date of Release: 1978/ 1983 (flopped both times in the UK)
Label: Easybeat

At this point, I do have to declare that the inclusion of this track on this blog is perhaps unfair - Flash and the Pan were one hit wonders in Britain with "Waiting For A Train" actually sniffing the arse end of the Top Ten, but this track was issued before that. This technically breaks my own rules of only allowing the inclusion of material by acts either on the wane at the time the work was issued, or acts who never entered the charts in the first place.

In my defence, I should say that an optimistic record label did re-issue this single after the band tasted stardom, but it still did no business at all. And anyway, what the hell, it's actually a great buried single with such a preposterous video that you'll all thank me for mentioning it.

Whilst this single is a lyrically unadventurous piece of work, outlining the events on the Titanic in rather dispassionate, list-loving tones, it's still a treat otherwise. The clipped, cold vocals and the dancefloor rhythms and electronic twitterings towards the end make it an actually pretty damn good new wave single from an unlikely source. George Young and Harry Vanda were originally members of the Easybeats (already included on the "Wallpaper" compilation elsewhere on this blog) and this was quite some departure from "Friday on My Mind". Whilst the music press seemed quite happy to ignore Flash and the Pan's output in favour of younger, hipper acts, in retrospect this is a much bolder leap into then-modern production territories than either The Rolling Stones or any of the Beatles managed.

The break wasn't entirely clean as the compilation album "Panorama" proves. Periodically on that disc there's the odd clunker which sounds slightly like men out of their depth (drowning with the Titanic, perhaps) but there's also a lot of interesting material, some of which should actually have been sampled by some forward-thinking person by now. And yep, they did go on to produce AC/DC, their younger brothers.

As for the video, the sight of grown men dicking around in pirate costumes is always worth five minutes of your time. "All You Ever Wanted To Know About Ice and Fog But Were Afraid To Ask" indeed.

29 June 2008

Action Spectacular - I'm A Whore

Action Spectacular

Part of: Snakebite City Volume Eight
Label: Bluefire Records
Year of Release: 1998 (I think?!)

There were numerous independent music industry innovations on the go during the nineties which now seem to have been thrown under the bed in pop's great spare room. The "Volume" series of albums springs immediately to mind, offering a compilation album of obscure tracks, album tasters and remixes with a well-written CD booklet sized magazine. You'd think they'd be worth a fortune by now, but don't rush on to ebay, because it seems they're not.

At the opposite end of the spectrum to "Volume" in terms of presentation are the "Snakebite City" series of compilation albums, strictly no-frills minimal affairs which retailed at budget prices. Focussing largely on unsigned bands, each release still seemed to have an uncanny strike rate in predicting which bands would cause a press flurry (Bis featured on one of the earliest volumes). They never quite managed to showcase an act who went on to top ten success, but nonetheless the line-up on the albums does read like a who's who of the pub circuit at a certain time in UK musical history. The Crocketts are there, as are Drugstore, The Sweeney, Inter (weren't Inter everywhere at one point?), Posh, Tiny Too, and... erm... some ranty performance poet type called Vis the Spoon (who still regularly performs at the Rhythm Factory, in case you needed to be told).

As you might expect, there's some tremendous dross across the eleven volumes, but some sheer brilliance as well, and one of the finest pieces of work props up track three on Volume Eight - for Sheffield's Action Spectacular produce the mournful "I'm a Whore" at that moment for our pleasure. Essentially Spearmint's "Sweeping the Nation" in lyrical tone with added spittle and despair, the song is a ballad to the McJob. It starts with a screeching thrash, the lead singer screaming "I'm a whore!" then turns into a delicate ditty, outlining the tedium of a low-rung daily routine. Answering phones, washing dishes, faxes, photocopiers are given namechecks towards the end, whilst the lines "I'm a slag whose been had/ in ten years I'll be my Dad/ look at all the worthless things I do" appear within the first verse. It's so despairing it's actually very funny, but also perhaps depressingly familiar, and by the time they come to "Always dreamed I'd have a band/ but I'm working for The Man" you can only sing along in sympathy. The epic ending with spoken word rant recalls Pulp at their finest, and the track really does have "cult classic" stamped all over it. The trouble is, I've never even met anyone who has heard it, unless I shoved it on to a compilation CD for them first of course.

Unlike a good many of the bands who were given the Snakebite City treatment, Action Spectacular did go on to get signed - but by the time I heard them tweeting out of my radio alarm on XFM one morning in the year 2000, they were rather different. The comedy angst of "I'm a Whore" had been replaced by lo-fi electronica and contemplative acoustic work-outs. The NME never completely got behind them (there's a mixed review here: , the records didn't sell, and to the best of my knowledge "I'm A Whore" never even came out as a flip side, never mind being given the A-side treatment it surely deserved. Still, here it is for your delight below - and if anyone does have a copy of their "From Here On It's A Riot" album, I for one would be interested.

Anyone curious about Snakebite City might be surprised to see there's still a website active below as well:

26 June 2008

Second Hand Record Dip Part 11 - Graham De Wilde - Threshold


Who: Graham De Wilde
What: Threshold
Where: Music and Video Exchange, Camden
Label: BBC
Year of Release: 1984
Cost: 50p

Ah... BBC Records and Tapes... purveyors of many a fine comedy album, Radio Four recording, and Brown Sauce's hit "I Just Wanna Be A Winner". Was there ever a finer label? Depends what you're looking for, I suppose. If it's music, there's a strong chance you're stuffed.

In his excellent biography "All of the Moves But None of the Licks", the owner of Strange Fruit records Clive Selwood reveals that BBC Records and Tapes were rather shortsighted when it came to issuing John Peel sessions. When Peel himself approached the organisation with a view to releasing some, they replied that they felt it would not deliver many returns and should not be considered a priority. They apparently had to focus on their present "big project", which was some LP recordings of a Radio Four gardening show.

Whether the above story is apocryphal or not, you needn't be Poirot to spot some exceptionally rum BBC releases in second hand stores out there. Also considered more important than releasing a Jimi Hendrix sessions EP in 1984 was... this. The theme tune to "Whicker's World - A Fast Boat To China". Clearly somebody within the organisation anticipated a demand for it, but none came, not even when they threw in the catchy "Whicker!" title song on the flip, which surely represents value in anyone's language. The former is an eerie, atmospheric KPM library instrumental which I'm guessing the Beeb had to pay them to release, whereas the latter we should all be familiar with. It's also interesting to note that its given title is "Newsweek", suggesting that KPM had other plans for its use originally. Sadly, neither tracks have vocals singing the praises of Alan, although obviously I think the "Whicker!" theme is crying out for some contributions from you good readers at home.

Better things would come for BBC Records and Tapes in 1986 when Nick Berry's "Every Loser Wins" became the second biggest selling single of that year. In the end, the Peel Sessions series of EPs was issued on Selwood's own label Strange Fruit. In all honesty, it was probably the safest place for them.

24 June 2008

Lieutenant Pigeon - Goodbye

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1976

The AMG music website incorrectly states that Lieutenant Pigeon are a band that were broken by the "eccentric loving" English. Allow me the opportunity to correct that statement here and now. "Mouldy Old Dough" was initially a horrendous flop in the UK, selling a few hundred copies on its original issue. A Belgian television station then began using it as the theme music to a current affairs programme, resulting in the single climbing up the Belgian charts, resulting in it getting reissued here, resulting in a freak success which occurred across the world, not just Britain. Are we clear now? Good. If anyone's to blame for the Pigeon, the Belgians are. The band themselves have even confessed that had the single not taken off there, it's likely there would have been no follow-ups.

For all that, though, it's admittedly hard to imagine another country which could actually have produced the band. Featuring Nigel Fletcher, Rob Woodward, Rob's mother Hilda on piano, and an ever-present stuffed pigeon, they were bizarre even as the average novelty act goes. The above clip shows them fannying around with The Arrows on television, and is an extraordinary oddfest, utilising split screens, sailors marching up and down, and Hilda Woodward grinning rather too enthusiastically into the camera. It's so overblown it's nearly incomprehensible, like some disquieting last vision you have before shuffling off this mortal coil. They look like merry court jesters playing at the gates of the afterlife.

"Goodbye" was the band's penultimate release for Decca. By the end of the decade they'd end up shunted on to various indie labels, putting out other records in the same formula but failing ever to have another hit. They've since been lionised by the likes of Lawrence out of Denim and Jarvis Cocker, but in this particular blogger's opinion it's best not to go overboard in praise for them. They are a lovable curiosity, and across a 45rpm disc can cause enormous entertainment - heard too frequently, though (and especially across a whole album), they can drive a person demented. Trust me.

On the plus side, the proto-Earl Brutus, one note glam rock track "The Villian" (the b-side of "Mouldy Old Dough") should be heard by everyone.

22 June 2008

Inaura - One Million Smiles


Label: Org Records
Year of Release: 1998

Since providing you all with a link to the video for "This Month's Epic" some entries ago, I have been nagging myself to upload the full "One Million Smiles" album Inaura issued on the independent Org Records label in 1998. So, finally, here 'tis.

EMI were supposed to have issued "One Million Smiles" themselves in 1996, but following the total underperformance of the singles issued from it they immediately appeared to get cold feet. For two years after that, it apparently remained locked in the vaults where it may have remained for good had Org not stepped in to rescue the project. By the time they issued the album, however, whatever interest anyone had in Inaura had totally disappeared, and it was left to bellyflop on to record store shelves in 1998 two whole years after the last single from it had emerged. The subsequent public disinterest surely surprised nobody. If EMI's marketing muscle hadn't persuaded the world about Inaura's worth, then what was a tiny indie going to achieve years after the band had even last been in the mainstream music press?

Inaura's career was actually a very unfortunate case of multiple mistakes. For starters, they were launched as being part of the ill-fated Romo scene in the mid-nineties. Romo was an eighties pop revivalist movement launched by Melody Maker which was supposed to take over the waning lead Britpop had shown the country. Sadly, despite involving a shedload of interesting eccentrics and pretentious buffoons who would certainly have livened up the rather dour meat-and-potatoes music scene of the time, the majority of them really didn't deliver the goods musically, and the scene was quickly buried after a showcase tour which the public chose to completely ignore. Sadly for Inaura, not only were they left off the showcase (instead being given a nationwide support slot with The Human League) they were also one of the only bands amongst it who were astonishing live and also knew their way around a tune - a case of "the exception which proves the rule".

Their second mistake was to release the eight minute long "This Month's Epic" as the debut single, launching their career on a very overblown, dramatic flourish which subsequently gained absolutely no airplay, and aggravated the earthy, laddish music press of the time. Although I happen to think "This Month's Epic" is actually one of the finest singles issued in the mid-nineties, they perhaps could have waited until they'd slipped into the public's consciousness with something a bit more snappy. After all, they had snappy pop tunes by the bundle - "Soap Opera" and "Desire" on this album prove that conclusively.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, their ideas of mixing alternative guitar rock, eighties synthpop and burbling dance music influences were actually extremely ahead of their time, even if they were accused of being retro in the nineties. Whilst we now think nothing of seeing stylish, electronic, New Order referencing and eighties worshipping bands in the charts, in 1996 it was deemed to be a tiny bit silly (unless you were Garbage, for some reason). So, despite involving an ex-member of Magazine (Dave Formula) and despite it being a bright, shining piece of pop with a credible production team behind it, the band were ultimately always doomed to fail. Sometimes the first person through the thicket is the one who gets his eyes scratched out, whilst leaving the path clear for other people to follow.

I'm always pleased when I see this album being referenced online as "ahead of its time", and I hope that people will begin to wake up to it more over the coming years. I don't hold out hope for an Inaura reformation, but I certainly hope that their work brings pleasure to a wider audience eventually.


1. 100 Degrees
2. Virus
3. Soap Opera
4. This Month's Epic
5. Desire
6. One Million Smiles
7. 2-5 am
8. Coma Aroma
9. Las Vegas Leg
10. 90's Itch
11. Sense

18 June 2008

Second Hand Record Dip Part 10 - Mason Profitt - Vote

Mason Profitt

Who: Mason Profitt
What: Vote
Where: Reckless Records, Soho (RIP)
Label: Warner Brothers
Year of Release: 1972
Cost: Three pounds

In Britain, we’re completely used to the “Rock the Vote” campaign where pop stars will nag young people to register. Paul Weller is generally a constant, usually appearing in the press with such a weary face in the accompanying articles that one loses the will to do anything for the rest of the day after seeing it, much less take part in the democratic process.

As is so often the case, the Yanks were on to the whole campaign way before we were. And so it was in the 1972 election over there that somebody persuaded country rockers Mason Profitt to produce a promotional ditty on the subject. “Put down your toke, learn to vote, then you can hit 'em where they're gonna feel!” they urged hippies everywhere.

Somehow (and I’m not entirely sure how) this single ended up for sale in a second hand store in London, from where I bought it. It contains the full song on the A-side, plus three promotional radio slot features on the B-side which contain members of the band clearly reading facts about voting off a piece of paper to an instrumental version. How many hippies bothered to put down their spliffs and wander down to the polling booth after hearing this remains undocumented, as does the rumour that Paul Weller will be doing a soulful cover version of the track at the next British election.

16 June 2008

The Popguns - Waiting for the Winter

Label: Midnight Music
Year of Release: 1989

It's hopefully obvious by now that I have an enormous soft spot for a lot of eighties indie music, but in retrospect I'm not keen to join the hoardes of anoraks who will readily declare of most of the output: "They should have been huge!" No, they shouldn't. There was something so anti-mainstream, anti-eighties and even anti-stardom about most of the bands of the time that them being "huge" would have been contrary to their stances. It would have confused the poor dears. A lot of indie bands in the eighties were contrary sods, forever bemoaning the fact that daytime Radio One would never play them whilst simultaneously doing all they could to kick against everything Simon Bates held dear. Frequently, they sounded like the geeky school outsiders desperately trying to be mates with the captain of the school football team whilst also claiming that they were happy to be different.

There were exceptions, however, and I'd like to think that Brighton's The Popguns were one of them. Shambolic they weren't - on the contrary, the majority of the songs they released in their years of activity between 1986-1996 are straight, hard hits of guitar based pop, mixed beautifully with lead singer Wendy Morgan's heartbroken vocals. It was note-perfect, exquisitely performed stuff, and when you stop to consider the other "indie" acts who entered the top 40 in the same period (Ned's Atomic Dustbin, The Darling Buds, and The Primitives for example) it's hard not to feel that they were robbed.

Their 1995 album "Love Junky" is a particularly brilliant piece of work, where Wendy Morgan performs at her strongest. Where other acts of their ilk frequently had very wispy, fey vocalists, one of The Popguns' strengths was to have a lead vocalist who was able to give the tracks added pathos and emotion. She is able to give seemingly the most innocent phrase just the right amount of spite, hurt or tenderness it deserves. For all these strengths, however, they never did quite cross over, despite the fact that some of the singles from "Love Junky" did break the daytime Radio One barrier - well, once or twice, anyway.

Their 1989 single "Waiting for the Winter" is probably their best 45rpm work, although the video is admittedly very low budget. It almost seems as if they took a toddler to the seaside with them to run around with the camera whilst they ran through the song. Ah well.

13 June 2008

Nick Sanderson RIP

I am incredibly shocked to learn of Nick Sanderson's death. Some of you may be familiar with his work as a drummer for The Gun Club, Clock DVA, World of Twist, Freeheat or the Jesus and Mary Chain - but I'll always cherish him most for his role as the lead singer of Earl Brutus.

I would probably have remained ignorant of the band if I hadn't taken a chance gamble on a bored, rainy day in South London in early 1997. Pissed off with most of the new CDs I'd purchased which critics had mistakenly referred to as "modern classics" (they were usually lifeless, tail-end-of-Britpop duds) I decided to buy the first CD by any band who I'd read a review about, derogatory or otherwise, who sounded as if they might be interesting rather than mindlessly derivative or commercial in a knowing, cowardly way. In the end, I plumped for a copy of "Your Majesty, We Are Here" by Earl Brutus in the Clapham High Street Our Price, largely being enticed by the bizarre tales I'd heard about the band and the humour which seemed present in the sleeve design.

This is one of the few times in my life I've ever impulse-bought a CD by a band without having heard anything at all by them, and in these Internet "preview before you buy" times, it's unlikely I'll ever do it again. It would seem in this case, though, I was right to trust my instincts. The noise the CD contained sounded exactly like all the descriptions of the band I'd heard, and exactly the way you'd have expected the band to be from their cover art. It was the work of people who had swallowed a wide range of influences and burped them back out again - it was repulsive in a punkish way, and in love with its own filth, but also witty, wise, and adventurous as well. It sounded like Kraftwerk, The Fall, The Prodigy, The Glitter Band, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Art of Noise, Depeche Mode and Can put through an industrial mincer... and by that very process, ended up sounding like nothing else on earth.

Live they were fantastic, treating the audience to spinning garage signs with "Music" written on one side and "Chips" on the other, a shouting Japanese man who would hurl insults at the audience in broken English, and Nick himself, who always seemed like a brilliant, debauched lead singer.

I had the pleasure of interviewing him once, although the magazine I was doing bits of freelance work for at the time never ran the final piece, and I've unfortunately since lost the original document. I do remember him as being an amusing interviewee though, who was happy to indulge my more ridiculous or bland questions with good grace. He informed me that he despised the late nineties music scene and that his main inspiration came from "motor racing" and, at a push, The Manic Street Preachers. Otherwise, he declared it was all "useless end-of-the-millenium weary bollocks".

All the information online so far seems to point to the fact that he had lung cancer and lost his battle a couple of days ago. I always wanted Earl Brutus to be recognised as a completely original, forward-thinking band within their lifetimes, in the way that perhaps overlooked sixties bands like The Monks have. It seemed only fair to me that they should get some pleasure in return for the material they gave their small but dedicated army of fans. For me personally, it was music which restored my faith in the idea that rock and roll hadn't come to a dead end and could still go to some weird and wonderful places. Nick Sanderson will now clearly never get to see the band getting wider acclaim, but it shouldn't stop us from listening, marvelling, and maybe (in some cases) learning. He's left behind a hell of a legacy for us to admire.

Or, in short: Rest in peace, Nick. You were fucking brilliant.

The final Earl Brutus single "Larky/ Teenage Opera" is available here:

And my original blog entry about "Your Majesty..." is still online (with the download of the album seemingly still intact) here:

Second Hand Record Dip Part 9 - Four Bucketeers - Bucket of Water Song

Who: Four Bucketeers
What: Bucket of Water Song
Where: Music and Video Exchange, Camden High Street
Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1980
Cost: 50p

Right, let's not waste too much time analysing this Tiswas tie-in single... and perhaps let's not be too harsh about it, either, since in fairness this does sound exactly like you'd expect a song featuring Chris Tarrant and Bob Carolgees (minus Spit the Dog) to sound, which is essentially a lot of over-enthusiastic and not very tuneful hollering. Why, if they'd stuck this out as unknowns on a bedroom record label not even Sounds would have given it an encouraging review back then, which as anyone who has heard Felt's "Index" will know is a feat in itself.

This is the kind of cheap and cheerful novelty spin-off single the British charts used to have space for, and by God is it cheap too - listen to those keyboards which smack of Casio pre-sets. Hear Sally James' sexpot voice gasp its enthusiasm in its marvellous one-take glory. And don't go thinking that they buried the experimental track on the B-side either, since "Smello (The Incredible Stinking Man)" doesn't see Carolgees attempt to persuade the others to allow a world music influence to creep in, unfortunately.

If I am to review this single fairly, I think I need to reflect on my own childhood and try to remember what I thought of it at the time, and sadly I think I hated it because it didn't feature a Spit the Dog gobbing solo at any point, which even now strikes me as a completely missed opportunity. This record got to number 26 in the British Charts at the time. If they'd included Spit hockling and frothing, I reckon it would have been an easy top ten hit. Didn't one of the CBS A&R reps stop to think?

The download (should you need it) can be found here:

12 June 2008

Microdisney - The Clock Comes Down the Stairs


Year of Release: 1985
Label: Rough Trade

When I’m wed, I will dream/ in champagne haze of my first affair/ like a private joke on the one I love…

Sometimes it’s difficult to understand why Microdisney weren’t huge in the mid-eighties. Their reference points – Steely Dan, Scott Walker, Big Star, The Beach Boys, The Eagles – were simultaneously music press friendly and yuppie friendly. The spit and polish of their production sat well amongst the other sounds of that decade. Above all else, at their none-too-impressive “peak” (just missing the Top 40 with “Town to Town”) they managed to consolidate all the good feeling that had been building up around their work with peak time television and radio exposure.

Perhaps the reasons for their failure may also lie in some of the above. Whilst, for example, some of their reference points may have been yuppie-friendly, few yuppies would have enjoyed listening to lyrical content snarling at their lifestyles with delicately delivered lines such as “There’s nothing wrong with the young would-be rich/ that a head full of lead would not cure” (although it’s easy to fantasise about Patrick Bateman types humming along without twigging the full content). Additionally, Microdisney despised the music industry so much that there’s probably little doubt they occasionally pissed on their own chips. It’s difficult to forget the Virgin budget they blew on a series of “Microdisney are Shit” T-shirts, although in fairness this prank did emerge at a time when all concerned felt the game was probably up.

Whilst there will always be a divide in their fanbase as to which period of Microdisney worked better, the slightly better fed major label years or the more low budget, squat dwelling indie years, it’s arguably too close to call. The former period produced one disappointing album (“Crooked Mile”) and one which contained endless thrills which combined red-faced rage with pristine melodies (“39 Minutes”). The latter, on the other hand, brought us a rather patchy, slightly dispassionate affair (by their usual standards at least) which suffered from obvious rush recording in places (“Everyone is Fantastic”) and perhaps their finest album ever in “The Clock Comes Down The Stairs”.

TCCDTS should have been awful, of course. The band were so broke and in such a state of disarray at the time of its release that the entire album was recorded arse-about-face, with the drums being laid down after the main songs had been put to tape. A cheap drum machine track was all that held the initial recordings together, which then apparently had to be wiped and replaced with more adequate drumming once the appropriate candidate had turned up. This is not the way “great albums” are traditionally made. To make matters worse, it was supposed to have been their debut major label release, but the initial recordings and demos were rejected amidst some furious arguments at blanco y negro records (a subsidiary of Warner Brothers). It would seem that whilst one director there loved their work, the other was determined to reject it out of hand and instead focus on promoting Everything But The Girl and The Jesus and Mary Chain. More fool him, you might say – except, of course, if we’re judging his decisions based upon commercial success alone, it would be fair to conclude that he may have had a point.

On top of that, the band were adrift from their native Cork in Ireland and living in squats in London, living from one gig booking to the next. According to the sleeve notes on one reissue, they took LSD just to pass the long days in their diaries where absolutely nothing seemed to be happening. Lead singer Cathal Coughlan became so paranoid that nobody in England could pronounce his name he decided that the best thing to do would be to stop responding to it, referring to himself instead as “Blah Blah”.

Somewhere amidst the chaos and odd behaviour they obviously found the time to write some of the best tunes of their career. The album is filled to the brim with them, from the misleading jaunty pop of “Birthday Girl” (misleading primarily because the lyrics are so relentlessly bleak), to the mournful, end-of-an-affair, inappropriately sun-drenched “Are You Happy?”, to the guitar twanging London apocalypse referencing “Goodbye It’s 1987”. Throughout all these tracks and beyond, there’s a sense of a tension between the twisted, scabrous lyrical content and the sun-polished melodies. The entire disc is an eighties pop “Ring a Ring a Roses”, with the title of the collection itself even acting as a subtle metaphor for death.

Without being told, you would also have no idea that the budget for the recording was a struggle for all concerned. The end result is as marvelous as many of the pieces of “production genius” the press were prone to writing about at the time. It has none of the showy mess and clutter of some of the more ambitious works of that era, and a bit more clarity and coherence in its favour. Ironically, their follow-up album “Crooked Mile” was produced by Lenny Kaye, but the band have since agreed that his efforts were less satisfying.

Whilst this album didn’t bother the national charts, it did manage to spend a number of weeks on top of the Indie Albums chart, and generated enough positive press to convince Virgin to sign them. Since then, it seems to have fallen out of print, been reissued, then fallen out of print again more frequently than the eighties themselves have been revived. Some of its content can be found on the compilation “From Daunt Square to Elsewhere”, but it really deserves to be heard in its entirety.

As for the band, their Virgin contract predictably ended without success (the final album “39 Minutes” barely even getting a proper distribution) and Cathal Coughlan went on to form Fatima Mansions, a band named after a Dublin housing estate. Without Sean O’Hagan to act as the yin to his snarling yang, they were a much more noisy and unforgiving proposition, but no less brilliant. Sean O’Hagan, on the other hand, went off to fully realize his Californian pop obsessions in The High Llamas. Traces of both bands can be very obviously heard throughout TCCDTS, and fans of either band should not overlook it – but anyone with a love of lyrical satire and deftly arranged melodies should also tune in. This is as subversive, measured and intelligent as eighties pop ever got, and we will probably never hear its like again.

1. Horse Overboard
2. Birthday Girl
3. Past
4. Humane
5. Are You Happy?
6. Genius
7. Begging Bowl
8. A Friend With A Big Mouth
9. Goodbye It’s 1987
10. And

11 June 2008

>> YouTube Update <<

When I started this blog, the original intention was to include YouTube clips of the artists mentioned as well as the MP3s wherever possible. Whilst a band's visual identity is obviously not essential to understand or appreciate their music, in some cases it does add a certain something.

The trouble is that YouTube is by no means ever a finished product, and sometimes videos appear mere weeks after I've written an entry rather than before. And on other occasions, of course, I've been rather slack at digging the goodies up. In the former category are Animals That Swim, a band who until last week had no YouTube videos available at all, but now one kind individual has uploaded "Faded Glamour" from their 1996 Chart Show appearance:

If anyone has the full video for this, or even other Animals That Swim video material, I'd love to see it.

A few months back I also mentioned The Lover Speaks "No More I Love Yous", a track which utterly divided opinion. Perhaps the video can divide opinion a bit more, because lo and behold, it's up on YouTube:

And whilst Simon Cowell has very little to do with "Left and to the Back" at all, I did tease everyone by mentioning his past as Wonderdog, a novelty artist in a giant dog costume. Footage of him being interviewed in this guise has turned up online, and it's delightful to see how much Wonderdog shares both his looks and bodily postures. Here's hoping he doesn't piss up lamp-posts as well, eh readers?

8 June 2008

Inaura - This Month's Epic

(Click on the blog entry title to see the video - Sorry, embedding not allowed again!)

Label: EMI
Year of Release: 1996

Ah, cruel, fickle finger of fate... it could and should have been very different for Inaura. Featuring Dave Formula out of Magazine as their keyboard player, the band had pedigree to begin with, and then seemed to be riding on what was supposed to become the giant wave of a new musical movement -namely Romo, the New Romantic revivalist scene created by the magazine Melody Maker.

I became aware of them at the time the first single "This Month's Epic" was issued, as their press officer phoned me at home raving about this band who (in his words) "are like a combination of all the best bits of The Verve and Duran Duran". Clearly he'd never read my student magazine column (and fair play to him, nobody else did either) or he'd never have bothered using those two acts as being a benchmark of any kind of superior quality. Nonetheless, with nothing better to do I went along to see them live that night and was blown away. In between hard techno squelches and eighties synth pop leanings were indeed enormous, epic, meandering songs which recalled the majesty of The Walker Brothers. There were unquestionably elements of Duran Duran in the mix - only a fool would claim otherwise - but there was more ambition here, and a lot more aggression and frustration in their sound. They had taken eighties pop and given it a much harder edge.

"This Month's Epic" in particular is marvellous. It's rare that songs longer than eight minutes justify their own run times. Most just repeat and repeat and forget to fade. TME, on the other hand, begins atmospherically, builds into a woe-ridden chorus, then eventually soars in the manner that The Stone Roses best songs all soared. It may sound rather pretentious in places, but then great pop very frequently is.

Rather unfortunately, the music press totally hated them, killing their career off straight away. In their Duran Duran theiving electronic noises, combined with an indie sensibility, though, you can hear a lot of modern noughties music, not least The Killers. It's just this is so much better. Listen and you'll agree

6 June 2008

Moving Finger - Pain of My Misfortune


Label: Mercury
Year of Release: 1968

Another sixties B-side I'm afraid, folks... but then again, this is something of a bottomless well to draw from.

I'm afraid to say that the A-side of this disc, "Jeremy The Lamp", remains unheard by me, though by all accounts apparently it's quite average and deserved to flop. As was often the case in the sixties, however, the record label allowed the band to experiment with their sound on the flip, and the results were considerably more satisfactory. The Moving Finger were actually a finger-poppin' mod/ R&B band with a hard-edged, abrasive sound. Hailing from Norwich, they covered soul classics with a snarl, and were popular on the pill-headed club circuit in Soho.

Like most bands of their ilk, though, they didn't cross over to the mainstream. All these facts make "Pain of my Misfortune" a spectacularly unorthodox piece of work. It barely has a chorus. It certainly doesn't have a "good driving beat". It just meanders moodily, as the soul vocals passionately howl "darkness fills my eyes with colours" and "My hands are wet with perspiration/ will my consciousness regain?". "It's A DREAM!" the lead singer assures us in a voice of panic later on, but I'm not so sure. It sounds like a bad trip to me. Itchycoo Park this ain't.

An awful amount of cash appears to have been spent on this for a B-side as well, and rumours abound that it was originally supposed to have been the lead track. A full orchestra provides an eerie, rich backing to the haunting organ. At the tail end of the track, the orchestra circles in conclusion through the fade-out, like a pilot waiting for the fog to clear before landing his plane on the runway. To all intents and purposes, this is The Walker Brothers on a bum trip, except Scott would never have condoned that kind of hippy thing. And it doesn't sell on ebay for a hundred quid a time for no reason (even though I'm aware plenty of things do). (sharebee seems to be acting up today...)

3 June 2008

Birdie - Let Her Go

Label: Kindercore
Year of release: 1999

Somewhat frustratingly, Blogger "ate" the last entry I did for this band this morning, replacing it instead with a blank post. Perhaps its all part of the present situation with gremlins eating the wires in the Internet... anyway...

Without going into the same depth all over again, suffice to say that Birdie were one of the finer bands to fall between the cracks in the post-Britpop, pre-"New Rock Revolution" era, and one who deserved a greater degree of success. A combination of sixties female vocals and cool, smoother-than-whipped-cream production values created a unique sound, and one which still sounds worthy even now. Their album "Triple Echo" is particularly interesting, where lead singer Debsey Wykes' brilliant vocals front a summery concoction which in a more just world would have registered with many more people.

Now then, if I find this post has self-destructed again in a few hours time, I'm going to be a very unhappy boy...

1 June 2008

Second Hand Record Dip Part 8 - Mr Angry with Steve Wright

Steve Wright - I'm So Angry

Who: Steve Wright/ Mr Angry (With Grandmaster Maggott)
What: I'm So Angry
Where: Music and Video Exchange, Camden High Street
Label: MCA
Year of Release: 1985
Cost: 50p

"Listen to Steve Wright In The Afternoon. Viewed from a certain angle the man is a genius. Find that angle and view. He is the most popular DJ in the country. He has been the heartbeat of the British psyche since 1985. You don't even have to like him to be awed by him. This... is not an attempt at obvious irony, it is for real."
Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty - "The Manual - How to Have a Number One the Easy Way"

I really don't want this blog entry to turn into a giant dig at Steve Wright. Whether we like it or not, there is a certain degree of truth in Bill Drummond's claim that the man has a flair for broadcasting, and at one point had the nation completely under his spell. Whilst much of Wright's show seldom stood up to close comedy scrutiny (unlike Kenny Everett's), as a piece of background noise during drivetime or the early morning, it was frequently immaculately woven, with endless skits based upon rather peculiar English characters which were always familiar enough to be at least vaguely amusing. It also pioneered the zoo radio format without collapsing into self-indulgent chaos - it should never be forgotten that Chris Evans, the alleged "genius" of this format who could have learnt from Steve's lead, frequently waffled on about subjects of interest to absolutely no-one with his buddies for upwards of fifteen minutes without playing a record. Steve may not have played the best tunes, but he always seemed in control and aware of his audience at breakfast time. He knew how to pace his show. Evans frequently seemed like an arrogant sod waffling and winging it.

Now that I've stated my position, which I have no doubt will cause me to be mocked off the Internet, let me cruise in with the big "but". And here it is... Steve Wright blotted his copy book by making bad records, which Chris Evans was sensible enough never to try. In the eighties it seemed sickeningly inevitable that if you were famous in Britain, some record company executive would express an interest in releasing a novelty record with your vocals on it. If you were sussed enough, you knew that this wasn't your dayjob, and you left well alone. If you were Steve Wright, on the other hand, you presumably said "Well friend, I reckon we'll get a chuckle out of that at least. Hey, let's go for it! Catch ya later in the recording studio, bye!"

Very few of Steve's efforts on vinyl raise a smile, but "I'm So Angry" is breathtaking in its capacity to irritate. I always found his Mr Angry character interesting as a very recognisable little Englander, and when I worked in a call centre years later demented Home Counties customers were still referred to as "Mr Angries" by the management. The musical tribute, however, wobbles all over the road uncontrollably in search of a satisfactory hook, drowns in obsessive repetition of catchphrases, and has Steve Wright clearly almost struggling not to laugh in places at how damn hilarious the whole thing is. It's like the sound of a bunch of grown men with stupid voices tooling around to the tune from a whacky local radio advert.

Unsurprisingly, then, it failed to set the charts alight, but its B side the "Angry Rap" (which seemingly fails to feature Steve Wright and is credited to Mr Angry with Grandmaster Maggot - presumably not Maggot out of Goldie Lookin' Chain) is at least bearable, with a couple of halfway funny jokes. Then again, the B side doesn't throttle you screaming "I'm whacky! Laugh at me, laugh at me, please!" like its Alpha cousin.