29.3.09

McCARTHY : And Tomorrow The Stock Exchange Will Be The Human Race

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Spent the morning listening to McCarthy - it's been sometime since I set aside some time to sit down & revisit their labrynthine back catalogue & I've set myself the task of working through the whole lot over the next few days to remind me of just how fantastic a band they were (my memory doesn't require much prompting, mind - they were truly terrific afterall).

Hybridising the opaque, mesmeric jangle of early Felt with a charmingly untutored vocalist who sounds like an nervy 14 year old reading from a Revolutionary Communist Party pamphlet when he ought to be hanging 'round outside an offy with his mates (pretty daring when you consider most people were hanging on every horribly beige word David Gedge yarped out at this point), McCarthy still strike me as a band that didn't receive a fraction of the plaudits they deserved in their time (they're thigh-high in 'em nowadays, of course). The further into the past they recede, the more important a band I suspect they actually were & the greater an opportunity I feel might've been missed in their not becoming a much more prominent act (yer Felt syndrome, innit?). Lyrically, as the world economy folds in on itself & (British) society's infrastructure seems on the verge of total collapse, they sound more prescient than ever. I also came across a couple of interesting articles on them while absentmindedly dipping in & out of Google: a brief postal interview with them just prior to the release of their I Am A Wallet LP (an absoluteclassicmasterpiece if you're not already familiar with it) & an excellent, illuminating post-McCarthy conversation with singer/lyricist Malcolm Eden that's definitely worth 10 minutes of your undivided attention. And... don't fall off your chasie lounge or anything but I discovered this totally unreleased song too (an unmixed outtake from their final Banking, Violence & The Inner Life Today album according to Malcolm's interview). Right click ahoy!

28.3.09

KIM FOWLEY JR. : Son Of Frankenstein LP

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Another typically fucked up opus from the Marquis De Fowley (no idea where the "Jr." suffix came from btw, record company hassles maybe?). Modus operandi (allegedly): (i) book a budget studio (or record during the downtime of one of your current projects & invoice your eager proteges' unwitting benefactors), (ii) regurgitate a few surefire/oft-used examples of garage punk riffage, (iii) drag your latest jailbait arm candy into the studio & get her wrecked, (iv) then flip the mental "on" switch & let that non-stop stream of consciousness mind lava f-l-o-w. Fowley's content to yatter to himself for the most part on this one - the two confused hemispheres of his mangled brain attempting to communicate with each other initially but inevitably pissing each other off & jousting for supremecy by side 2. Actually, considering it's 1981 vintage, this is one of his more listenable works - much of it sounds relatively ad hoc but Fowley's evidently in high spirits throughout so even the weaker tracks are entertaining (which is what it's all about, eh Mr Impresario?). I've not entirely sure what he's rambling on about most of the time & I suspect he doesn't either, but he manages to be witheringly sarcastic & engagingly earnest simultaneously - without sounding like a total fucking idiot - which is pretty impressive. I wouldn't be surprised if he's the kinda guy who laughs at his own jokes though...
Kim Jkt
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Released c/o the uber-obscure Moxie label, Son Of Frankenstein is split evenly between guitar-driven proto-punk songs & synth 'n' poetry improvs. The opening "Face On The Factory Floor" is one of my favourite Fowley songs ever, & you might recognise "Invasion Of The Polaroid People" from Add N To (X)'s cover on their Loud Like Nature LP which utilised generous chunks of the Fowley original as "inspiration". A couple of things I didn't know about him (which cropped up when I was perusing his Wikipedia entry): he produced the first Soft Machine 45, early Slade (aka N'Betweens) & (!!) Helen Reddy. Though he's now undoubtably attained the legendary status he always designated to himself anyway, I'm still not convinced he's the sort of feller I'd invite back for a post-gig tipple...

N.B. Acknowledgment due to FM Shades for this one.

22.3.09

TIM BUCKLEY : Starsailor (1970)

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Like most o' yers I expect, my attention was originally drawn to Tim Buckley by This Mortal Coil's 1983 cover of Starsailor's "Song To The Siren" (#66 with a bullet, folks!). It being Cocteaus-related, Peel played it to death on his evening show &, despite my initial reticence (it didn't sound like The Fall or Captain Beefheart for God's sake!), I inevitably ended up loving it, though the appeal of This Mortal Coil in general continues to elude me (afterall, a handful of decent covers does not a great band make).

I'd love to be able to tell you that my love affair with Buckley's Starsailor began at that point but, of course, it didn't because it was already long unavailable, the legal straights at, erm, Straight Records ensuring that it remained unobtainable due to some litigious dollar-centric stand-off between label owners Frank Zappa & Herb Cohen (which is why you've ended up downloading Lick My Decals Off, Baby, An Evening With Wild Man Fischer & Buckley's Blue Afternoons from the 'net innit?). So I did the next best thing & bought everything else by him instead. Needless to say, it's everso slightly frustrating that Buckley's dual masterpieces, Starsailor & Blue Afternoons, only exist as prohibitively overpriced Ebay booty or bit-torrented blogload but, sadly, that's what happens when rock'n'roll surrenders to ugly commerce. Fuck 'em & download without prejudice I reckon, it's not like Tim needs the money is it...?

Released in 1970 (along with Blue Afternoons & Lorca - blimey!), Starsailor captures the moment 23 (!) year old Buckley's folk-rock origins were finally eclipsed by his interest inpoetry, avant jazz & leftfield rock. Branded inaccessable at the time & often written off as an unlistenable self-indulgence since, it's ironically nowhere near as challenging as the prior, troubled (& troubling) Lorca & actually sounds like a more ambitious, better executed attempt at the ideas initially expressed on Goodbye & Hello - it's certainly not the unapproachable excercise in freeform skronk & holler that some rock histories would have you believe. Basically, if you like the explorative jazz-infused folk of the Dream Letter live album you'll love this. And if the rest of it gets your back up, remember it's worth it for "Song To The Siren" alone (written, like much of Starsailor, with lyricist Larry Beckett) which Buckley actually debuted as early as 1968 on the very last episode of The Monkees t.v. show at Mickey Dolenz's personal request. One other thing that struck me when I listened back to the album before uploading it: "Starsailor" itself sounds exactly like the haunting outro of Lou Reed's "The Bed" from his masterpiece, Berlin (1972). Er, gotcha!

LINK REMOVED: The 4 Men With Beards label released an official vinyl-only edition earlier this year, & the complete album is also available c/o iTunes (£7 gets you the entire LP).

21.3.09

ANIMAL KWACKERS

It's 1977 & everybody's hacking their hair off with razorblades, scrawling "No Future" on the back of their donkey jackets in Tippex & practicing their pogo in front of their bedroom mirror (but only when their mum's gone out, of course). Meanwhile, I'm 10 years old, just discovering Genesis*, & home alone from school dinners watching this nightmarish kids' television atrocity with a can of Fanta in one hand & a spam & tomato sauce sarnie in the other, slackjawed in abject terror. Little wonder I've turned out to be such a complete mess, huh? Yorkshire TV have got a lot to answer for...

...30 years on & it still creeps me out.

* Which reminds me, I haven't heard Foxtrot in ages!

20.3.09

SKULLFLOWER : Form Destroyer LP

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Bagged myself a copy of this one back in 1989 c/o Nottingham's world famous (& soon-to-be-deceased) Selectadisc emporium. I was on a psyched-out noise kick at the time, subsisting on a diet of tea & toast & listening to w-a-y too much Terminal Cheesecake, Walking Seeds & Godflesh (having already passed through the jampacked Sonic Youth>Butthole Surfers>Big Black enclosure) &, erm, doing very little else. Thank God for the dole, eh? Anway, I spied this odd-looking LP loitering alone & unloved in some crusty rack or other & bought it simply because I liked the cover - "It's either gonna be amazing or sound like a tenth-rate Black Sabbath" I assured myself - & because it had apparently been beamed in from another dimension (no reviews in the music press 'til later on). It seemed like it was my destiny to own it &, as I was to find out once I'd lugged it home, it was almost certainly the heaviest thing I'd heard at that point...

Formed in 1985, Skullflower (circa Form Destroyer) were Stefan Jaworzyn, Matthew Bower & Stuart Dennison, though the former quit soon afterwards. Gary Mundy (Ramleh) & Philip Best (Whitehouse) were also occasional members at this point, I believe. Jaworzyn's involvement intrigued me more than anything as, at this time, he was the provocatively opinionated benefactor of Shock Express magazine & the Shock label (c/o whom the next couple of Skullflower releases emerged) who had already had the dubious honour of having an "English Albini" tag bestowed upon him. Choosing to use traditional "rock" instrumentation (rather than the tapes/synths favoured by their industrial contemporaries), Skullflower were a fundamental influence on Godflesh & the like &, by degrees, semi-repsonisble for the current wave of avant metal (Sunn O))), et al) I guess? Long unavailable, Form Destroyer was released in a single edition of 1000 copies on the seminal industrial noise label Broken Flag & still sounds absolutely M A S S I V E...

18.3.09

PHILLIP & HIS FOETUS VIBRATIONS : Tell Me, What Is The Bane Of Your Life? 7"

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Big, big thanks to the No Record Shops Left blog for digging this one up, it's one of that handful of records that's proved so scarce (I've been gagging to hear it for a mere 2 deacdes or thereabouts) that I'd seriously begun to doubt it's existance & I'm sure I'm not the only one!

It's the third Foetus 7", released hot the flaming hooves of the Deaf LP in January 1982 & trailered as being "performed by You've Got Foetus On Your Breath in conjunction with Phillip Toss" (another Jim Thirwell nom de plume, along with Clint Ruin & the elusive Frank Want). An Australian ex-pat, at this point Thirwell was living in London (temporarily sharing a flat with the fledgling Fad Gadget if I'm not mistaken), working in the Virgin Megastore by day & knocking out demented records like this by night. His workrate - drugfuelled I suspect (but what would I know?) - was absolutely furious at this point, his imagination constantly haemorrhaging wildly eccentric concepts, culminating in a series of intense, clattering, borderline insane records (c/o his own Self immolation label) by a sucession of increasingly ludicrous, hilariously off-colour pseudonyms: You've Got Foetus On Your Breath, Foetus Under Glass, Foetus Uber Frisco, Foetus In Your Bed, etc. Sadly, however, we're destined never to hear most of them. For reasons best known to himself, Thirwell has systematically refused to reissue any of these formative 45s since their initial release - only "O.K.F.M." (the b-side of his 1981 debut, "Spite Your Face") has ever seen the official light of day again - & then only in crudely bawdlerised form - on a compilation of much later Some Bizzare singles & suchlike. Disappointing, to say the least, 'cos theoretically these early singles, various contemporaneous compilation tracks & his one startling Peel session would make a fascinating album-length anthology. So, er, lighten up Jim!

Oh yeah, do make sure you have a good rummage 'round while you're over at no Record Shops Left 'cos they've posted some marvellous stuff - I guarantee that fans of Clock DVA, Joy Division, Crispy Ambulance & A Certain Ratio will not leave emptyhanded...

And you can see what Baron Thirwell is up to these days here.

17.3.09

TELEVISION : Live At The Old Waldorf 1978

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No explanation required for this one, I hope? A fantastic soundboard Television set, recorded in San Francisco just prior to the release of their unfairly maligned Adventure LP (during their only U.S. headline tour apparently). More recently, this tape ended up being released by Rhino in a measly edition of 5000 as part of their pricey Handmade series (alongside those essential remastered / expanded editions of the original albums) but, needless to say, it's long gone. Oh yeah, elderly listeners may wish to pull up a chair & take the weight off of their plates for the sprawling 17 minute version of "Marquee Moon"!

● 625 Lines

15.3.09

EPIC SOUNDTRACKS : Popular Classical 7"

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I'm very, very pleased to be able to share this one with you. I finally discovered it, after many l-o-n-g years of wanting to hear it (I've never seen a copy & don't know anybody who ever has), at the Pukekos page, where it's been posted it with little-to-no info. It's sufficiently important to warrant further explanation, I think?

At a loss as how to occupy himself when Swell Maps broke up in early 1980, Epic (aka Kevin Godfrey) began playing drums for Mayo Thompson's unforgivingly exasperating Red Krayola, while toying with the idea of pursuing a solo career with the Maps' old label, Rough Trade. Around the same time, R.T. founder Geoff Travis had successfully managed to lure ex-Soft Machine drummer Robert Wyatt out of self-imposed early retirement to record a sporadic series of 7"s (most of which were anthologised as the Nothing Can Stop Us LP), culminating in the landmark "Shipbuilding". Inspired by the label's hands-on spirit of anything goes collaboration, Wyatt simultaneously embarked on a series of lowkey collaborations with other Rough Trade (or associated) artists: The Raincoats, Scritti Politti, Vivien Goldman, Ben Watt & finally, in 1981, Epic himself. These being his first official solo recordings, Epic - apparently not having sufficient confidence in his own voice at this point - asked Wyatt to provide the lead vocal instead. The results were breathtaking.
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30 years on, I'm genuinely nonplussed as to why this lovely e.p. continues to be completely overlooked. Possibly it's because people simply do not know about it. Wyatt's contribution only came to my attention comparatively recently while purusing this excellent discography - even dedicated fansites like Strong Comet somehow manage to omit it. And no doubt Wyatt's pseudonymous billing as "Robert Ellidge - (muddy) mouth" is a contributing factor? Musically, "Jelly Babies" falteringly begins to map out Epic's future, gentler musical direction & has very little in common with his former band, though the two Wyatt-free b-side tracks ("A 3-Acre Floor" & "Pop In Packets") were both considered suitably Maps-compatible to be included on their Train Out Of It retrospective. Obsessives will be keen to learn that the barking dog you might hear (if you listen very carefully) is in fact Wyatt's own pet, Flossie!

One final interesting aside: Epic's vast, constantly expanding record collection (much of it accumulated during protracted stints behind the counter at Rough Trade & the Notting Hill branch of Record & Tape Exchange) was apparently cited by Alan McGee as "the cornerstone upon which Creation Records was based". Crikey.

8.3.09

ENO : The Lion Sleeps Tonight (1975)

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Oor Brian doesn't mention this one too often does he? Shame really 'cos it's actually very good - a cover of The Tokens' 1961 hit that dispays Eno's covert fondess for doo-wop, it's uncharacteristically daft & worthy of a listen just for it's "Did I really just hear that?" value. Released on 7" 1975 in a generic pink Island sleeve*, (with Another Green World's "I'll Come Running (To Tie Your Shoe)" overleaf), it's worthy of much wider recognition, though staunch ambient devotees might be wise to cover their ears & slip away to potter in the kitchen for 3 minutes or so...

*N.B. The sleeve above is from the later Italian issue btw.

VIVIEN GOLDMAN : Dirty Washing EP

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Finally! Yesyesyes, it's easy enough to find Vivien Goldman's fantastic "Launderette" these days (I downloaded it c/o i-Tunes a couple of years ago & the MP3 is rather cheekily mastered from very crackly vinyl!) but t'other side, "Private Armies", is a trickier proposition. Fortunately for me & thee I've found an upload of the entire Dirty Washing EP over at Egg City Radio - it's the U.S. 12" repress on coolasfeck 99 Records with an additional track (an On-U dub of the b-side that originally saw service on the first New Age Steppers LP apparently). Better still, it transpires that "Private Armies" is a great song as well.

For the record: Goldman was a well connected London-based journalist who wrote extensively (for all three major music papers!) about the punk & post-punk scenes in the late 70s / early 80s. Employing Keith Levene, John Lydon, Adrian Sherwood, Robert Wyatt (who also appeared on an Epic Soundtracks 7" 'roundabout this time!) & Steve Beresford (amongst others), she self-released the original "Launderette" 7" on her own Window label in 1981. It was reputedly recorded on the sly during PiL's Flower Of Romance sessions at Virgin's Manor Studios which is how Lydon collared his co-production credit. On a subsequent trip to NYC, she dropped off a cassette copy at Ed Bahlman's 99 Records store (it's pronouced "nine nine" btw) who loved it & ultimtely re-released it as the Dirty Washing 12" with alternate artwork plus that additional dub. Disappointingly, it remains Goldman's only solo release though she's collaborated with other artists (The Flying Lizards & Massive Attack for instance) since.

Nine nine

7.3.09

WIN : Uh! Tears Baby (A Trash Icon) (1987)

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A marvellous record, providing you're partial to smartarse pop music with a spotless punk rock lineage & an ever-so-subtle line in rampant Beach Boys plagiarism. And, frankly, who isn't?

Win were Davey Henderson's solitary shot at bona fide pop stardom. Henderson, if you weren't already aware, spearheaded the fantastic Fire Engines in Edinburgh in 1979 - apparently galvanised in direct response to witnessing Vic Godard & The Subway Sect in 1977 - penning the ultimate post punk 7" ("Candyskin"/"Meat Whiplash" on Pop:Aural) along the way. The Fire Engines having burned themselves out by NYE 1981, Henderson briefly formed Heartbeat with ex-Flowers vocalist Hillary Morrison (their recorded legacy: one track, "Spooksex" on the NME's Racket Packet cassette). When that project folded, he subsequently put together Win (with a couple of his Fire Engines cohorts in tow), wangled a major label c/o Alan Horne's post-Postcard venture Swamplands (actually a London Records subsidiary), & staggeringly failed to set the top 40 alight. Despite their "hot tip for 1987" status, even their seemingly surefire "You've Got The Power" 45 flopped despite repeated attempts to barge it onto TOTP c/o innumerable re-releases & a very prominent lager ad. Not that this makes Uh! Tears Baby (A Trash Icon) any less of a spectacular achievement, of course. A wryly complicit, saccharine sick 80s hybrid of Bolan, Warhol, Wilson & Wham!, it really ought to be bracketed alongside Associate's Sulk as a deranged New Pop masterpiece. It's a shame that their covers of "In Heaven (The Lady In The Radiator Song)" & "The Slider" (b-sides both) weren't included on this jampacked CD, but as copies now go for £100+ on Ebay it seems rather churlish to yarp on about it...
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After one other divebombing Win album (Freaky Trigger, definitely worth a listen or 30), Henderson steered himself offroad & into Neil Young's legendary post-Harvest ditch (er, Horne's fleetingly resuscitated Postcard actually) with The Nectarine No.9 (quite possibly the 90s greatest guitar-ist band) & is now getting it on with The Sexual Objects (3 singles & counting). Some people, thankfully, never learn.

5.3.09

SOME LIVE DEAD C, SEE?

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The brilliant Doledrums site has just posted a couple of real Port Chalmers holy relics, The Dead C's impossibly scarce The Live Dead See & 43 Sketch For A Poster cassettes here & you'd be a c.l.o.d. to not grant at least one of 'em a listen. I'd recommend the former, & not just 'cos it's the very first Xpressway release (X/Way 01!!!) either. Way back in 1987/88 when this stuff originally snuck out, the band were still playing around within vague song structures rather than interminable jam aesthetic &, no matter how much I admire what they're up to nowadays, it's this formative period that I secretly prefer. The doomy, descending guitar figures, earshredding skree, clattering percussion & laconic, lost-in-fog vocal mutterings still sound like sonic perfection as far as I'm concerned & I could happily listen to this stuff for hours on end, providing a cup of tea was constantly within reach of course. I've got an original copy of their equally hard-to-find Runway cassette (on Michael Morley's Precious Metal label - that's him above btw) which I'll definitely upload shortly as, surprisingly, it doesn't appear to be out there at the mo'. Definitely check out the rest of Doledrums' stuff while you're over there 'cos it's a veritable online warehouse of covetable Kiwi audio baubles, long may they prosper...

3.3.09

ASSOCIATES : A / Would I... Bounce Back? 12" (1981)

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A curious one this, if you're an Associates completist anyway (& obviously you should be). An archetypal "45 from the album" job, taken from The Associates' debut LP The Affectionate Punch, this 12" was opportunistically knocked out by former label Fiction once Mackenzie & Rankine had jumped ship for Situation 2. Released in September 1981 alongside the series of unprecedented 45s that eventually became Fourth Drawer Down, both songs here have been noticeably remixed from the original versions. Later, in the wake of the mighty Sulk, The Associates themselves remixed The Affectionate Punch in it's entirety to middling effect (some of it improves on the original versions, most of it doesn't). The versions here, however, are not - repeat NOT - from that album, though they do sound suspiciously like dry runs. This take of "A" here, though very similar to the definitive redux mix (it's the one instance where the remixed version totally usurps the anaemic original), benefits from some Low-esque drum FX & generally seems slightly pacier. "Would I... Bounce Back?", however, is totally different - dig that Barry-esque guitar line, etc. Both sides of the 12" were overlooked when all of the Mackenzie/Rankine-era back catalogue was re-released back in 2000. The cover star, incidently, is bassist Michael Dempsey, also of The Cure, The Lotus Eaters & Avalon-era Roxy Music fame.