27.11.10

JUDY NYLON & CRUCIAL : Pal Judy LP + Carlotta 7" (1982)

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Lots of interest in the previous post, so now seems as good a time as any to re-up Judy Nylon's indecently fine Pal Judy LP. Recorded in 1982 with Adrian Sherwood & the On-U Sound posse, her collaborators here include members of Dub Syndicate, New Age Steppers & African Headcharge, though the overall sound is anything but "dubwise". Instead, it's a seductive suite of moody, twilight pop songs, each of them complemented by Judy's laconic drawl: "a classic rainy day bit of sound & song to drift away to", according to the NME. Though there are definite comparisons to be drawn with Nico's 80s work - a presiding John Cale influence, perhaps? - Judy's sultry cocktail post-punk rarely recalls Nico's remote, opiated ethereality.

The album was trailered by a 7" on Demon Records, twinning an overhauled version of Snatch's "Carlotta" with Pal Judy's crepuscular "Sleepless Night". I recently discovered an mp3 of the former squirrelled away online somewhere, so I've tacked it on to the end of the original album for your delectation, etc. Pal Judy itself was briefly issued as a ROIR cassette (remember them?) in the early 90s allegedly, though I've yet to see a copy.

Sadly, these recordings represent the extent of Judy's solo oeuvre. What a waste. As I suggested in my previous post, now that her exceptional collaboration with Bot'Ox has reintroduced her into the public domain, she/they should definitely consider hooking up for an entire LP. At the very least, somebody should consider remastering the Pal Judy sessions properly & making them readily available again...


24.11.10

JUDY NYLON vs. BOT'OX

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Cosmi Vitelli (aka Benjamin Boguet) has just released his first LP in ages, under the name Bot'Ox & in collaboration with Julien Briffaz (one half of Tjékël). It's called Babylon By Car & it's bloody brilliant, everything Gruff Rhys & Boom Bip's slightly tepid Neon Neon project could/should've been (though, credit where it's due, Stainless Style is still the greatest DeLorean concept album ever). Often echoing the sleazy afterhours ambiance of Trevor Jackson's vastly underrated Playgroup LP, I've been giving Babylon By Car an absolute hammering all weekend & haven't been able to find a bad track. The highlight for me is the amusingly sardonic "Tout Passe, Tout Lasse, Tout Casse", featuring the amazing Judy Nylon on vocals (where's she been hiding all this time, I wonder?). An ominous 4 a.m. crawl through rain lashed Parisian backstreets in a chauffeur driven Cadillac, it's foreboding soundtrack of opaque 80s stripclub synths is sufficiently grand that I've already Facebooked them to suggest they record an entire album with her! And the rest of the album is just as breath-taking - if, like me, you were knocked out by the oblique techno of Jackson & His Computer Band & Para One a couple of years ago, take note.

I've only seen Cosmo perform live once, DJing in the warm-up slot on Etienne De Crecy's Tempovision tour back in 2000 or thereabouts. Defying the audience's house-hungry expectations, he dropped an aberrant & eclectic selection of early 80s post-punk & skewiff Ze-inspired disco to a rapturous reception. Not bad going for a Sunday night. A year later absolutely everybody here was playing exactly the same bunch of tunes & blathering on about a "punk funk" revival - so, er, respect, monsieur! His schizophrenic debut LP, 1998's genre-jacking Vidéo, abruptly disappeared w/o trace when his label tanked (pick it up cheap c/o Amazon, it still sounds pretty good). The follow up, the giddily commercial acquiescence of Clean, was/is just plain irritating (sorry!), but he's since redeemed himself 1000% by founding the trés frais I'm A Cliché label & is now back on spectacular form with Babylon By Car. With Air seemingly running out of steam & Acid Washed's promising debut inexplicably stalled on the hard shoulder, Bot'Ox's hot-wired debut is looking like being one of my albums of the year. It's not been off my stereo for days now...

Double entendre alert: I can't help thinking that Bot'Ox's name might be a frivolous French reference to the humble English posterior? What do you reckon?

14.11.10

JOCK SCOT : My Personal Culloden (1997)

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Self-professed "poet & tragedian", Jock Scot was born in Leith in 1952 & began his career in the music industry as a renown supplier of "good vibes" to entertainers as diverse as Ian Dury & The Blockheads, The Clash, Blondie, Talking Heads, Taj Mahal, Dr. Feelgood, Viv Stanshall & Wreckless Eric. After waking up in a broom cupboard at the end of a particularly arduous tour, Jock settled in West London just as the scene there, centred around The Warwick Castle pub off the Portobello Road, was regenerating. It was at The Warwick that he began reading his poetry publicly, to the acclaim of "speed-crazed street sweepers & landed gentry" alike, his anointed raconteur's voice sounding as if it might slide off of it's bar stool at any moment, much like it's owner.

A connoisseur of semi-mythic "bad" poet William McGonagall, it's perhaps only natural to presume that Jock's initial stage-bound ambitions might not have been entirely serious. However, his first book, 1993's roguishly autobiographical Where Is My Heroine?, quickly sold out it's entire print run &, having renewed his acquaintance with ex-Fire Engine Davey Henderson (who he'd previously known in Edinburgh & who was at that point fronting The Nectarine No.9), Jock was coaxed into making his first recordings for Alan Horne's briefly reignited Postcard label, leading to 1997's soon-to-be-legendary My Personal Culloden LP. I'd first encountered Jock's work a couple of years prior to this c/o "Going Off Someone", his first collaboration with The Nectarine No.9, originally showcased on their Un-Loaded For You EP but also included on N#9's debut Peel session (later purloined for posterity on the Guitar Thieves comp). Like the disparate handful of other folk who were listening to N#9's work at the time, I'd assumed that Jock was a semi-satirical Davey Henderson alter ego, so when he shambled on stage in person to perform with the band on their 1995 tour, supporting a pre-trauma Edwyn Collins (their short set opened with Jock's acerbic "Just Another Fucked Up Little Druggy On The Scene" & closed with "Going Off Someone"), I was honestly a little taken aback. Dark, touching, crushingly honest & frequently hilarious, My Personal Culloden barely registered outside of N#9's small coterie of listeners &, due to the untimely collapse of Postcard², it slithered in & out of print before it had the opportunity to make a proper impression. Try searching for it on the 'net, it's only a decade or so old yet it's virtually impossible to find out anything about it.

Jock's been worryingly quiet since My Personal Culloden's release. Aside from one other album, 2006's similarly caustic The Caledonian Blues with debauched accomplice Gareth Sager (The Pop Group, Rip Rig & Panic, Head, et al), he seems to have disappeared without trace. I hope he's OK, the biographical DVD that accompanies the Sager LP is a bit of an eye opener, to put it mildly! Somebody make this man a star or, better yet, give him his own Hogmanay show on Channel 5. Fingers crossed he's busy working on his autobiography... if so, the talking book'll be a riot!

N.B. Bonus Jock Alert: For completion's sake, I've also enclosed "A Cold Meat Pie" from the scarce South Of An Imaginary Line EP. Ship ahoy.

● LINK REMOVED. Now available to buy c/o Amazon & iTunes.

11.11.10

MEKONS : 1st John Peel Session - 7th March 1978 (Radio broadcast).

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Today's my 44th birthday &, not surprisingly, I'm ever-so-slightly hungover. So I'm posting this, the Mekons' inaugural John Peel session (despite it already being available elsewhere on the 'net), because I've been so fond of it for so long - since Peel repeated all of their "phase 1" sessions over the space of an entire week sometime during the mid '80s - & I hereby reserve the right to cluelessly gibber on about it at inordinate length for my own mawkish amusement, etc... (Don't be surprised if I start welling up.)

"Why doesn't it rain when I'm sad? / I'll wear my Brutus jeans, they don't show the dirt."

Taped on 7th March 1978, these half dozen ragged songs were recorded sufficiently early into the band's existence that Delta 5's Roz Allen was still present on bass, & intrepid ham-fisted amateurism was still their primary catalyst. Though unmistakably motivated by punk's "Can't play, WILL play" ethos, the Mekons were never really a punk band as such - they were too arch, too intelligent, & too self-deprecatingly analytical for that. Listened to retrospectively their earliest recordings constitute a satirical real-time critique of the punk movement's abrupt & catastrophic descent into a stylistic, tribalistic cul-de-sac - & this is best illustrated by the anarchic urgency of their Peel sessions than their slightly subdued Virgin Records releases l I think?

"The Sex Pistols created a tremendous amount of debris, & that was very rewarding. It's like a child who loves to destroy something in order to find out what's it's made of... they just weren't able to construct anything from the debris... (but) that was just the beginning" (Malcolm McClaren)

The Mekons were a far more complex ensemble that was necessarily apparent in 1978-80. For example, were "Never Been In A Riot" or "Fight The Cuts" incipient attempts to express themselves via the prevailing zeitgeist of punk protest song ("White Riot"), or droll pastiches thereof ("Jilted John"), or were they something else entirely? This seminal Mekons era remains, for me, fascinating & unfathomable: "Where Were You"? No, what were you, Mekons?

Crucially, the Mekons fell together at Leeds University's fine arts department in 1977 where, alongside members of Gang Of Four & Delta 5, they studied under T.J. Clarke, one of the few British members of the Situationist International, & Terry Atkinson, formerly of Art & Language. Like Swell Maps or Devoto's Buzzcocks before them, this afforded them a degree of subtle intellectual separation - a self-awareness born out of a passionately intense fracas of canibalistic artistic/musical improvisation & anarcho-political radicalism that ultimately ensured they avoided the foreshortened shelf lives of more conventional "contemporaries" such as, let's say, Stiff Little Fingers or Angelic Upstarts (i.e. "WHY should our second LP sound like our first?", & so on). To be fair, the mild disappointment of "Where Were You" failing to bluff it's way onto TOTP doubtless contributed to this negation too?

"I suppose... we never thought we'd get past the first single, but now that we have, it's a dilemma, sin't it? Do you just pack it in & try to get a job or some security, or do you try to do something interesting?" (Jon Langford)

A couple of this session's songs were re-recorded for the band's brilliantly flawed Virgin LP, The Quality Of Mercy Is Not Strnen, though these disorderly BBC versions are arguably superior (it depends what mood I'm in to be honest), while a few more reappeared sort-of-posthumously on CNT's absolutely mandatory It Falleth Like The Gentle Rain From Heaven retrospective, during the course of which the Mekons wave an understandably demoralised goodbye to the first phase of their existence (i.e. art school & Richard Branson) while tentatively embracing their second (a Morris dancing hillbilly in a faded Karl Marx t-shirt). I don't think I'll ever get bored of listening to them. I know you won't believe me when I tell you that Smash Hits used to froth at the mouth about this stuff at the time - before either Lester Bangs or Greil Marcus - but they did & I have the dogeared back issues to prove it! On the subject of which... who was Red Starr anyway?*

The Mekons in Smash Hits, 6th September 1979:
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*Ian Cranna apparently.

10.11.10

STRANGER STATION : Minutes To Silence 7" (1981)

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Stranger Station were conceived towards the end of the 1970s &, based around English duo Simon Driscoll & Judith Golberg, pursued a purely electronic, percussion-free direction. Their only release, 1981's near legendary "Minutes To Silence" 7", popped up briefly on France's über-obscure Superwop label &, in recent years, has become a firm favourite on the thriving minimal synth scene. It's not difficult to see why - simultaneously dated & dateless, it's a singularly powerful example of early 80s anodic prog-pop (once heard, never forgotten) that manages to invoke the spirit(s) of Silver Apples, early Human League, & 70s Radiophonic boffins such as Paddy Kingsland. Elemental, melancholy & glacially remote, it could almost be the work of a synth-wielding, Moorcock-reading Jandek (now there's a thought). It probably goes without saying that original copies currently change hands for around £100.

Almost 30 years on, Driscoll has unearthed both sides of the single & a number of tracks recorded & mixed during the same 1981 sessions for (re)issue as Stranger Station's debut LP, Echoes In Infinity, c/o Mark Schaffer's excellent retrofuturist Anna Logue imprint (500 vinyl copies only). Now principally a Driscoll solo project, Strange Station resumed regular live performances last year.

SWIRLIES : What To Do About Them EP (1992)

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I pulled a box of rammel out from under the bed yesterday &, rather fortunately, discovered yet another box lurking behind it. And in that second, enigmatic box? Lots of long forgotten indie CDs from the 90s, including Eric's Trip, Trumans Water, Pitchblende & my entire Swirlies collection (I honestly thought I'd mislaid them last time I moved house).

Originally a Go-Gos cover band (!) called Raspberry Bang (!!), Swirlies' primary intentions were sidetracked upon hearing the emerging English shoegaze sound of My Bloody Valentine & the like c/o Boston's college radio. Promptly renaming themselves & vowing to write their own material, the by-now converted Swirlies were apostolically indebted to Loveless-era MBV from the off. However, their naked adoration was always applied with a pin sharp lucidity that Kevin & co. went to great lengths to avoid, revealing further layers of buried guitar noise & ambiguous taped detritus beneath their melodious veneer. 1992's BlonderTongueAudioBaton, 1 of the 2 LPs they released in their original incarnation, is commonly acknowledged as their woozy, fainéant masterpiece. For me, it sat comfortably alongside Pavement's otherwise peerless Slanted & Enchanted, released just a few months earlier - I certainly played both of them an awful lot back then, whilst poring over the minutely detailed cut'n'paste sleeves for morsels of revelatory info. Nowadays, with nu-gaze bands like Wavves, Yuck & Best Coast "revisiting" the Daydream Grunge™ sound of MBV, Dinosaur Jr, Swervedriver (!), et al, Swirlies' debut LP could conceivably be released next week & still sound totally "contemporary", though your guess is as good as mine as to what that says about the despondent retro-obsessive state of the current indie scene?

What To Do About Them provided a cheap 7-song introduction to Swirlies before BlonderTongueAudioBaton dropped. A bricolage of early Slumberland/Pop Narcotic 7"s, obscure compilation appearances & homeless outtakes, it remains a surprisingly effective teaser & I guarantee it'll have you surreptitiously investigating Swirlies' back catalogue further once you've heard it (mark my condescending words). And for old farts like me, it's a pertinent reminder that not everybody was moping around listening to bloody In Utero back in the mid-90s...

7.11.10

URGE OVERKILL : Wichita Lineman 7" (1987)

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Big Black booted the fire exit open for a disparate bunch of Chicago post-punk/proto-grunge unknowns back in the late 80s, some of them great (Naked Raygun, Rifle Sport, Breaking Circus), some of them not so great (yuk). Urge Overkill were certainly one of the best, before they nestled up to the corporate teat with their "polarising" Saturation LP anyway.

U.O. debuted in 1987 with the nascent Strange, I... 12" on Ruthless Records, a Chicago-based co-operative (as opposed to a conventional label) founded by punk luminaries The Effigies with help from Naked Raygun & Big Black. Ruthless ground to a halt a year or so later following The Effigies' split, necessitating U.O.'s move to Touch & Go, whereupon they released this stately cover of Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman" as a 7" - which is where I came in. I expect I taped it off of John Peel's show one evening & bought it in Selectadisc the following weekend...

Home to Scratch Acid, Butthole Surfers & Killdozer (& Chicago's nearest equivalent to Seattle's SubPop), Touch & Go had already established itself as one of those few labels whose every release was worth investigating &, as the pre-Britpop music scene here was still grappling with the fag-end of C86 (Pop Will Eat Itself & Talulah Gosh, God help us...), noisy American bands with names like Urge Overkill seemed obscure, mysterious &, frankly, terribly exciting. Also, the British independent scene having been evangelically anti-rockist since the late 70s, U.O.'s audacious touting of a Massive Guitar Sound™ (Cheap Trick c/o Chrome?) seemed markedly out of step & clandestine. Unfortunately, of course, this all culminated in the humourless ARENA ROCK CATACLYSM (aka Led Zep Redux) of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden & Smashing Pumpkins, but, as there are now several top shelf publications specialising in that kind of filth, we needn't discuss it here.

Though I played "Wichita Lineman" to death, I always preferred it's b-side, "Head On". It reappeared the following year on U.O.'s Jesus Urge Superstar LP, which cost me a fortune on import but quickly earned it's keep via my playing "Your Friend Is Insane" & "Very Sad Trousers" on repeat for the next 2 years...

LINK DELETED - these songs have recently been remastered & made available c/o iTunes.

1.11.10

THE NERVES : From The Nerves EP (1976)

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I've been playing a lot of Blondie recently (Eat To The Beat? Love it!), & "Hanging On The Telephone" inevitably cropped up. Though Debbie Harry & co. scored a massive European hit with it in 1978, it had actually been written, recorded & released 2 years prior on this, The Nerves' solitary 7".

From The Nerves = classic Power Pop. A masterful L.A. updating of the perennial British Invasion/Merseybeat sound, fired up by The Flaming Groovies' proto-punk sensibilities & The Ramones incoming blitzkrieg tumult, it mirrored perfectly Nick Lowe's work for the embryonic Stiff label which was simultaneously taking place on our side of the Atlantic. Listening to From The Nerves now, the first thing you'll notice is that "Hanging On The Telephone" isn't actually the best song here. "When You Find Out", a crafty play on Herman's Hermits' "I'm Into Something Good" that wouldn't sound out of place on side 2 of the A Hard Day's Night soundtrack (seriously!), is even better. All 4 songs sound like potential A-side material &, needless to say, Greg Shaw leapt in with a Bomp! licensing deal the minute he heard them. And before anybody pipes up with lazy Rutles comparison or 3, I should possibly point that All You Need Is Cash didn't appear until 1978 - HA!

Though bands like The Fleshtones, The Barracudas & even (ahem) The Knack would capitalise on the Power Pop sound a couple of years later, The Nerves' one shot at fame remains it's crowning release. Alive Records' 2008 One Way Ticket retrospective anthologises From The Nerves & a slew of previously unreleased songs (including the brilliant "Paper Dolls" which would've made an irresistible 2nd 45) - you can buy it here, alongside a ton of post-Nerves releases from The Plimsouls, The Beat & others.