29.8.11

THE CLEAN : Odditties (1982)

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Blimey, I've just noticed that some opportunistic scoundrel is flogging Odditties on Amazon for £140! Though it's definitely not the best place for The Clean novice to tune in, it's obviously a lot harder to find than I thought, so here it is...

Brothers Hamish & David Kilgour formed The Clean, with close friend Robert Scott, in Dunedun, NZ in 1978, but waited until 1981 to release their debut 45, the irrepressible "Tally Ho!", on New Zealand's rightly renown Flying Nun. Only the 2nd record the label put out, it unexpectedly made #19 on the New Zealand charts, turning a healthy profit & helping cement their position at the forefront of international independent music. Odditties was recorded throughout "1980-82 on a Revox B77 2 track (supplied by The Dead C)", & was "originally released as (a) super lo-fi cassette" on the band's own Cleano label in 1983. Anybody expecting a further dose of The Clean's breezily infectious pop-chug might be in for a bit of a shock, as Odditties frequently relinquishes the band's trademark chirpy jangle for shambling discord. The titular opening song is a veritable Clean classic, however, & there are several other threadbare gems buried amongst the detritus, so keep listening. As the images reproduced above imply, Odditties was a genuinely hands-on/ad hoc affair, to the extent that nobody appears to know how many copies of the original tape were circulated, or how many different sleeve designs were produced (!). Flying Nun briefly reissued it on CD in 1994 with a handful of extra tracks, & that's the version I've sourced here.

A second volume of Oddities, comprised largely of live recordings & covering the years 1979-84, was issued in 1988. I've never seen a copy, have you?

Band That Never Was - LINK REMOVED (Flying Nun reissue now available)

21.8.11

QUIET ROOM : She Sits Alone (WiN 7", 1981) / HALF CHURCH : Turmoil EP (WiN 12", 1981).

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Hailing from San Francisco, & affiliated with both the late '70s Mabuhay Gardens scene & precipitant Californian post-punks The Sleepers, Quiet Room only managed to put out one 7" single in their brief lifetime. Released in 1981 in a puny edition of a few hundred copies, this WiN Records release is already listed at £60+ on Discogs & the like. Whilst the A-side, "She Sits Alone", is an adequate serving of proto-Gothic synthcore, it's companion piece, the dystopian clatterbeat™ of "Pictures In The Attic" is exceptional - a West Coast response, perhaps, to the misanthropic British electronic vanguard championed by Mute & Rough Trade. The result is a ennui-soaked hybrid of Chrome & Our Daughter's Wedding, an unusual assimilation of atmospheric processed guitars & sparse D.I.Y. technologia that, though fundamentally melodic, sports a malevolent leer. I'm surprised it's not been more widely recognised or, indeed, compiled - it has far more "crossover potential" than L.A.'s scathing Nervous Gender or Screamers, 2 other neglected protagonists of seminal U.S. synth-punk. A slightly unhelpful Myspace page aside, there's virtually no information about Quiet Room online , so drop me a line if you can shed any further light on the band or their label (thanks). Incidentally, I couldn't help noticing that they look suspiciously similar to the scourge of Southend On Sea on the band portrait below...
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The only other WiN label release I've come across is Half Church's interesting Turmoil 12". Once again, information is scant, though I've established that it was recorded at London's Street Level studio (as frequented by the Fuck Off Records crew) in March '81, & was produced by the legendary Kif Kif Le Batteur (aka Keith Dobson of World Domination Enterprises / Here & Now). For a Californian band (&, yes, they definitely were a Californian band), Half Church sound absurdly British - like The Middle Class but better - their e.p. referencing Metal Box, Entertainment &, less predictably, UK Decay & The Mob. So who were they & what else, if anything, did they release? Intrigue!

13.8.11

ELVIS COSTELLO & THE ATTRACTIONS : John Peel Sessions 1977-80

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I don't remember Peel playing many Elvis Costello songs while I was listening to him as a kid, in fact I don't remember him playing any, but he was evidently a staunch supporter of The Attractions' from the off, commissioning 4 sessions between mid-'77 & early '80. A mere strip of a lad, I didn't start tuning until the following year, so I missed them all first time 'round.

Documenting what was arguably E.C.'s most ferociously fertile period, these early BBC appearances cover my favourite Attractions' era - from My Aim Is True to Get Happy - & include a couple of curious anomalies alongside the inevitable singles & album tracks. Without a doubt, the finest of these is the Nashville-influenced "Stranger In The House", originally recorded in late 1976 for My Aim Is True (& given away as a limited edition 7" with initial copies of This Year's Model) but pre-empting 1981's polarising country "experiment", Almost Blue. Elvis would subsequently record another version (for single release) with country giant George Jones in 1980, though the BBC take is superior to either. Additionally, there's a valiant attempt at Bacharach & David's "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself" (a concert favourite from the Live Stiffs tour) &, surprisingly, "Really Mystified", a song which wouldn't appear on an official Costello release until Imperial Bedroom was remastered/rebooted for CD in 1994 . Also worth noting: as far as I'm aware, the debut '77 session remains the only extant instance of The Attractions recorded in a studio performing My Aim Is True-era songs (it's Clover - Huey Lewis' backing band! - on the LP) - citation required, etc. Already established as a fearsome live act, there's an unhinged "end of the tether"/"tired & emotional" intensity to the better known songs here that is actually a bit disturbing - E.C. & co sound like they're clinging on by their fingernails, on the cusp of an ugly crash & burn. In retrospect, Almost Blue's reserved country stylings could perhaps be seen as Elvis' lowkey equivalent to Dylan's alleged motorcycle accident - providing, at the height of his fame, an opportunity to step back, stall a disorientating, dangerous momentum, & take stock.

Taped off the radio &, thereby, unavoidably mastered from cassette, sound quality is occasionally less than pristine, but you're unlikely to hear better copies of these recordings until the BBC issue them formally. Quite why these excellent Peel sessions, plus Elvis' later Kid Jensen appearances, remain unreleased baffles me, frankly...

n.b. The pink & ink illustration of Elvis reproduced above was, reputedly, comic strip impresario Alan Moore's first ever professional sale (to the New Musical Express). And if you have any idea who the guy with the glasses & 'tash is, posing between Elvis, Nick Lowe & Suicide (circa 23 Minutes Over Brussels), could you let me know?