27.12.12

SLOWDIVE : Beach Song / Take Me Down (Sunday Records flexi-disc, 1992)

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Only ever issued on sky blue polyurethane by petite Illinois indie Sunday Recordings, & puzzlingly omitted from Cherry Red's otherwise authoritative re-releases of their entire back catalogue, these 2 rather sketchy songs sound like the work of a much younger, noisier, & Isn't Anything-indebted Slowdive, rather than the ethereal procogniteurs of Shoegaze we're familiar with. According to bassist Nick Chaplin, both tracks derive from the same tape (recorded in glorious Weston Super Mare) that Creation Records pillaged for the band's eponymous debut E.P. - I was quietly hoping they might be stray Pumpkin Fairies demos but. alas, it appears my dreams have been cruelly dashed... Naturally, as flexidiscs are prone to rapid deterioration, sound quality is perfunctory at best, don't say I didn't warn you.

Slowdive parted company in 1995, following a lukewarm reaction to their ambient-hallucinogenic Pygmalion L.P. & their subsequent departure from Creation. Though they quickly settled at 4AD & found further success as Mojave 3, frontman Neil Halstead suggests that a Slowdive reunion remains a possibility, albeit not a particularly distinct one:  "It's crazy how in-vogue it is for bands to get back together these days. It's almost like you're not allowed to not get back together. So,, I'm sure that we will get back together - because we won't be allowed not to".

25.12.12

I WILL CRY AT CHRISTMAS

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Denim's venomous paean to Festive seclusion is, for me, the finest Christmas song of the last 30 years. Admittedly, The Fall have soared tantalisingly close to scoring a (hypothetical) seasonal #1 on several occasions - their mordant appropriation of Charles Wesley's (via Mendelssohn) solemn "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" springs immediately to mind. Intuition tells me that Fearne Cotton is unlikely to be introducing either artist on the BBC's seasonal Top of the Pops special this afternoon, however...

Originally secreted away on the b-side of 1996's "It Fell Off the Back of a Lorry" single, Lawrence's cruel epistle has been unavailable since EMI deleted Denim's Novelty Rock collection more than a decade ago - an unforgivable waste of an extraordinary song.

● Loneliness is a virtue

23.12.12

TRACEY THORN : Plain Sailing 7" (Cherry Red, 1983)

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Tracey's first solo 45, released in January 1983, was a re-recorded version of one of the highlights of her debut L.P., 1982's thoughtful A Distant Shore (total production costs = a piffling £138 allegedly!). Appearing shortly before her departure from the much-loved Marine Girls, both records were distributed by Cherry Red, & were raved about in - of all places - Smash Hits (who, in all fairness, had been enthusiastic supporters of the Marine Girls as well). By the time "Plain Sailing" emerged, Tracey had already begun collaborating with boyfriend Ben Watt as Everything But The Girl &, consequently, she wouldn't issue another single under her own name for a quarter of a century ("It's All True", in 2007 - an exercise in urbane '80s throwback electro-pop, co-written with Metro Area's Darshan Jesrani, & produced by Ewan Pearson - blimey!).

The b-side - otherwise unavailable as far as I'm aware - is a sweet, reflective cover of ex-labelmates The Monochrome Set's "Goodbye Joe", from their Strange Boutique album. And the choice of cover photograph - Robert Doisneau's emotive Kiss by the Hotel de Ville (1950) - is the icing on the cake.

● Ballads for Estate Agents

21.12.12

STITCHED-BACK FOOT AIRMAN : Seven Egg Timing Greats E.P. (Very Mouth, 1986)

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Proving that there's nothing like a eye-catching name to commandeer people's attention, I heard of (& read about) Stitched-Back Foot Airman several years before I found any of their records. Despite their polarising monicker (best or worst ever, you decide), there's perilously close to nowt about them anywhere online - their disarmingly uninformative Myspace page aside. All I've been able to surmise is that they were formed in Southampton in the early 1980s by Simon Vincent, & his younger brother Robin, with Mike Farmer & artist/film maker Crimp Beringer. I suspect they may have had connections with another Southampton outfit, kit-synth debasers Games To Avoid, but that could just as easily be bewildered wishful thinking on my part? Following a move to London, Stitched-Back Foot Airman began releasing records on their own Very Mouth label, including the skewed 9-song mini-album debut I'm posting here, & the almost-as-marvellous Wouldn't You Like To Know 7". Somewhat tenuously, the sleeve of Seven Egg Timing Greats has always reminded me of The Residents' debut - "Ringo Starfish", et al.

Presently, they signed to Marc Riley's In Tape label for a couple of 45s, before sauntering off into post-C86 abeyance, leaving only a handful of very odd self-made videos in their wake. Prime contenders for the "Where are they now (& who were they anyway)?" dossier.

Apologies for the uncharacteristic paucity of anything tangible - as always, any further info would be more than welcome.

● Eat Nine

n.b. New link (by request) - if the band or current copyright holder have any issues regarding my sharing this record please leave a message below & I'm delete it immediately (ta).

1.12.12

NICK LOWE : Keep It Out Of Sight 7" (Dynamite, 1976)

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"I think of myself as the anti-James Brown," Nick Lowe once declared, "I'm the least hard-working man in show business." Bollocks, frankly, but he's entitled to his opinion I suppose...

Nick's first solo 7", released in 1976 on Holland's Dynamite label, only appeared once his intentionally awful Disco Brothers single achieved it's intended purpose & flopped, securing his release from an unwanted United Artists contract. Mind you, the resounding failure of those Tartan Horde 45s probably helped him on his way as well? A timely reflection of London's emerging, booze-steeped pub rock scene, "Keep It Out of Sight" - a serviceable cover of a sleazy Wilko Johnson song (you'll find the superior original on Dr. Feelgood's topnotch Down By the Jetty L.P.) - was produced by Dave Edmunds, who'd shortly hook up with Nick in Rockpile. "(I've Been Taking the) Truth Drug" - for me, the better song of the two - was recorded by Stiff svengali Jake Riviera, & rather cheaply by the sound of it! A publishers' demo perhaps, providing a convenient testing of commercial waters, re: the imminent "So It Goes" single? Tightened up, it would've made a fitting addition to Nick's eventual debut elpee (both songs were overlooked in the end). Ultimately, though hardly the most auspicious of entrées, it's definitely worth a listen if you're a fan of Nick's gilt-edged Jesus of Cool / Labour of Lust era.

With hindsight, the choice of a cover version as his inaugural release seems curiously uncharacteristic as, by his own admission, Nick makes much of his living by deliberately "foregrounding" his own compositions nowadays: "I like other artists to think: 'That's a good song, I could do it better than him' That's another reason I 'undercook' my songs - why I present them like a demo. They think: "Oh, he's thrown that one away.' Then suddenly," (mimes fishing) "the rod bends, the line goes taut... & you've got one! Nice work if you can get it!" Wise words. After all, he made an "astonishing" amount of cash when Curtis Stigers covered one of his songs for The Bodyguard soundtrack - it went on to sell a staggering 15 million copies...

Both sides of the Dynamite 7" were included on Demon's long unavailable Wilderness Years compilation in 1991. The original 45 was also widely bootlegged in America in the late '70s but, as these copies have white labels, no picture sleeve, & markedly inferior sound, they're not too difficult to spot.

● For Modern Boys