30.6.13

THE SMITHS : 15th February 1984 - Rock City, Nottingham (Cassette recording).

SM2 photo 24a3afe7-2fab-46d2-b8f2-9a4ea774f877_zps13cf2842.jpg
SM1 photo d48a87a1-8ff2-42ab-9deb-2fcefe8279d4_zpsfd55bab7.jpg
Not the very first gig I ever went to, but definitely one of the first half dozen...

Taped a week before their debut LP was released, The Smiths were surfing the crest of an extraordinary wave of adulation at this point - genuine affection & admiration too, not mere music press hype - & it remains the only show I've attended where I've witnessed mass delirium tantamount to early Beatlemania. What struck me on the night was that virtually the entire audience knew the words to all of the songs - despite their album not quite having reached the shops - due entirely, of course, to the widespread copying & circulation of their early demos &, crucially, their remarkable sequence of Rough Trade 45s & John Peel sessions. Though they also appeared on David "Kid" Jensen's show during this (r)evolutionary period, his mid-evening broadcasts were of inferior Medium Wave quality & consequently far less people listened to (or recorded) the handful of songs they played for him. Of course, most of the tracks they performed for the BBC were rounded up later that year for their prerequisite Hatful of Hollow compilation - considered by many (myself included) to be preferable to The Smiths' debut proper.

Improbable as it may now sound, it was still quite disconcerting to hear the phrase "Oh let me get my hands on your mammary glands" on the radio back then: "The singer is totally mad. On the first number, he hits students over the crust with dead daffodils & goes on to wave the things around in some mystical respect for the cover of Power, Corruption & Lies. He is, simply, the successor to previous Devoto. Most of his word-packed lyrics are about child-molesting, & more mature sexual experimentation. He hates women with a vengeance, but he is still The Intellectual." (Dave McCullough, Sounds)

My abiding memory, other than of the emotionally overwhelmed semi-conscious fans (male & female) who were laid out at the edge of the crowd to recover, is of Johnny Marr leaning down between songs to gave me a flower. Gulp. I wish I still had it.

Needless to say, it was something of an epiphanic, pivotal evening for me. This night has opened my eyes, you might say... but I'd rather you didn't.

● LINK REMOVED BY REQUEST, SORRY.

29.6.13

THE PASTELS : Insane Energy Drop - A Pastels Mix (Domino, 2013).

IED1 photo 94cca725-d2f7-4c60-b99f-5b0cc0c4ba4b_zps96e9977a.jpg
IED2 photo f7069bb1-db48-43c7-be5a-164c9a9b71fe_zpsab147555.jpg
Passing Pastels fans - already suffering a protracted fit of the vapours following the long-awaited release of Slow Summits no doubt - may be interested in this affiliated promo curio. Loosen your corsets accordingly...

Initial copies of Slow Summits purchased from the Domino Records website were bundled with the Insane Energy Drop CD - a trainspotter-vexing selection of esoteric sounds that Stephen & Katrina listened to during the writing & recording of the band's "proper" first album in 16 years. I'm secretly rather pleased to see that they've refrained from providing a track list - the advent of convenient music sites like You Tube have made it far too simple for today's indolent hipster-loafer to enhance his/her self-aggrandizing credibility rating without getting their hands dirty (so to speak). So, if any of the songs herein turn your head then you'll have no other option than to spend a few hours studiously ferreting them out for yourself will you? Ha.

Following inevitable howls of protest from those of us who still prefer to buy records in record shops, Domino have since uploaded the entire mix for like-minded patrons of Pastelism to eagerly pore over. I can't personally name more than a handful of the tracks they've chosen, but it's a cracker, no less.

Come to the dance

SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES : Play At Home (1983) (T.V. documentary).

PAH1 photo 1ac054b0-1aa2-41bd-92f6-1e1ba31c27d3_zps410a577f.jpg
PAH2 photo 7d9f0086-bf45-4af1-9c8f-355b2fe3cdec_zps57e38955.jpg
PAH3 photo 714ab616-6636-4356-8f45-2c53df4db3d0_zps95616abb.jpg
First broadcast back in 1983 - when British T.V. was still occasionally worth watching - Play At Home was a short-lived Channel 4 series that permitted prominent "alternative" acts of the day to make free-wheeling documentary films about themselves. Though only a handful of installments were completed, they were all surprisingly well-made & (gasp!) highly entertaining. I taped all of them off of my parents' decrepit Fergusson set at the time, & re-viewed them all so often that the Co-op brand VHS cassette I archived them on must've eventually crumbled to U-matic dust, it's certainly been many years since I last saw it.*

Whereas New Order's film took the viewer behind the scenes of The Hacienda & Factory Records (revealing the irksome industrial minutiae that the day-to-day operating of a major independent label entailed & granting Situationist raconteur Anthony H. Wilson copious opportunity to hold court amongst disgruntled employees or bathe naked with a rather unfortunate Gillian Gilbert), & while Echo & The Bunnymen & XTC both celebrated their respective hometowns (Manchester & Swindon), The Banshees (Robert Smith-era) chose a much more Surrealistic path, reflecting the kaleidoscopic LSD-inspired predilections of their then-current album, A Kiss In The Dreamhouse. Alternating between perturbing Lewis Carroll-esque whimsy & disembodied bad trip psychedelia, & incorporating cameos by contemporaneous Banshees' off-shoots The Creatures & The Glove alongside live & studio performances by the band themselves, it's prismatic carnival of artfully-staged set pieces was unlike anything music-loving British T.V. viewers had seen since, well, The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour, I suppose? I'm actually rather jealous if you've not seen it before, a veritable trip down the rabbit hole awaits...

And the cat riddled with worms chases his tail

*Sadly, at least one episode of Play At Home, focussing on ex-Ravishing Beauty Virginia Astley, has disappeared entirely. Does anybody reading this recall her documentary's intrinsic gist, it's been nearly 30 years since I last saw it?

27.6.13

THE HUMAN CONDITION : Live at The Collegiate Theatre 13th September 1981 / Live in Europe November 1981 (THC, 1981).

THC1 photo 5c82dea6-fef5-4a29-b201-565020c1b37e_zps8a0f57aa.jpg
THC2 photo 59977fd5-bdff-4437-af6b-7de82fa6b081_zps8d5e656e.jpg
WOB HEIL photo 5336a4bf-9709-4673-864e-440b8d4a45ad_zpsf445d020.jpg
Jah Wobble has always been my favourite (ex-)member of Public Image Limited - in my opinion, it's his departure, rather than Keith Levene's, that scuppered their creative momentum & mortally wounded them as a functioning unit. Though The Flowers of Romance remains a far better record than many folk would still care to admit, there nonetheless exists a yawning chasm at it's vascular pith where Wobble's cyclical bass-lines & questing spirit ought to have been &, fundamentally, the album only triumphs as a reactionary gesture; i.e. as a defeatist admission of Wobble's irredeemable absence.

Whatever his reasons for his ditching PiL - egos, drugs, "stolen" master-tapes - it's worth noting that his solo career was already well under way by the time he jumped ship. His "Dreadlock Don't Deal in Wedlock" 12" appeared very early on, actually preceding First Edition by a few weeks, while the Betrayal album & it's bevy of related 45s were released hot on Metal Box's heels: "It was better than sitting around all the time. When we started my attitude was, 'I really wanna work, I can't understand why we're not working'".

In 1981, after briefly collaborating with Can's rhythm section on the frankly brilliant no-wave dub EP How Much Are They? (he'd continue to work with Holger Czukay on a regular basis thereafter), Wobble hooked up another of PiL's founding directors, Canadian drummer Jim Walker, plus guitarist Dave "Animal" Maltby, with the express intention of performing live, improvising a jarring, dark-edged, & very physical minimalist funk. Naming themselves The Human Condition, their recordings were issued exclusively on cassette ("I like small, contained things - they're more refreshing"), manufactured on the tightest of budgets & duplicated so swiftly that their first release - taped at London's Collegiate Theatre - was allegedly on sale by the end of the gig! ("Great gesture, great idea - if a little pointless".) The follow-up, Live In Europe November 1981, was apparently recorded in Holland though sleeve information is scant at best. A light-bulb evidently flickered on in Wobble's brain at this point: "To my delight, I found that I could record an album in my bedroom for virtually zilch... spend another £100 cutting it before ordering 2,000 pressings at around 35p a shot. I'd pick up the records from the manufacturers & wholesalers & deliver them to various distributors, exporters & wholesalers, as well as specialist shops. I found that I'd come out of it with a good few quid". Hence engaging off-the-cuff solo releases like 1983's Bedroom Album.

Though they received a characteristically lukewarm welcome from the English music press (the same old story...), this short-lived ensemble nonetheless managed to tour throughout Britain, Europe & the U.S.A. before calling it a day in early 1982 - a pertinent indication of Wobble's resolute work ethic & staunch dedication to his craft.

In various interviews over the past decade, Wobble has indicated that Martin Atkins (drummer for PiL, Brian Brain, Ministry, Killing Joke, Nine Inch Nails) had planned to reissue The Human Condition's recordings on his Invisible label. Ten years later... they're both still out of print.

THC

25.6.13

TAGMEMICS : Chimneys EP (Index 7", 1980).

Photobucket
Photobucket
Tagmemics were a short-lived, Edwin Pouncey-fronted ensemble that sprang from the earlier, semi-legendary Art Attacks following their split in 1978. The unquestionably brilliant "I Am A Dalek" 45 aside, The Art Attack's finest hour- they'd be the first to admit I'm sure - was headlining at The Vortex with a fledgling Squeeze as support. Sharing most of their predecessors' line-up - excepting drummer J.D. Haney who had defected to The Monochrome Set - Tagmemics only managed to spew up this largely forgotten 7" EP on Index Records before quietly imploding. The striking sleeve & insert were devised by Gary Panter, who was turning heads at the time with his eye-popping designs for The Residents & Frank Zappa.

Though Pouncey effectively disowned the EP in 1989 in a typically interminable Forced Exposure interview, I personally like it at least as much as The Art Attacks' stuff. Too smart to be pure punk rock, but too surly & snotty for the new wave crew, it ends up being unceremoniously dumped in the messthetics slop bucket by default - which is fine by me, I love that stuff. "Take Your Brain Out For a Walk", arguably the best song here, was allegedly covered by Devo during their early '80s pomp but I've yet to hear their version. Following Tagmemic's abrupt dissolution, Pouncey stomping off to carve out a career as a demonically twisted illustrator of some repute, only returning to music in the late '80s with fugacious wind-up merchants, The Kray Cherubs... More from whom very shortly.

● Chimneys

24.6.13

NICK LOWE : Nick The Knife (F-Beat, 1982).

Nick Knife
Lowe TP photo 8b82a1e7-995a-4131-a5f6-7eecb8a7051b_zps6102446a.jpg
I've had a soft spot for the music of Nick Lowe for just about as long as I can remember. I'd just begun paying serious attention to music when he was hitting his brief commercial zenith at the tail-end of the 1970s, so I expect I must've seen him larking about on Top of the Pops, lip-syncing to "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass", looking like one of my best mates' cool older brothers? Though I didn't actually own any of his records back then (no cash, too young), their hooks were sufficiently robust that they made deeper inroads into my adolescent psyche than most, loitering in the back of my mind (&, occasionally, unexpectedly popping up on daytime radio) while I charted an unruly course through the New Romantic rammel of the early 1980s & onwards into a Birthday Party/Sonic Youth-bookended netherworld of shredded black clothing, cheap plastic cider in cheap plastic bottles, & mushroom clouds of Boots hairspray.

By the time I'd worked my way back 'round to wanting to hear Lowe's music again, many years later, virtually his entire discography was out of print & intermittent charity shop cameos by careworn Radar 7"s (each with it's own ravishing Barney Bubbles sleeve, of course) were the only financially feasible method of savouring his back catalogue. In fact, it's only relatively recently that any of Lowe's "classic"-period albums have received a respectable CD reissue, c/o Proper's generously appended/annotated editions of 1978's Jesus Of Cool (aka Pure Pop For Now People) & the following year's Labour of Lust. As debuts go, Jesus Of Cool was/is one of those era-defining records that might have easily undermined many lesser artist's careers, & though I've always been a little disgruntled by his abrupt rebuff of The New Wave, Lowe was probably very wise in not attempting to replicate Jesus Of Cool's sound on the follow up. Or ever again, in fact.

By the time of his third album, 1982's Nick the Knife, Lowe had officially parted company with Rockpile (though all of them, excepting Dave Edmunds, appear hereon sporadically), was married to Carlene Carter (thereby making him Johnny Cash's son-in-law! Cash, of course, later recorded several of Lowe's songs, including the brilliant "The Beast In Me") & was pursuing a far more laidback country-influenced direction, albeit with regular dashes of good ol' old school rock 'n' roll. Though not as immediate or power-poppy as it's vociferous predecessors, Nick The Knife has become, for me anyway, something of a world-weary perennial - what it lacks in waspish hit singles it makes up for with a cluster of first-rate Lowe-penned songs that are loaded with wit, insight & - dare I say it? - wisdom (a couple of which rank amongst his best ever). Notably, it features no cover versions, something of a rarity for a Lowe LP. Recorded & produced by Lowe himself, it sounds fantastic too. It's not been readily available for a long time & consequently original CD copies change hands for anything between £30 - £70 these days.

● Ba Doom

16.6.13

LEE HAZLEWOOD : I'll Be Your Baby Tonight (Viking, 1973).

 photo 2510e51e-51aa-4b9b-acc6-788f17f1fc96_zps0d4c7f7a.jpg
 photo b1e2f9f5-0b90-4964-8ffc-1577ced3ecb5_zps8429ced0.jpg
By 1973, Lee Hazlewood had been living in self-imposed Swedish exile for several years, & the commonly held consensus was that he was long past his sell-by date, a clapped-out rock'n'roll relic whose psych-drenched '60s masterpieces were already far behind him - why, he'd even shaved off his near-iconic moustache, for pity's sake! Lazy misconceptions like that one would've endured were it not for the internet, of course. With a modicum of online research, it quickly becomes apparent that Lee's sonorous baritone continued to grace at least one decent album a year right up until his retirement from music industry in the late '70s.

Recorded for Sweden's Viking record label, I'll Be Your Baby Tonight is a characteristically brief & uneven selection of old songs, new songs &, naturally, cover songs - Lee having realised very early on that a long player's optimum length was a brisk 33 minutes (or thereabouts), of course. Highlights include a slick, Las Vegas-friendly restyling of "She Comes Running" (similar to the version on his long unavailable live album, The Stockholm Kid), wry interpretations of compositions by Joni Mitchell ("Urge For Going"), Harry Chapin ("Taxi") & Bob Dylan ("That's the last time I'll ever sing in Swedish...") &, in the climatic 8 minute epic "A Better Place To Be" (another Chapin cover), what must surely be the longest track in the Hazlewood oeuvre...

Though it may not scale the psychedelic cowboy zenith of his duets with Nancy Sinatra, or quite match the droll bonhomie of classic solo LPs such as Trouble is a Lonesome Town, or Love & Other Crimes, I'll Be Your Baby Tonight is a definite grower, in fact it's a surprisingly cogent collection. Think, perhaps, of Scott Walker's "wilderness era" albums, but with a less saccharine song selection? As of June 2013, I'll Be Your Baby Tonight has been out of print for 40 years, & an original copy will cost you somewhere in the region of £70 - j√§vla skit!!