25.12.13

NEU! : '72 Live In Düsseldorf (Captain Trip CD, 1996).

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Back in the early '90s, following the publication of Julian Cope's trailblazing (& since withdrawn) Krautrocksampler overview, impossibly rare progressive rock albums of German origin began turning up in discerning record shops around the U.K. (& throughout the rest of Europe, presumably), & at just-about-affordable prices. Manufactured by the previously unknown Germanofon label, each reissued L.P. was a near-flawless replica of it's original '70s counterpart - with elaborate gatefold sleeves, enormous foldout poster inserts, & record company labels all intact. Sound quality was generally very good too, though on closer inspection it appeared that most titles had been mastered from slightly crackly vintage vinyl as opposed to the actual master tapes. Unfortunately, it quickly transpired that Germanofon was actually a very prolific & well-organised bootleg label, allegedly operating out of Luxembourg, who had somehow managed to pass off their illicit wares onto mainstream distributors with remarkable success - "no questions asked" vs. supply & demand, the same old story, I expect?

Kraftwerk's initial trio of still unavailable long-players aside, it was Neu!'s back catalogue that was most eagerly welcomed. Out-of-print since the late 1970s, due partially to a protracted loss of contact between founder duo Klaus Dinger & Michael Rother, the widespread availability of the Germanafon editions meant that many thousands of potential sales were forfeited before an official reissue programme could be launched. To make matters worse, Dinger - "in an act of despair" according to Rother - authorised the release of the below-par Neu! 4 (in actuality a rather mediocre session of October '85 vintage) & Neu! '72 Live In Düsseldorf via renown Japanese psychedelic label, Captain Trip. Rother, understandably upset at his consent not being sought, effectively delayed the official C.D. reissue of the original Neu! trilogy for a further half-decade - though when they did eventually appear, c/o Grönland / Astralwerks in 2001, I'm sure I'm not the only Neu! fan who bought the lot all over again. One condition of the licensing agreement was that both Neu! 4 & '72 Live be deleted forthwith &, though the former has since been remixed (arguably to it's detriment) by Rother following Dinger's death, the latter has remained tantilisingly out of reach.

Truthfully, '72 Live wasn't actually a live album at all. It was, instead, a mid-fi recording of an hour or so's worth of rehearsals for a handful of imminent European live dates, or as Dinger's sleeve note clarified: "From the K.D. historic tapes collection this is Neu! '72 Live! in Düsseldorf 6 May at  congregation hall of St. Maria Unter dem Kreuz (tanx) in Düsseldorf - Unterrath. As non-public test / self-audition for a series of 6/7 concerts later in '72". Heavily edited extracts from all 3 tracks were remastered & remixed by Rother for inclusion in Grönland's limited edition deluxe vinyl box-set in 2005. Though the sound thereon was a noticeable improvement on the Dictaphone-quality Captain Trip disc, the loss of so much fascinating incidental material - brutal tape splices, band discussions & disagreements, the shakily improvised performances falling apart & back together again, etc - meant that the unadulterated Dinger-advocated bootleg has since attained significant historical importance.

13.12.13

ORANGE JUICE : Live at Glasgow College of Technology - 17th April 1980 (Cassette recording).

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I found this spiritedly shambolic live recording tucked away on an obscure Soundcloud account a few days ago - as far as I'm aware it's the earliest known documentation of an Orange Juice performance, dating from April 1980 (& thereby placing it between their trailblazing "Blueboy" & "Simply Thrilled Honey" singles). I've no idea who recorded it, who uploaded it, whether it contains the entire show or not, or whether an official release is being penciled in, so I suggest you grab it & enjoy it while it's still available.

Incidentally, Edwyn Collins' AED label are currently giving away a limited edition cassette of a 1981 show with all purchases placed c/o their website until the end of December, meaning that now's as good a time as any to pick up a copy of his current Understated l.p. if you don't already have one.

n.b. Vintage Postcard Records promotional poster designed by the prodigiously talented Robbie Kelly. You can find lots more choice ephemera of this nature at the excellent Sound of Young Scotland blog (credit where credit's due, etc).

Sorry to moan but it's what I do best

23.11.13

CLASS INFO : Inside EP (Classified 12", 1983).

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Regrettably, I know next to nothing about Canada's Class Info but, if common consensus is anything to go by, their lone 1983 e.p. has come to be regarded as something of a Cold Wave classic.

The brainchild of Winnipeg's Jay Willman - who wrote, played & produced all 5 tracks herein (with a little help in the clapping & chanting dept. from assembled acquaintances) - the Insides e.p. was issued in a once-only pressing of 500 copies on the otherwise uncharted Classified label, & original copies currently change hands for £300+ on Discogs, et al. "Come For Me" & "Circle Game" (fortunately not the Joni Mitchell song) were also circulated as a very limited promo 7" which garnered the "band" some fleeting provincial celebrity but otherwise disappeared without trace. Musically, Class Info combined the claustrophobic broom cupboard synth-drones of early Fad Gadget with the soulful vocal stylings of Yazoo's Upstairs At Eric's whilst retaining a solitarian punk-informed edge, placing them somewhere between Our Daughter's Wedding & The Screamers, I suppose?

More recently, "Out of Line" was picked up by the Minimal Wave label for inlcusion on the second volume in Veronica Vasicka's essential Tapes series &, after a protracted 30 year lay-off, Mr. Willman has begun making music again as Karma180.

Made in Canada

1.11.13

TEENAGE JESUS & THE JERKS : Live 1977 (Cassette recording).

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This is not - repeat: NOT - the same performance that Ms. Lunch issued herself c/o Widowspeak a few years ago. The line-up on this one - recorded a month prior on 8th August 1977 at New York's legendary / notorious Max's Kansas City - is early enough to still feature soon-to-be Contortion James Chance's knots of honking sax & (gasp!) occasional vocals. A quartet at this point, The Jerks' line-up hereon was completed by Reck (bass) & Bradley Field (drums), alongside Lydia's witheringly acerbic guitar-&-vox offensives.

It's not difficult to understand why Lydia ultimately ejected Chance from her band - they sounded surprisingly like 8 Eyed Spy (a later, slicker Lunch-piloted amalgamation) while he was on-board, & far more mannered - "musical", even - than the blood-soaked shards of electrically-charged clangour they'd subsequently whip up without him. That said, the Chance-fronted "Jaded" is arguably the highlight of this particular set, as is his customary fracas with a member of the audience.

Tracklist: My Eyes / Don't Talk About Love / Popularity is So Boring / Burning Rubber / I Woke Up Dreaming / No Morality / Jaded / Less of Me.

NEW LINK! The forks are plastic & I puke elastic

5.9.13

CHARLES PLATT : Terra Incognita of The New Wave (Interview).

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Aficionados of Michael Moorcock's speculative late '60s periodical New Worlds will find this lengthy conversation with long-term contributor Charles Platt of great interest. Brace yourself for some eye-opening insights into the anarchic day-to-day domain of Ladbroke Grove's psychedelic New Wave S.F. intelligentsia... fascinating stuff!

26.8.13

SNATCH : Compilation (Pandemonium LP, 1983).

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Snatch was never a "band" as such - & certainly not a punk band, though it had many contemporaries & supporters who were active in that circle - but more likely a collaborative avant garde pact between ex-pat American founder-duo Judy Nylon & Patti Palladin, along with whoever else was on hand during it's sporadic existence.

Moving to London in the early '70s with the vague intention of breaking into the city's Glam-saturated music scene, Judy & Patti originally worked together under the name Cha-Cha before eventually settling on the sexually ambiguous (& far more disturbing) Snatch. Judy, of course, had already made something of a name for herself via her creative friendships with John Cale (that's her erotically-charged vocal on "The Man Who Couldn't Afford to Orgy") & Brian Eno. Legendarily, she purchased the the album of 16th century harp music that ignited the "Ambient" touch-paper in the convalescing Eno's brain, but also appeared in his little-seen "China, My China" promo & bagged herself a titular name-check on "Back in Judy's Jungle".

The embryonic Snatch recorded a series of demos at Patti's Maida Vale flat in 1976, & eventually released a couple of them - "Stanley"/"I.R.T." - in early 1977 after striking a deal with the Bomp & Lightning labels. "Worth gettin''" according to Sniffin' Glue, & reputedly featuring Captain Sensible on guitar, their debut single made little commercial headway, though Eno was sufficiently captivated to suggest they contribute to "R.A.F.", a phenomenal one-off collusion that would appear on the b-side of his "King's Lead Hat" 45, & which prefigured the inventive production techniques he'd explore & refine during his imminent tenure with David Byrne & Talking Heads.

A second Snatch single, "All I Want"/"When I'm Bored", followed in 1978 (on Lightning again). Recorded with various members of The Heartbreakers & Roogaltor, this wildly infectious paradigm of punk-charged snot-rock actually made the lower end of charts in the U.K. (#54 specifically). Unfortunately, it's Cale-produced follow-up - the Shopping For Clothes e.p. on the trés cool Fetish label - took more than a year to emerge, by which time all commercial momentum had been lost. Some small consolation: it had the distinction of being included in Stephen Stapleton's mythic "N.W.W. list". Their working relationship having irredeemably stalled, Judy & Patti parted company at this point, though they'd both release fine records of their own in the years following the split - Patti forged partnerships with both Johnny Thunders & The Flying Lizards, while Judy made her career-best (so far) Pal Judy album with the On-U Sound crew in 1982 &, more recently, has worked extensively with Swiss art collective Aether9 & French producers Bo'Tox. There's an excellent career-spanning interview with her here.

Released (briefly) in 1983, Pandemonium's Snatch compilation collates most of the singles alongside a handful of those germinal TEAC home demos. Ridiculously - considering how many people are gagging to hear it nowadays - it's been unavailable since the late '80s, which is when I would've first heard it, dubbed onto one side of a C90 that was passed onto me by a friend-of-a-friend. I have no idea what was on the other side of that tape but, significantly, I've never forgotten these Snatch songs...

● Witch 1

24.8.13

(v/a) - I HEAR THE DEVIL CALLING ME (Drag City 7", 1991).

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Back in the early '90s, when New Zealand's long-gestating underground music scene was beginning to emerge internationally from it's secluded Aotearoan pupa, & before the Internet was seen as anything more than a faddish dial-up distraction, the only opportunity that non-Kiwis had of actually hearing any of the country's elusive paraphernalia was via a handful of enlightened N.Z.-friendly d.i.y. distributors (Fisheye's long-suffering Paul Wild, for instance).

What struck me at the time - other than how remote & hermetic this motley cluster of artists seemed, & how unconcerned they appeared to be in trying to (gasp) sound American - was their stubborn adherence to the already semi-obsolete 7" single / cassette set-up, a strategy of necessity that seemed "charmingly" parochial in an era when, elsewhere, the compact disc had achieved sovereignty & vinyl was approaching it's lowest commercial ebb. Tapes, I should add, had already been dismissed as ridiculous charity shop fodder.

One of the earliest & most prominent artefacts from The Year The World Turned Kiwi was Drag City's pocket-sized compendium I Hear The Devil Calling Me. Released in August 1991, just as the label was just becoming financially solvent as a result of Pavement's early & prodigious success, it brought together a dozen N.Z. acts, each of whom handed-over an illustrative 1 minute long track. Compiled by The Dead C's Bruce Russell, & employing his milieu-defining Xpressway label as it's catalyst, most of it's Dunedin & Christchurch-based noise-smiths contributed bespoke compositions, though a couple appeared to be extracted from longer, pre-existing recordings. Inevitably, this enforced brevity worked in some acts' favour more than others - you'd be hard pressed to get the gist of The Renderers' objectives from a 70 second piece like their titular track here, but Gate & A Handful of Dust's prudent hor d'oeuvres made a (dare I say it) refreshing change from the customarily exhausting attack-intensity of their own records. Throughout, accents were conspicuously "regional", maltreated guitars buzzed & purred, crepitating vintage synths spluttered, drum-kits emulated collapsing wet cardboard, fracturing melodies with dissonance while the production values remained defiantly frugal... a vivid snapshot of that scene's tangled synthesis of boldly amateurist music & art. Remarkably, many of the contributors herein are still making music, much of it better than anything that's been released by any European act in the intervening 20 years, & all of it habitually ignored by our music press... never mind.

Issued in a once-only edition of a thousand or so copies, the I Hear The Devil Calling Me 7" has never been repressed & is not available to download from the Drag City website.


18.8.13

HEAVY JELLY : Time Out (The Long Wait) / Chewn In (Head 7", 1969).

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I've just returned from another London trip, memory buzzing with Ian Dury's nascent pop art daubs & a rucksack stuffed with slightly tatty (but very cheap!) back issues of WC2-based counter-cultural bulletin-cum-irritant International Times.

Ironically, amongst the profusion of eye-catching '60s graphics therein, what immediately captured my attention was the relatively tame black & white ad reproduced above - a modest blurb for Heavy Jelly's debut (& only) single. Heavy Jelly were a band with an interesting genesis: their name first appeared in a spoof record review in a 1968 edition of Time Out magazine, interest in which prompted not-1-but-2 opportunistic record labels to rush in & attempt to capitalise on the ensuing palaver. Island Records were first, in May 1969, with the Cream-styled "I Keep Singing the Same Old Song", an overwrought-but-underwhelming proto-prog groaner that was actually the work of an incognito Skip Bifferty. The single sank without trace, but the song is fondly remembered (by some) due to it's inclusion on Island's budget priced & mega-selling Nice Enough To Eat sampler later that year, rather than for any intrinsic musical value. In closely-contested second place came John Curd's tiny Head label, who followed suit a month later with the greasy, muck-under-it's-fingernails heavy blues 45 that I've uploaded below. Heavy Jelly #2 sounded like a degenerate, blotter-warped (P. Green-era) Fleetwood Mac samizdat, & "Time Out (The Long Wait)"/"Chewn In"'s 2 slithering sides of sloppily recorded dropout boogie appear, upon reflection, to be cut from the same crusty loaf of infinite-jam brain-puke that fostered Mick Farren's Deviants &, later, The Pink Fairies. The label claims that it was "produced by Paul Raymond" - but not that one, surely?

Formed by John Moorshead (guitar) & Alex Dmochowski (bass) - 2 fugitives from The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation - & crack drummer Carlo Little (an early member of The Rolling Stones who unwisely ditched them for Screaming Lord Sutch's Savages), Heavy Jelly #2 would only release this lone single before hooking up with battle-scarred singer-songwriter Jackie Lomax, a former Brian Epstein protégé whose career had subsequently been overseen by George Harrison until Apple Records' chaotic demise. Best known for psych-pop near-miss "Sour Milk Sea" - a Harrison composition recorded with Eric Clapton, Nicky Hopkins & most of The Beatles as his backing band - Lomax completed an entire album's worth of songs with Heavy Jelly #2 that, despite being mastered & pressed, was only circulated as a very scarce promotional item until it's belated release in the mid 1980s.

The "Time Out" single has been similarly neglected &, 40-odd years later, it's still not been officially reissued. Unfortunately, the copy I've sourced here has definitely seen better days, in fact it's royally fucked, but I think you'll get the general idea...

16.8.13

PATTI SMITH GROUP : I Never Talked To Bob Dylan - Live in Sweden 1976 (Live recording).

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"What must be recognised is that (Patti Smith) transcends bohemian cultism to be both positive & mainstream, even though her songs go past a mere flirtation with death & pathology. She just saw that it was time for literature to shake it & music to carry both some literacy & some grease that ain’t jive. The combination makes her an all-American tough angel, street-bopping & snapping her fingers, yet moving with that hipshake which is so like every tease you slavered after in high school." (from "Stagger Lee Was a Woman" by Lester Bangs, February 1976.)

Originally released by Stoned Records in 1977, this is what rock bootlegs used (& ought) to sound like. Recorded live at Stockholm's Konserthuset on 3rd October 1976, while Patti & her band were vehemently touring their cooly-received Radio Ethiopia L.P., I Never Talked to Bob Dylan contains the kind of urgent, exultant, phlegmy evocation of undefiled R'n'R gospel that, by the decade's end, would finally be excised by cocaine, commerce & slimy old men in satin bomber jackets. Blasting off with a euphoric charge through The V.U.'s "(We're Gonna Have A) Real Good Time Together"), it cherry-picks the high-points of what must have been a breathtaking show, & culminates in a shattering, empirical 17+ minute suite that one can only imagine is unsurpassable... until the climactic "Land" kicks in. And there's a bawdy cover of "Time Is On My Side" to keep the mums & dads happy too. Better of all, it sounds terrific - some kind of Scandinavian F.M. radio broadcast, presumably? Kick out the jams, motherfuckers...

"Even if you couldn’t understand a word of English you couldn’t miss the emotional force of Patti’s music. It’s that deeply felt, & that moving: a new Romanticism built upon the universal language of rock’n’roll, an affirmation of life so total that, even in the graphic recognition of death, it sweeps your breath away. And only born gamblers take that chance."

Mere weeks after this Swedish performance, Patti's God-reproaching bluff would be called during her spectacular neck-breakin' Florida tailspin. Quite honestly, I'm surprised that Arista didn't step in & put out a stop-gap live album of I Never Talked To Bob Dylan's inspired nature while she was recuperating - a massive mis-step in my opinion, as The Patti Smith Group's performances would never be quite this incendiary again.

Tick Tock, Fuck the Clock

3.8.13

ALEX FERGUSSON : Stay With Me Tonight (Red 7", 1980).

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I've been listening to Alternative TV's unfairly neglected Strange Kicks LP almost constantly this week, having purchased it during a lightning visit to London to take in The V&A's marvellous David Bowie Is... exhibition. Customarily written-off as a final opportunistic cash-in on the maligned "ATV" mythos, it's quirkily melodic synth-based nouveau-pop songs proffered as striking an artistic volte-face from the band's preceding Vibing Up The Senile Man (an album that only now - 30+ years later - is beginning to be fully understood & appreciated) as that polarising set did from their debut, The Image Has Cracked.

In early 1981, ATV's Mark Perry was emerging from a prolific period of uncompromising & sometimes indecipherable experimentation - a cycle that encompassed his collaborations with The Door & The Window, The Good Missionaries, & The Reflections, & culminated in his remarkable solo effort, Snappy Turns. Bankrolled by long-suffering manager Miles Copeland (founder of the Deptford Fun City, Step Forward, & I.R.S. labels), who was on a financial roll due to The Police's prodigious chart success, Perry re-connected with ex-musical sparring partner Alex Fergusson - ATV's original & finest guitarist - who he'd fired in 1978 citing irrevocable personal differences. Mark Perry: "(Strange Kicks) was my attempt to get Miles back on my side, because by that point I'd got so leftfield & weird, so out of it, Miles thought I'd gone mad, he thought I'd flipped". Formerly a member of The Nobodies* with Sounds journalist-to-be (& fellow displaced Scot) Sandy Robertson, Fergusson assembled a string of decidedly wonky but potentially "chart friendly" backing tracks for Perry's pointedly confessional lyrics. Though it naturally sank without trace upon release, the disconcertingly "normal" Strange Kicks is actually one of the oddest & most enjoyable records either of them have had a hand in.

However, back in 1980, following his initial dismissal from ATV & fresh from a brief dalliance with smut-raking pop-biographers Fred & Judy Vermorel for the one-off Cash Pussies single, Fergusson had hooked up with keyboardist Alan Gruner (another ex-Cash Pussy who would also pop up on Strange Kicks) & Mute Records' Daniel Miller, the reclusive figure behind D.I.Y. synth-pop pioneers Silicon Teens & The Normal, who had also worked with William Bennett in his pre-Whitehouse project, Come. The result was this rather fabulous & unforgivably obscure 7" on Red Records - two concise & maniacally arpeggiating cold-wave nuggets that warrant immediate comparison with T.G.'s "United", Dorothy's brilliant "I Confess" (which Fergusson produced & co-wrote - needless to say, he got around a bit!) or virtually anything that Eric Radcliffe & John Fryer recorded at Blackwing Studios between 1979 & 1982. Fergusson's nasal, ingénue-like vocal is a nice touch too - it can't possibly have been his natural singing voice... can it? Overleaf, the amusingly titled "Brushing Your Hair" is a similarly throbbing instrumental piece & something of a hitherto uncharted minor classic, though I wouldn't be surprised if Xeno & Oaklander (for instance) had a reference copy filed away in their library. Both tracks were produced by Miller under his "Larry Least" nom de plume, a knowing wink in the direction of New Faces' Mickie Most, a largely forgotten proto-Cowell '70s prime time television "personality" & self-appointed arbiter of (bad) taste.

In lieu of offers to record a follow-up, Fergusson subsequently reconvened with Perry for Strange Kicks, then slipped off to co-found Psychic TV with Genesis P. Orridge (who had played drums in the embryonic Alternative TV) & Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson. He wouldn't release another solo record until the early '90s. Gruner, meanwhile, would shortly go on to work with Bonnie Tyler - of all people - during her Jim Steinman-directed mid-'80s pomp.

* Back in September 2006, in an installment of The Wire magazine's Rebellious Jukebox feature, G.P.O. alleges that "The Nobodies played only one song which was "European Son" & they would play that for as long as they could, about an hour, & that was the entire set". Sounds splendid!

Kim Fowley manipulated me

2.8.13

LESTER BANGS : Let It Blurt (Spy 7", 1979).

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"Lester Bangs is a drunken slob with the sensitivity of a rhino & the self-control of a 10-ton weight in free-fall, but he's also the possessor of more talent than he knows what to do with & in his way he's a seeker after truth. He loses his way a lot & falls on his ass in the mud a lot & crawls on his hands & knees a lot, & his record is ugly & courageous.

Star-spotters will note Voidoid Robert Quine on some of the guitars & Jay Dee Daugherty from the Patti Smith shower on drums & production (with a John Cale mix to boot, & you probably will), but that's just a footnote. As the band slithers & stumbles, Lester launches into a rant at a girl who got pregnant by him & had an abortion (Strictly imaginary, one hopes). As ugly & unheroic as it could possibly be, Lester's platter debunks hip misogyny by depicting it in the most unpleasant possible light.

Too many people will take it literally & too many people will say,"Lester's just an asshole" & too many people will just go "Huh?", but "Let It Blurt" is, despite it's faults, a serious attempt at getting to the roots of something."

- Charles Shaar Murray, New Musical Express, 2nd July 1979.

The infamous Mr. Bangs' debut 45 was recorded at New York's Big Apple Studios in 1977, 2 years prior to it's eventual release on John Cale's short-lived Spy label. His then-unnamed backing band included, alongside the already mentioned Quine (guitar) & Daugherty (drums), guitarist Jody Harris (The Contortions, Raybeats, Voidoids) & bassist David Hofstra (another ex-Contortion). Spy was founded by Cale & his then-partner Jane Friedman (concurrently Patti Smith's manager), with the intention of according him the opportunity to produce & release records by new wave acts he'd discovered during his New york sojourn. It's logo, designed by Michel Esteban, utilised Cale's own eye, & was snipped from the sleeve of his earlier Fear album. Esteban would subsequently found ZE Records with Michael Zilkha, for whom Cale would record several satisfying solo albums in the early '80s.

● Quaalude romance

30.6.13

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

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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).

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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).

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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).

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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).

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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).

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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).

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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 - jävla skit!!

15.5.13

DEERHUNTER : Turn It Up, Faggot (Stickfigure, 2005)

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Monomania, the latest album from Atlanta's Deerhunter, was released last week &, despite lingering concerns that they surely couldn't notch up a 4th knock-out LP in a row, it transpires that it's another marvellous effort - & just as good as 2010's benchmark Halycon Digest, in fact.

Labelling itself "nocturnal garage" (cf. "File under: Water", I suppose), Monomania is an oblique, twilit collision of the band's defiled fog of basement-taped distortion (it does sound uncannily like a demo in places) with lyricist Bradford Cox's semi-Burroughsian aggregations of troubled surreality - strung-out, lovesick verses spat though warped mirrors of phantasmal loneliness, crumpled Polaroid memories &, always, a raw & undefinable longing. A lost boy in a mystery vortex. Saudade.

Despite sharing a similar busted cassette fidelity, Monomania has surprisingly little in common with Turn It Up, Faggot, their visceral, erratic debut. For one thing, Cox & his cohorts have developed into much better songwriters in the intervening 8 years (agruably, some of the tracks on T.I.U.F. barely qualify as "songs" anyway). Though primarily eponymous, "turn it up, faggot" is printed in large letters down the sleeve's spine &, by default, has become the record's title. The phrase derives, incidentally/inevitably, from a heckle that was frequently hurled at the band during their early live shows (Cox has previously identified himself as "gay", but currently leads an asexual lifestyle).

T.I.U.F. was released in June 2005 on Atlanta's long-running emo/math label, Stickfigure Records. It was recorded over 2 days the previous July at Helium Studios, in Athens GA. Though Cox has distanced himself from the LP in recent years ("I hate that album, I really do. Liked it when we did it, but we were a young band - just really desperate to put something out - & I don't think we were ready"), ensuring that it's the only Deerhunter album that is not currently in print, it's certainly not the adolescent disaster area he's summarily dismissed it as (imagine: MBV-informed hardcore) & it's worthy of a cursory listen, at the very least.


n.b. Deerhunter were unceasingly prolific during this formative era, & an entire unreleased album from the same year as Turn It Up, Faggot - Carve Your Initials Into the Wall of the Night - has been posted online by the band themselves.

2.5.13

DARLIN' : Shimmies Pour Le Disco (Pre-D.A.F.T. demos, 1993-95)

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I'm as surprised as you are - more so, probably - that the announcement of an imminent new Daft Punk album (their first since 2005's underwhelming Human After All) should inspire a resumption of activity on I Love Total Destruction after such a protracted lay-off. Stranger things have transpired on-line, no doubt, but really...

While the somewhat daunting previews of their forthcoming Random Access Memories LP suggest that it's likely to be a polarising, & gloriously overreaching, '70s-derived meringue of ostentatious easy listening frommage & magisterial Moroder-indebted synth throb (encompassing, unbelievably, The Muppet Show), the surrounding brouhaha did at least remind me to dig out Thomas Bangalter & Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo's handful of pre-Homework noodlings with the short-lived & under-appreciated (not least by the ex-band members themselves) Darlin'.

Formed in Paris in 1992, Darlin' were a Beach Boys-inspired, guitar-wielding trio featuring Bangalter on bass, Homem-Christo on guitar, & "mystery" third member Laurent Brancowitz on drums. Brancowitz departed to form the riff-friendly Phoenix (whose own new LP has just entered the Billboard Top 200 at #4) when his disillusioned band mates began distractedly experimenting with samplers & loops. Without question, their most widely heard release is their 2-song contribution to Duophonic's Shimmies In Super-8 sampler from 1993, a limited edition double 7" package that also featured Huggy Bear, the long-forgotten Colm, & label impresarios Stereolab themselves. Legendarily, a Melody Maker review of Shimmies... dismissed Darlin's side as "a daft, punky thrash", thereby birthing a monster that would grow, eventually, to exert a profound musical influence over the entire, awestruck planet. Stereolab's track aside, none of the music on Shimmies... has ever been reissued, & an original copy will set you back £70+ nowadays.

Thomas Bangalter: "When we were about 17 or 18, we made this tape which was a cover of a Beach Boys song. We just recorded it at home with guitars & a drum machine. No melody, just the chords. The band Stereolab were coming to Paris & we really liked them because they had these incredibly cool 7" singles, so we gave the tape to a girlfriend who then passed it on to Laetitia (Sadier) from the band. Stereolab put it on a compilation single they made..."

Less well known, however, are the 2 untitled songs that crept out (posthumously, perhaps?) in 1995 on Banana Split's De La Viande Pour Le Disco? cassette compilation, which placed them alongside well-established denizens of the early '90s D.I.Y. tape underground such as Silver Jews, God Is My Co-Pilot, Cornershop, Paste, John Davis, Scaredy Cat, & I'm Being Good (&, oddly, Seefeel). Though one of Darlin's contributions hereon retread the fuzzy lo-fi template of their earlier Duophonic appearance, the other is (rather bravely, on reflection) an embryonic house track that appears to sample Bowie's "Starman" - citation required, naturally. Dismayed &/or perplexed (probably both), Banana Split's curator positioned the latter out of harm's way at the very end of side 1 so that the music ended prematurely as the tape ran out. If he/she has hung onto the original tape or CDR it was sourced from, I expect it'd be worth a fortune now. There's a copy of De La Viande Pour Le Disco? for sale on Discogs as I type - a steal at £1,640! Mon Dieu, et al.

Thomas Bangalter: "The rock'n'roll thing we did was pretty average, I think. It was so brief, maybe 6 months, 4 songs & 2 gigs, & that was it".

● Lycée Carnot

12.2.13

_________ : Taschenrechner / Dentaku 12" (EMI Electrola, 1981)

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Kraftwerk's "Pocket Calculator" was released throughout 1981 in a bewildering array of different edits & Foreign language versions. Ironically, the original German interpretation has never been widely available outside of their home country, while the lyrics - "Ich bin der musikant mit Taschenrechner in der hand" (literally, "I'm the musician with calculator in hand") - are markedly different to the better known, English alternative. French, Italian & Mexican variations were also completed, though not necessarily issued - the Italian translation, for instance, was created exclusively for use during period television appearances such as this one (Ralk & Wolfgang exchange a sneaky smile at 2:23, you'll notice...).

"Dentaku", is an Oriental rendition that appeared on the flip of the British & Germans 45s, & as a single in it's own right in Japan, of course. Despite it's long term popularity in the U.K., it's sadly never been included as part of any subsequent edition of the Computer World album. The Japanese response to "Dentaku" has always been ecstatic - already voracious Kraftwerk fans in the main, they literally go nuts when Ralf sings in their native tongue.

Minor point of interest: the original German fade is a few seconds longer than any of the other versions, revealing an otherwise unheard &, frankly, slightly clumsy, denouement. Nice to know they might be human after all, hmm?

● Mini Calculatore