Thursday, 21 April 2011

The Associates - Party Fears Two

Album: Sulk (Beggars Banquet,1982) Chart pos:UK#9

Billy Mackenzie who was the subject of The Smiths song William, It Was Really Nothing, killed himself in 1997. Looking back on his career it’s easy to wonder how much how much the bloke had going for him. As well as having movie star looks and an amazing singing voice, he was also enormously charismatic the kind of guy who could rob you blind and could still charm you at the same time. Instead of capitalizing on his talent he turned his back on being successful and self-destructed after his mother’s death.

Listening to his band The Associates biggest (and only UK top ten) hit Party Fears Two it’s sometimes easy to understand how the big success the record company predicted never came. The bands idiosyncrasies like Billy Mackenzie's wacky lyrics that include odd couplets like 'Even a slight remark/Makes nonsense and turns to shark' and Alan Rankine's left-field musical experiments made their music much more of an acquired taste compared to much of the New Romantic detritus of the 80's.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

The Dream Syndicate - Burn

Album: The Medicine Show (A&M, 1984) Chart pos:N/A

This is a band that I have gone crazy over for the post couple of years, hell my appraisal of the band’s debut album Days of Wine and Roses was published on the Mojo Magazine website. Now I’m wondering why it took so long to write a blog entry on this band, so today I’m going to look at one of their lesser known songs.

For those who aren’t in the know The Dream Syndicate were part of the Paisley Underground scene (the one that produced The Bangles FYI) which was a scene composed of ex-punks who sought solace in Neil Young, The Velvets and The Byrds. Disappointingly many of the bands were chewed up and spat out by big labels (execpt The Bangles of course) and the Dream Syndicate were no exception.

The Medicine Show was the Dream Syndicates second album and their major label debut. The third track on side 1 Burn is a standout track with its rousing chorus and widescreen Sonics. Unfortunately the band's college radio fan base scoffed at their new polished sound, pining for the rough sound of their debut. The band were dropped from their major label recording contract and R.E.M a band with similar influences sold millions of records as the Dream Syndicate floundered.

Here’s an interesting feature on the scene presented by Andy Kershaw before he lost the plot.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Billy Bragg - Must I Paint You a Picture

Album: Workers Playtime (Go Discs, 1988) Chart pos:N/A

Even though these days he's more famous for ranting at far-right nationalists in Barking, Billy Bragg is still a great songwriter. His 1988 album Workers Playtime was the moment when he shifted from the rough one man with a guitar sound to something much more fleshed out. The highlight from the album Must I Paint You a Picture is possibly one of the finest breakup songs ever written, where Braggs simple guitar based tune backed by a piano accompaniment. Allthough he didn't experiment with a full band until the next album this song (and the album) did manage to push him into new musical terratories.

I went to university near Barking and it's possibly one of the most racially tense places in the UK, and possibly one of the few places a BNP candidate could win a seat. Not long after I left the area a white guy got beated to death by three pakistanis in a racist attack.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

MC5 - Teenage Lust

Album Back in the USA (Atlantic,1970) Chart Pos: #N/A

Yesterday, I went in to a record shop and bought a picture disc reissue of Back in the USA only to discover to my horror that the damn thing was warped. This put a bit of a damper on my day as the album was brilliant set of short sharp pop songs. Compared to their first (and slightly overrated IMO) album the production of Back in the USA is much more tame and the songs (for the most part) less politically inclined. This is not surprising as it was produced by future Bruce Springsteen producer Jon Landau. Teenage Lust the main standout track where the band opts to create songs about sexual frustration instead of race riots and Vietnam. Despite the tame production the songs lean composition surely must of been a huge influence on bands like The Ramones.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Ike & Tina Turner - Bold Soul Sister

Album Hunter (Blue Thumb,1970)Chart Pos US#59 US R&B#22

Growing up the only things I remember about Tina Turner was the rather bland output she released in the 80's and Ike's wife beating, coke snorting antics. Even though the two of them had personal problems they still managed to release some impressive music together. Bold Soul Sister from 1970 took heavily from Sly & the Family Stone's 1968 hit Sing A Simple Song yeat still managed to top the song. Tina screams her way through through this raw funky cut, suprising when much of my earliest memories of hearing Tina Turner was hearing The Best being played on televised sporting events.

Here is the song that was the basis for this one, apparently Jimi Hendrix pilfered from it too.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Super Furry Animals - Run-Away

Album: Hey Venus! (Rough Trade,2007) Chart pos:UK#120

Super Furry Animals are one of those bands who are musical magpies, one minute imitating the Beach Boys one minute and then imitating Burt Bacharach the next (in their own tongue-in-cheek way). Run-away is the Welsh eccentrics attempt at Spectorish wall of sound pop with singer Gruff Rhys singing about a breakup with quirky offbeat lines such as "We may have fought with teeth and nails/I still recall your banking details".

Funnily enough i saw the band play mime at T4 on the Beach in Weston Super-Mare (as seen on the link above as embedding is forbidden)and instead of miming like the rest of the band he put his microphone against the robot helmet he was wearing. A pity that more bands pull stuff like this at miming gigs.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Morning Benders - Excuses

Album: Big Echo (Rough Trade,2010) Chart pos:N/A

Despite avoiding 'hip indie bands' for the last decade due to some totally dreadful overhyped bands, i decided to buy The Morning Benders second album Big Echo on a whim. On first listen the album seems to take a while to sink in, despite this there is some stand out tracks. Excuses is the opening track from the album is a sunny indie-pop number that is indebted to the Beach Boys (especially in its endless use of vocal harmonies). The song is the finest moment from an album that has had a bit of a muted reaction in the press.

Here is an amusing ukulele cover.