Friday, December 18, 2009

Tender Engines - Girl From The Hinterland

Another band off Summershine, the premier Australian indiepop label of the early 1990s. As I've noted previously, that label wasn't really up to the standards of its contemporaries in Britain and the US, and Tender Engines were no exception, at least on the evidence of the With Regret EP which this is from. Still, pleasant enough.

This will be the last post for a while as I'm off on Christmas holliers. I can't believe when I come back I'll have to create a new "decade" tag!

Nollaig shona...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Olivia Tremor Control - Courtyard

The Olivia Tremor Control were part of the Elephant 6 collective - I'm not sure what exactly was "collective" about it, but that's how Elephant 6 is always described - a group of American bands who played pleasant, mildly psychedelic pop music in the early to mid 1990s. Generally, I found them palatable in small doses only; they were a bit too wheezy for my liking and they all seemed to sort of write the same song over and over again. But for an EP's length or so, they were worth a listen.

This is from an album whose title is far too long for me to ever remember (or be arsed to type) but had "Dusk at Cubist Castle" in it somewhere.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Distractors - Burning Flags

Here's another local band that I've had the pleasure to see a couple times over the past few years. The Distractors are kind of just your basic indie rock'n'roll band; they aren't breaking any new ground and are unlikely to ever qualify as one of my favourites. But they're always fun to listen to, and a great live act.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Descendants - Suburban Home

Here's a fun little piece of 1980s California surf-punk. It's not a genre I'm hugely fond of, but most of these bands had enough hooks for at least one or two decent tracks. This one still gets stuck in my head from time to time.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Pixies - Levitate Me

The Pixies were, to my mind, easily the best of the "big" American indie rock bands of the late 1980s and early 1990s... I was never much of a fan of Sonic Youth or anything that came out of Seattle.

I didn't go see them on their reunion tour because I just didn't have the urge - plus, it takes something really special (like, say, the Specials) to get me to a venue the size of the Olympia these days - but I'm glad my younger friends who weren't around to see them the first time got the opportunity. By all accounts they were excellent.

Here's a live clip of a track from Come On Pilgrim, their debut release. How on earth could this be over 20 years ago?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pocketbooks - Footsteps

As you're compiling your "best singles of 2009" list don't forget this utter pop gem from London's Pocketbooks. This is such a fantastic tune, I'd make it numbers 1-5 if I could. Except I never make lists, so I'm relying on the rest of you!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Rubella Ballet - Slant and Slide

Always had an odd fondness for this band. Their origins lie in the anarcho-punk scene (there are musical and family ties to the likes of Poison Girls, Fatal Microbes and Flux of Pink Indians) but I always thought there was a bit more of a goth element to their own sound. At times, though, they could also be surprisingly poppy, though those weren't necessarily their best times. Think All About Eve, if they weren't crap.

This is a B-side to their 1984 single "42°F".

Friday, December 11, 2009

More technical difficulties

Blogger really annoys me sometimes :(

Hope to have something up later tonight, but if not, it'll be tomorrow.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Last Tycoons - Sunrise

Here's another local band, one that I don't know much about except:
1. they used to be called Porn Trauma
2. this is a great song which vaguely puts me in mind of the unfairly neglected '80s cowpunk band the Long Ryders, and
3. I find their singer oddly attractive. Maybe that's just me.

ETA: I've just been advised that they have an album coming out at the end of February, so keep your ears posted. And there's more music up here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Red Crayola - Victory Gardens

The Red Crayola (or Krayola, depending on whether they wanted to get sued or not) were so far ahead of their time it's almost uncanny. If I hadn't known when hearing their first two albums that they were made in the '60s, I would never have guessed.

There's an obvious Roky Erickson comparison to be drawn, and their name did resurface in some sections of the media during the Roky revival of the early '90s. They reformed in the mid-1990s and some of their older material was re-released alongside new recordings. But they still remain among the cultiest of cult bands. Which is all right by me, elitist indie snob that I am.

Galaxie 500 did a nice cover of this on their Blue Thunder EP.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lush - I Have the Moon

I know I posted a Lush track recently but here's another one. Why the hell not? It's a cover of a Magnetic Fields song and originally appeared on the Nowhere soundtrack. And it's gorgeous.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tall Dwarfs - Life is Strange

Here's another band from the "lo-fi" side of the Flying Nun stables. I know a few Flying Nun fans who don't care much for Tall Dwarfs, and I can kind of understand why; their songs don't really have the killer pop hooks that that label is famous for (well, to the extent that it can be said to be "famous" for anything). Still better than most of the rubbish out there though.

This is from Fork Songs.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Delorentos - Leave It On

Here's something a little more up-to-date. Delorentos are a Dublin indie band, very popular locally, and while I find them generally rather average they have put out a couple really great pop tunes, this being one of them. It's from their first album, In Love With Detail.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Kirsty MacColl - They Don't Know

Since I've been on a girlpop kick lately, here's one by a goddess of the genre.

What a lovely voice Kirsty had. What a sad, sad loss.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Backwater - Supercool

I don't know much about Backwater but back in the 1990s they were rather hotly tipped by a lot of people to be the next big lo-fi band. Except their sound tended to be a bit heavier/punker than most lo-fi. Actually, I find most of their debut (and last?) album Angels Are Cool not terribly interesting. But I really like this song.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sing-Sing - Feels Like Summer

Emma Anderson's post-Lush project, Sing-Sing never really reached that band's heights either in terms of overall quality or popularity but were nonetheless well worth listening to, particularly if (like me) you're a sucker for the classic girlpop sounds of the '60s. I mean, Dusty Springfield could have done this one. Is there any higher compliment?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tones on Tail - Performance

Back in my gothier days, I used to really love Tones on Tail but listening to them now I find them pretty cringeworthy. I bet there are a lot of people thinking "I told you so". Yes, so you did.

Still think this one's pretty cool though.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Shonen Knife - Little Tree

Ah come on, you've got to like Shonen Knife. They've been around forever (though they sure as hell don't look it), they've put out a million albums and they sometimes play as a Ramones cover band. What's not to like?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Moose - Suzanne

An underrated band sort of loosely connected to the shoegaze scene. Well, maybe "loosely connected" is the wrong way to put it. They were considered a shoegaze band but I don't really remember them ever gigging with the other shoegaze bands, plus they were on Hut which wasn't a very shoegazey label. Actually, listening to them now they don't really sound very shoegazey at all. Maybe I'm making the whole thing up.

They were very good, anyway. This is from an early EP.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Puddle - Rat Park

I haven't posted any Flying Nun in a while so here's a particularly obscure one. Most of the Puddle's sole studio album (prior to their recent reunion) is really lo-fi and not terribly indiepop; it's good but certainly wouldn't be in my top ten. I like this one track a lot though.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Technical difficulty

Blogger isn't letting me upload today, so we'll have to take a break. See you tomorrow (hopefully!).

Friday, November 27, 2009

Oasis - She's Electric

In the great Blur v Oasis debate I came down firmly on the side of Blur, but Oasis did get their hooks into me every once in awhile. Most of Morning Glory is great, even if it was so overplayed I was sick to death of it within a few months.

Dunno why this was never a single, I would have had it out ahead of the somewhat inferior "Some Might Say" and vastly inferior "Roll With It".

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thompson Twins - All Fall Out

I know what you're thinking. "The Thompson Twins? WTF?" But for a mainstream early 80s synth-pop band, they were really quite good, at least for the first few records.

This song in particular, from their breakthrough album Quick Step and Side Kick, has an aggravating tendency to get stuck in my head and stay there for days. You'll see.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wah! Heat - Seven Minutes to Midnight

Here's something by the one-third of the Crucial Three I haven't yet posted anything by. Wah! Heat or Wah! or The Mighty Wah! or Scraping Foetus Off The Wah! or whatever they were called at one point or another never enjoyed the success of the bands formed by the other Crucial Two - that's the Teardrop Explodes and Echo and the Bunnymen, in case anyone doesn't know that (and these days I'm never sure what anyone knows) - and I don't think that's entirely unfair, because they really weren't as good. But they were still pretty good nonetheless.

This is an early single.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Aztec Camera - We Could Send Letters

Aztec Camera's debut is well up the list of my favourite albums ever, and has been for about two-thirds of my life at this point (eep). I loved them so much as a teenager that I did silly things, like turning in essays a day late because I decided instead to go see them a second night in a row, in a city 50 miles away. Well OK, I only did that once.

It was all a bit of a letdown after that, of course, but the measure of how much I adored High Land, Hard Rain is that I still picked up everything Roddy did afterwards no matter how desperate it was (and the later stuff, it has to be said, was really pretty desperate). Actually, maybe that was just the measure of how much I adored him. Could you blame me, though, really?


This is an early version of my favourite song of theirs, released on a 1981 NME cassette called - wait for it - C81. Roddy was 17 when this was released. Can you imagine anyone being this talented at 17? And so utterly bloody beautiful as well? Imagine.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Telescopes - High on Fire

One of the less popular bands of the shoegaze era, the Telescopes were - in all fairness - kind of dull in their early years, although they almost made up for it with great titles ("To Kill A Slow Girl Walking", "Everso"). Then they put out their second album, which may have been self-titled and may have been called Highr 'N' Higher and suddenly - well, they still weren't terribly popular, but they were better. I think.

This is a track from that album. I always think of it as the title track, even though it really isn't.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Belle and Sebastian - Ease Your Feet in the Sea

A band that it's hard to settle on one song, because they're all so incredibly gorgeous. Surprisingly enough I didn't take to them right away - I didn't really understand it either, but the first album I heard of theirs, If You're Feeling Sinister, took ages to grow on me even though objectively you'd think it would hit all the right buttons. When The Boy With the Arab Strap came out I did love that one, however, so I went back to listen to Sinister again and this time I "got it". I'm still not sure why it took so long, but whatever.

Anyway, here's one from Arab Strap, probably my favourite, but the competition's pretty fierce.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Undertones - Male Model

There are still a lot of people who will swear to you that the Undertones were the greatest band ever. I don't necessarily disagree.

I've always particularly loved this song. I used to sing it around the house a lot, to the great amusement of my brother (who seemed to think I meant it literally). There doesn't appear to be a video for it so I was hoping to find a live clip; unfortunately the only ones up are with Paul McLoone on vocals and no disrespect to him - he actually does a really good job - it just isn't the same. Come back, Feargal, just for a little bit!

Friday, November 20, 2009

T. Rex - Life's a Gas

Another in the "where we came from" series. This is one of the less-often heard tracks from Electric Warrior, and one of my favourites; the song itself is gorgeous, and Marc Bolan's lyrics, while being as spacey as ever, also manage to convey in a surprisingly simple manner the world-weary resignation of unrequited love. At least that's the way I've always interpreted it. I see on the YouTube page that someone else has an alternate analysis but I refuse to entertain it because if that person is correct then the song means nothing to me. (This is why musicians should never ever ever explain what their lyrics are about... say the wrong thing, and you ruin the song for everyone who thought it was about something else.)

Anyway, here it is. Isn't it gorgeous?


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lush - De Luxe

Another in the "can't believe I haven't posted anything by" category. Lush were one of my favourite bands of the shoegaze era and I find that most of their early stuff still holds up pretty well. Spooky was a bit of a disappointment, mainly because of Robin Guthrie's overly-dense production, and it was touch and go after that... but the early EPs were just class.

This was their masterpiece, I think.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tindersticks - Travelling Light

I'm in a migraine-induced medicated state today so not really up to writing much. Here's a gorgeous tune from the Tindersticks, a band that couldn't be further from the upbeat, snappy pop I adore so much but manage to sound utterly amazing anyway. The arrangements ... that voice ... the lyrics ... so sad, but so perfect.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

S*M*A*S*H* - Dear Lou

In the mid-1990s there were a small handful of bands who the NME briefly tried to promote the hell out of, as bringing back the spirit of '77. The Manic Street Preachers (who I've never liked) were of course at the top of this class, with the likes of S*M*A*S*H* and These Animal Men several paces behind. In truth they were all pretty ordinary, though I do give TAM credit for putting on an absolutely brilliant performance the one time I saw them - in a desperate little hole of a town with about 15 people in the audience. From the band's enthusiasm you'd think they were headlining Wembley. Fair dues, lads.

But I don't actually own any TAM records so these will have to do instead. S*M*A*S*H*'s first (and I think last) album isn't bad, but there's nothing particularly exciting on it either; it's best listened to in intervals on your iPod shuffle. If I was going to pick one particular song to go out of my way to listen to, though, it would be this one. Not much of an endorsement I suppose but there you go.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Game Theory - Erica's Word

I threatened to post this ages ago and never got around to it, so here it is now. You can read what I wrote about Game Theory previously here.

This is a wonderful track that should have been a much bigger hit than it was. But really, what was he thinking with that hair???

Sunday, November 15, 2009

X-Ray Spex - The Day The World Turned Day-Glo

They're probably best remembered for "Oh Bondage Up Yours" but this is my favourite X-Ray Spex song. It's just so...cute.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Jam - The Bitterest Pill

I was going to do a quickie here, because I was humming this song earlier, but the stupid record company won't let me embed the video and I haven't got time to track down an embeddable one at the moment. So go here if you want to watch it. And you should, it's a great tune.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Half Japanese - 1,000,000 Kisses

A lazy way to summarise Half Japanese for someone who's never heard of them is that they're sort of like a really low-fi, really DIY Violent Femmes. Jad Fair would probably hate me for drawing that comparison, but I call 'em as I see 'em (or hear 'em, as the case may be).

They've put out about 1,000,000 records, not all of which are completely listenable. Some of them, in fact, deliberately not. Jad's vocals can get pretty whiney and - again, sorry, but it's true - like the Violent Femmes, they're in some ways such a boy's band that it's not always easy for those of us with two X chromosomes to really "get" them. That's not necessarily a bad thing, per se; I don't think many men really "get" PJ Harvey either (although some of them probably think they do!). But it does go some way toward explaining why I've never gotten quite as into them as a lot of my indie friends have.

Anyway, some of their stuff is really quite good, so I do own a few of their records. This is from 1988's Charmed Life.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Blueboy - Sea Horses

OK, now this is twee. Twee with a capital T, in fact. The album cover art is almost embarrassingly twee, like someone doing a piss-take. I wouldn't hold it against anyone for considering it a little too twee. Even though to my ears there isn't really any such thing (well, except maybe some early Secret Shine).

Anyway, if you like twee, enjoy. If you don't, this really isn't the band I'm going to change your mind with.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Pastels - Crawl Babies

I had a Pastels t-shirt once. It was a really nice t-shirt, and I bought it knowing that whenever I wore it to a gig I would be the coolest person there, and would be the envy of all my indiepop friends. I couldn't wait. So I wore it one night - to a gig featuring the creme de la creme of the local indie scene, it doesn't really matter who at this point (and not that I could even remember!) - and the scenesters were suitably impressed. I was asked several times where I got the shirt, complimented on it by a few others and given admiring glances by nearly everyone else. As expected.

I then sat down on an open red ink pad - thus rendering the t-shirt unwearable ever again. I suppose that served me right.

The point behind this cautionary tale is, of course, that the Pastels were/are one of the best loved indiepop bands ever. They're difficult to neatly categorise, because there are elements of so many genres in their sound; it's particularly interesting to note how some of their classic debut Up For A Bit With The Pastels sounds remarkably shoegaze now, in retrospect, although it was released in 1987. I'm not sure if this is a sign of a band ahead of their time, or a band that didn't really have a notion what it wanted to do, but who cares? It sounds great.

Oh, and Stephen Pastel... yum.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Interpol - Obstacle 1

I know some people have really, erm, strong feelings about Interpol but fuck 'em. This is a brilliant track. Everything I loved about Joy Division, the Chameleons and all the other great atmospheric post-punk bands of the 80s. With similarly silly hair.

This is from some American TV show, I guess.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Go-Betweens - Hope

I can't believe I haven't posted any Go-Betweens yet. There can't be many bands who lasted as long as they did and were still adored at the end by so many of those who fell in love with them in the beginning (or near the beginning, anyway). Of course, there aren't many bands who lasted as long as they did without going utterly crap.

I really could post almost anything of theirs* so let's go with one you don't hear often, from the 1982 Missing Link demo.

*except "Don't Call Me Gone". Sorry but that one just sucks.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Piano Magic - Snowfall Soon

Another band I don't know very much about, but the one album I own of theirs, Low Birth Weight, is full of magical little soundscapes that blend shoegaze, electronica and twee - not always entirely successfully, but more often than not.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Tracey Thorn - Plain Sailing

Of all the sad falls from grace in pop music, surely one of the saddest is the way that Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt went from indiepop royalty to makers of music that Celine Dion and Michael Bolton fans wouldn't turn up their noses at. Although arguably the signs were there from the earliest EBTG recordings ("Each and Every One" does have something of an Adult Contemporary feel, in retrospect).

But let's ignore that and remember them as they were in the very early years. Ben and Tracey solo, and the Marine Girls, made some of the finest, most precious (and I don't mean that in the derogatory sense) pop music that anyone was making in the early 80s - and that's no small compliment, given that much of the best indiepop music ever was made in the early 80s. Tracey's beautiful voice was, of course, the main attraction; add those ringing guitar chords, minimalist production and clever couplets and you've got nothing short of utter, divine pop perfection.

Here's the ultimate example. I really have no words for how much I love this song.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Minutes - Ukraine

This one's kinda like yesterday's. Recent(ish), band that I'm generally a bit suspicious of, but with at least one really great pop tune (i.e. this one). Oh, and they're Irish. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Spinto Band - Oh Mandy

Here's something a bit more up to date. I'm not quite sure I trust the Spinto Band - there's a little too much They Might Be Giants lurking underneath the surface - but this is a really great pop tune.

Clip is from the Jools Holland show.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sad Lovers and Giants - Things We Never Did

Sad Lovers and Giants always reminded me of a darker and more electronic Comsat Angels. They never had much in the way of hit singles, though, so they pretty much faded into history, although their recent reunion tour/album did provide them with a brief flurry of nostalgic publicity. Listening to them now I'm just amazed they were so little known back in the day... they were so good.

This was from their 1982 debut Epic Garden Music. It was also released as a single - on the b-side, believe it or not.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Urban Verbs - Acceleration

Here's a really obscure one from the early 1980s, a Washington DC band who never really made it out of their hometown (and weren't all that popular inside it either, truth be told). Their main claim to fame was a family tie with Talking Heads but that didn't get them very far.

This is from their difficult second album, Early Damage.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Blur - Peach

I've posted before about how much I love the Blur b-sides. This is my favourite, from 1992's "For Tomorrow". Give it a listen even if you hate them - it's very un-Blurlike, I think. And also very good.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Split Enz - I Got You

Here's one for the nostalgia file. I was never a huge Split Enz fan, and I didn't like Crowded House at all. But you've got to admit this is a classic.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Urusei Yatsura - First Day on a New Planet

Urusei Yatsura were sort of the lesser-known Scottish version of Pavement, with a Japanese pop culture obsession thrown in for extra fun. Their first album was really quite good although I thought they went sort of downhill after that.

This was my favourite track of theirs, from that debut album We Are Urusei Yatsura.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Saint Etienne - Like the Swallow

I'm not a huge fan of dance music, but every so often a band comes around that is so unbelievably brilliant at it that I can't help but love them. Saint Etienne are one such band, or at least they were at the time of their debut album (I confess I never paid much attention to them after that). I mean, great tunes + heavenly female vocals = great band regardless of the genre, right?

This is probably my favourite track off Foxbase Alpha. It only starts being good around 3.40, but you have to listen to it from the start to get the proper effect.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Partisans - Police Story

On a more somber note, here's an old punk tune that's been running through my head a lot lately for some reason. It was one of my favourites in my spikey-hair days, although it was a long time before I learned what it was actually about: the violent death of 54-year-old Jimmy Kelly in the custody of the Liverpool police. It was recorded as "death by misadventure", because he was drunk when he was lifted - despite eyewitness testimony of police brutality and the (reluctant) admission by one of the arresting officers that he had punched him in the head several times. Were any of the police involved punished or disciplined in any way over this event? What do you think?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tramway - Maritime City

So many wonderful Sarah songs, so little time. I don't know anything at all about Tramway, but isn't this just a gorgeous tune?

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Boo Radleys - Sunfly II: Walking With the Kings

I've posted a couple Boos bits already but nothing from their earlier years, even though they were much better then. So here's a b-side from the Boo! Forever EP (which was basically the single release of "Does This Hurt?").

Awful, pretentious title. But great track.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ultra Vivid Scene - Staring at the Sun

Ultra Vivid Scene's self-titled debut album was one of the classics of American shoegaze but their follow-up, Joy 1967-1990, was much more straightforward pop. Apparently this wasn't actually their intention but rather the result of Hugh Jones's production. I remember at the time being a bit disappointed, because I loved the debut, but almost two decades on I've come to the conclusion that the second album is the one that's aged better.

This was its first, and best, single.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Charlotte Hatherley - Grey Will Fade

Continuing with the Ash theme, here's the title track from their ex-guitarist's first solo album (it was actually initially recorded as an Ash b-side). Funnily enough I like her solo stuff more than I like the Ash records she was on. She has a great voice, doesn't she?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ash - Goldfinger

Here's another early Ash tune, from their first proper album 1977. Though it was the highest charting single from that album, it seems to have faded somewhat from public memory - if you hear something from it on the radio or in a club these days it's much more likely to be "Oh Yeah", "Girl From Mars" or "Kung Fu". At least it seems that way to me.

I always really loved this song anyway, it's a perfect example both of Ash's innate pop sensibilities and their brilliance at the teenager-in-love lyric. I feel like a teenager listening to this - and it's been a long, long time since I was.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Boo Radleys - Stuck on Amber

I mentioned before that I'm not much of a Giant Steps fan. I'm not a huge fan of Wake Up!, either, though I'd probably slightly prefer it. It's more straightforward pop and a lot less self-conscious than its immediate predecessor.

Actually I'd been so disappointed with Giant Steps that I'd pretty much written them off after it, but then one year when I was living in exile in a horrible corner of the world - the less said the better - a friend back in England sent me a mix tape (remember "tapes"?), just to torture me with what I was missing out on, and put this song on it. It persuaded me to go back and give the Boos another chance.

I still think their shoegaze era was their best, but I suspect that's just me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

St Christopher - All of a Tremble

For the most part, I really don't like St Christopher. There's not too many Sarah bands I can say that about. But I just don't care for Glenn Melia's voice, and his songwriting pretty much leaves me cold too.

This song is the exception - two and a half minutes of sheer pop perfection, more than infectious enough to compensate for the vocals (which I still find grating, but at least tolerable here). And almost worth a listen for the title alone. I love a good song title. Why couldn't they all be like this?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Teenage Fanclub - Every Picture I Paint

Teenage Fanclub's first album was a lo-fi and rather ramshackle affair, with little evidence of the irresistible Big Star pop that characterised Bandwagonesque. It's much closer to indie rock, really, which makes sense since it was on Matador. I don't dislike it but I wouldn't listen to it nearly as much as Bandwagonesque. Unfortunately I don't think their later material even lives up to the debut, much less its (deservedly) highly-acclaimed follow-up.

Here's one of the handful of songs from A Catholic Education that hinted at what was to follow ... at least for the next album.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rainy Day - I'll Keep It With Mine

Long before the tribute album became such a tiresome cliché, a bunch of musicians from the Paisley Underground scene got together to record an album of (mostly) '60s cover versions. Rainy Day - it was never quite clear whether that was the name of the album, or the name of the "band" - was choc-a-bloc with treasures, such that I had a hard time deciding which one to put up here.

In the end it came down to either this one, a Dylan cover sung by the Bangles' Susanna Hoffs, or David Roback's version of Buffalo Springfield's "On the Way Home". I might still put that one up some other time, because it's just gorgeous. But this one has slightly more memories for me.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Verlaines - Ready to Fly

I know a few people who think the Verlaines really went downhill in the 1990s, but I'm not one of them. Sure they were a bit more polished and could probably have benefited from less production. Songs were still great though.

This is the title track to their 1991 album.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Jupiter - Leave the Ground

Summershine was Australia's equivalent of Sarah or Slumberland (notice the pattern?), the early 90s label of its country for indiepop kids. Only problem is, most of its bands weren't great. Pleasant and enjoyable enough, sure, but they never put out anything I'd really consider essential. Still worth a listen if you're into that sort of thing, and I assume you are if you're here.

This is from Jupiter's album Arum, which has a couple really strong tracks and a lot of stuff that's almost good, but not quite. In that sense it kind of epitomises the label as a whole.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Lilys - February Fourteenth

One of the best American shoegaze bands, Lilys started out in Washington DC and then moved around almost as much as I did. Last I heard they were based in Philadelphia but to be honest I haven't really been keeping up.

Their sound has undergone similar changes, from the Dinosaur Jr influence of their first single (this one), to the really heavy MBVisms of their full-length debut, to their very Kink-y biggest hit, "A Nanny In Manhattan". Their most recent album, 2006's Everything Wrong Is Imaginary, is nothing like any of the above and might just be the best thing they've ever done.

But here's that first single, anyway. I bet they never play this live any more.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Soup Dragons - Whole Wide World

The Soup Dragons' 1990 breakthrough album was so thoroughly horrid I've had trouble convincing people that they actually used to be good once. But they were. Really good, in fact. They weren't on C86 for nothing you know.

Their early singles were collected by Sire and released on the Hang-Ten! compilation which is, quite simply, something no indiepop fan should be without. You can pretend it's by someone else, if you need to.

Here's a little taster.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Lilac Time - Return To Yesterday

I remember when this song was released. Nobody could really believe it was the same Stephen Duffy of Tin Tin, whose one song that anyone ever heard of was, oh let's say just a little bit different from this. Not in a bad way though.

I loved "Kiss Me", but nonetheless thought this was a fantastic single and it still holds up beautifully twenty years later. Pity the album it was on wasn't anywhere near as strong overall.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kickstand - Full Moon

Let's get back to some proper indiepop here. Kickstand were Hoboken, New Jersey's answer to Beat Happening, only better: better songs, better vocals, definitely better musicians although obviously that wasn't really the point. They also reminded me a lot of Young Marble Giants (and not just because they recorded a cover of "Colossal Youth"). They should have been a lot better known than they were.

Just noticed that this song is exactly three minutes long. No wonder it's my favourite.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Inspiral Carpets - Joe

Continuing on the theme of rather odd Manchester bands, I was always a bit surprised by Inspiral Carpets' popularity. Not that they didn't deserve it, but there wasn't much about them that would ordinarily lead you to expect the level of commercial success they achieved. Farfisa organs, really bad bowl-cut hairdos over not-terribly-attractive faces, and cows - it just doesn't scream "hit" to me. And yet, they were a hit. I guess it was probably a case of being from the right city at the right time, and not having the too-serious side that I wrote about yesterday.

This was one of their earliest singles, and still one of my favourites.

Friday, September 18, 2009

New Fast Automatic Daffodils - Stockholm

I suppose you could consider the New FADS the dark side of "Madchester". They were around at the same time and certainly had some of the same characteristics - being a good band to take Es and dance to all night, if you were into that sort of thing - but they were a lot more serious than their contemporaries in that scene, the ridiculous name notwithstanding. Actually, I think the ridiculous name might have been their downfall. People weren't really prepared for quite how serious they were, and a lot of those who might have appreciated their more somber approach never really gave them a hearing on the assumption that they were a cartoon band. Or maybe I'm just talking shite.

Anyway, their debut Pigeonhole was a work of absolute genius; the difficult second album, Body Exit Mind, was much more of a slow-grower. I took to it eventually, but it did require a certain amount of effort. This particular track didn't, though, I loved it right away.

And just to finish this off with a great story, I'm pretty sure I remember reading that the second album was delayed as a result of the master tape going missing when the vehicle it was in was hijacked by Basque separatists. But I can't seem to find a reference for that anywhere.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Spirea X - Chlorine Dream

A band formed by an ex-member of Primal Scream, taking their name from the other "Crystal Crescent" b-side (there was already a band called "Velocity Girl") and signed to 4ad. How could they go wrong? Well...maybe it was the music. Not that they were bad or anything, but there was nothing really to distinguish them from any of the other shoegaze wannabes of the era. It was hard not to suspect that if they were led by Jim Bloggs out of Perth rather than Jim Beattie out of Primal Scream, 4ad would never have gone near them. Would never have heard of them to go near them.

Anyway, I don't mean to be quite so hard on them because I really do like this song. But...you'll see what I mean.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Wrens - Marked Up

Here is a really lovely song from a band that nobody seems to have heard of, even though they've been around forever. From New Jersey, I think. I don't know much more about them. But I love this song.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

20/20 - Yellow Pills

Here's another band that I know absolutely nothing about but this song is a classic slice of 1970s power pop, which I'm sure would have been totally forgotten if not for the compilation craze.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Blondie - Picture This

I've been a Blondie fan for as long as I've been old enough to care about music. In fact, I think "Heart of Glass" was the first single I ever bought (though it might have been "My Sharona"). I never stopped loving them even when "Rapture" came out and I had nightmares about that video for days. Even now I'm still too scared to look it up on YouTube.

I met Jimmy Destri once, in the mid 1990s, and it was just about the only time in my life I've ever been truly starstruck. Fortunately he couldn't have been nicer. He wrote this song, incidentally, which is still my favourite of theirs after all these years.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Portishead - Wandering Star

Not much to say about this one since I imagine most people will know it. But it's always a good sign when a band can take a genre I'm somewhat indifferent about and make it sound this good.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Rain Parade - This Can't Be Today

The Rain Parade were probably the most critically acclaimed Paisley Underground band, and with good reason. Their songs were beautifully crafted, gorgeously sung, and with an unerring sense of when it was time to shut up and let the music do the talking. Sort of a psychedelic Television (aside from the "gorgeously sung" part).

This is my absolute favourite song of theirs, from their first album Emergency Third Rail Power Trip. It features Kendra Smith (then of Dream Syndicate, later of Opal) on backing vocals. I'm actually not a huge fan of her vocals generally - I know that's a bit of a heresy among Paisley Underground fans - but they're very, very nice here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thieves - Placed Aside

Thieves were a project of David McAlmont, later of McAlmont & Butler (as in Bernard Butler of Suede) semi-fame. That's twice in a week I've mentioned Suede, and I don't even like them.

They were an odd little band and not really easy to categorise. Their main appeal lay in David's voice, an absolutely lovely thing which the songwriting never quite did justice to. I didn't hear much of McAlmont & Butler but I suspect the same was true for them as well.

This is from the 1990s but it has a really mid-1980s feel, I think.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Iggy Pop - Fall In Love With Me

Everyone knows Iggy, of course, but I'm not sure how many know this one, the closing track to the Lust for Life album. It's the closest he's ever come to a great little pop tune, and while I know people don't listen to Iggy for great little pop tunes, he carries it off remarkably well. Definitely one of my favourites of the '70s.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Way of the West - Don't Say That's Just For White Boys

Here's a band that I know absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing about, except that in the early 1980s they released a slew of great dance-pop singles and then disappeared. All three of the singles of theirs that I own - this one, "See You Shake" and "City for Lovers" - were very strong, solid tunes and I say this as someone who doesn't particularly like dance-pop. Wonder who they were and what became of them.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Biff Bang Pow! - Hug Me Honey

Here's another Biff Bang Pow! tune, just because. Songs for the Sad Eyed Girl isn't their best album, but this song is so stunningly gorgeous it stops me in my tracks every time.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Bardots - Skin Diving

I can't believe I haven't posted anything yet from this album, one of my Top 5 or so of the 1990s. The Bardots' biggest claim to fame was, I think, a family tie between them and the only slightly less overlooked Adorable. I say this because the only people I know who ever heard of them were Adorable fans. I'm talking serious Adorable fans, the kind mad enough to seek out anything even tangentially related. Which explains why the Bardots were such a complete commercial non-entity. I mean, how many serious Adorable fans do you think there ever were?

And it's a real shame, because the Bardots had some truly fine songs on their debut and a whole album's worth on their follow-up/swan song V-Neck. Simon Dunford's voice reminds me a lot of Brett Anderson's, but he was a much more talented songwriter and V-Neck is full of sharp, introspective lyrics. I really think it's an incredibly accomplished record, and wonder what more they could have come up with if Simon hadn't taken early retirement from the music business. Sadly we'll never know.

They played a one-off reunion gig in their hometown of Norwich earlier this year, but it was impossible for me to get to. Fingers crossed for another.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The La's - Liberty Ship

Of all the great injustices in the history of pop music, surely one of the greatest is the fact that 99% of people in the world only know the La's for "There She Goes". Of course, if you're only going to be known for one song you could do far worse than that, but it only begins to hint at the depth and quality of the music the La's produced in their relatively short career. Their lone studio album is a cracker from start to finish; all their b-sides were as good as their a-sides and even the complete throwaway tracks that have surfaced since they acrimoniously self-imploded are better than almost anything else you'll hear all year. If you were one of those who dismissed them on the basis of their one radio hit, well, it's your loss.

I also give the La's credit for helping me shake off my stubborn prejudice against band reunions. I'd refused to go to them for years and years, but when the La's came through Dublin in 2005 it took me all of three minutes to realise I would never forgive myself for missing them. So I went and it was so close to perfect, I nearly cried.

Here they are live in London, in 1989.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Octopus - Your Smile

For me this is a summer song. A song that will always take me back to a particularly pleasant point in time. 1996, if you were wondering.

Octopus were a Scottish band but based in London and for a very short while looked to be the next big thing on the Britpop scene but alas, it wasn't to be. One fine album which went nowhere and then they disappeared.

There was a proper video to this but it doesn't seem to be online anywhere. If anyone has it, please share it, it was nice.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Springfields - Wonder

The Springfields were from Providence, Rhode Island, and might have been the only American Sarah band in the "classic" Sarah era, but don't quote me on that.

Providence being a small town, most of the bands that came out of there that anyone ever heard of (and I'm using those words quite generously, as will soon be apparent) were interrelated. The same characters turned up in the Reverbs, Honeybunch, Velvet Crush and I'm sure a few others I've long since forgotten. Velvet Crush were probably the best known of these and, not surprisingly, they were also the least interesting.

As for the Springfields, they had a really wonderful '60s pop aspect to their music which set them apart from the rest of the Sarah roster. Not that far apart though.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Passage - Horseplay

Nobody seems to remember this band, apart from their one minor hit "XOYO" which turns up on every Cherry Red collection. There was more to them than that, of course. They put out a few records of mixed quality, leaning sometimes towards insufferably clever, but with a few real gems on each.

I was tempted to put up their fourth single "Troops Out", from 1981, simply because I like the fact that they did a song called "Troops Out" in 1981, but unfortunately it's not really that great a song (best intentions aside) so here's one from their final album Enflame instead. It wasn't produced by Martin Hannett, but you'd be forgiven for thinking it was.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Rags - Razors and Ropes

Here's another new(ish) Irish band that I like a lot. The Rags are from north Dublin city and have been around for a few years, though we're still waiting for the debut album.

They've put out a few singles; this isn't my favourite (that honour goes to "Strawberry Beds") but it's the only one they seem to have done a video for. It really doesn't do them justice, especially to Danny Anderson's exuberant stage presence - you definitely need to see them live to fully appreciate them.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

XTC - Ten Feet Tall

XTC could be really annoying at times, but they had at least a couple songs per album that were so unbelievably catchy you'd pretty much have to have no pop sensibility whatsoever not to enjoy them. This is one of them, from their third album Drums and Wires. I never understood why this wasn't the big hit from that album rather than the thoroughly uninteresting "Making Plans For Nigel".

Monday, August 31, 2009

Action Painting! - These Things Happen

This is my absolute favourite Sarah single, one of my favourite singles ever full stop and if you don't agree you are at the wrong blog and probably very sad as well.

End of.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Flaws - Out Tonight

I keep saying I'm going to post more Irish bands and I never do, so let's try to make up for that here. This is one of my favourite singles of the past few years from anyone, Irish or not.

The Flaws are from Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan, which is not someplace you ever need to visit - trust me! But it did something right to produce this band, who have a lot more great tunes where this came from.

Invigorating, I think, is the word.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ned's Atomic Dustbin - Selfish

Ned's Atomic Dustbin were one of those bands that everyone's little sister seemed to like, but us older indie kids were supposed to kind of look down on. See also EMF. I actually quite liked them though (the Neds, I mean, not EMF - who really were pretty lame). Ned's were minor and a bit too close to the whole "grebo" thing for comfort, but when someone's little sister put them on I usually found my toes would start tapping despite myself.

This is from their debut God Fodder. No idea what the follow-ups sounded like, I had stopped hanging round people with little sisters by then :)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Novak - Rapunzel

I really know nothing about this band, but many years ago a friend tape recorded a bunch of their songs for me. I listened to the tape a few times, enjoyed it but put it at the back of my head and never thought about it again for years. In the recent process of upgrading my technology (yes, I'm a bit slow) I gave it another listen and was really quite blown away by it. There are all sorts of strange noises scattered about throughout their songs, dreamy melodies and nicely understated female vocals...a perfect combination. Why don't more people know about them?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Springhouse - Menagerie Keeper

Here's an obscure gem from a band I was fortunate enough to see in New York many moons ago. Springhouse were considered a shoegaze band, although you can't really hear it in this song, it's just a great little pop tune. With one of the strangest song titles ever, of course. Has any other band ever used the word "menagerie" in a pop song?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Belly - Full Moon Empty Heart

I absolutely adored the first Throwing Muses album, but never cared for any of the follow-ups - with the exception of Tanya Donnelly's songs. And as it happens, my favourite song on the debut was her one contribution ("Green"). So it's not surprising that I loved Belly too, or at least their first album. It's an amazingly strong record, full of great tunes, clever lyrics and that voice. Tanya could sing the phone book and it would sound heavenly.

I only saw them once, though, and they were disappointingly boring. Though from this clip I'm wondering if I might have just caught them on a bad night.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Jazz Butcher - Honey

The Jazz Butcher were great live but I was never a huge fan of their recordings until 1991's Condition Blue, a good, solid, somewhat dark pop record. I kind of feel now that I should go back and listen to the earlier ones again, it's been a long time since I've even heard them.

Anyway, here's one of my favourite tracks from that album.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Swell Maps - Helicopter Spies

I'm a bigger fan of Nikki Sudden's solo work, actually. But the Swell Maps' catalog certainly does throw up the odd gem, like this one from their second album Jane From Occupied Europe. They were a great band for album/song titles, too. Why don't more bands pay attention to things like that?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Associates - Party Fears Two

A very under-appreciated band, and a sad sad loss to the music world. Can't really say much more about them.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Mighty Lemon Drops - Inside Out

The Mighty Lemon Drops were one of the more commercially successful C86 bands, although unfortunately that success was, as it so often is, accompanied by a tendency toward the bland and mainstream. I say a "tendency toward" because in their case I think they still wrote pretty good pop songs; it's not like what happened to the Soup Dragons, eventually, who basically went down the toilet.

This was from their third and most successful album, World Without End. Great song...shame about the video.

The Mighty Lemon Drops - Inside Out

Friday, August 21, 2009

Unrest - Isabel

Unrest were an unlikely addition to the 4ad catalog, a DC-area band with roots in the punk scene, although they'd mellowed considerably by the time Ivo & co discovered them. I once saw them open up for Stereolab and the general consensus was that they'd blown the headliners off the stage. Or maybe that was just my general consensus, because I don't like Stereolab very much. But I'm pretty sure other people agreed with me that night.

This song was originally released on their 85th album (not really, but it seems that way) in a fairly bland ballad form and then given life for an EP after 4ad picked them up. I'm not sure if the video is supposed to look like this.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Bats - Bedlam

I never quite warmed to the Bats the way I did to most Flying Nun bands. A lot of it, I think, is Robert Scott's voice, which just sort of rubs me the wrong way. Also I guess I find a lot of their songs a bit blander than most of their labelmates'. But that's not to say I dislike them or anything, I'm just more selective about them.

Here's one that I really like from their second album, The Law of Things.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bauhaus - She's In Parties

OK, so I went through a bit of a goth phase as a teenager. I can admit it now. I can even listen to some it again, though there were a few bands (names will be withheld to save me some serious blushes) about whom I can only say - what was I thinking?

Bauhaus are one of those I still enjoy the odd track from. They were ridiculous, of course, but they actually did have some talent and weren't totally cartoonish in the way that, for example, most of the Batcave bands were.

I don't think I would listen to a whole album at a time, and I wouldn't be rushing off to the reunion gig or anything. But I'm not completely embarrassed to admit to kind of liking them. Any more.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Mekons - Last Dance

Here's another northern English post-punk band that's been around forever and yet I've only seen once. At the end of the gig Sally told the audience to piss off. In a nice way.

This is one of those songs that I think even if you're not a Mekons fan generally you'd have to love, if you have any sort of taste in music. It stands head and shoulders above everything else they've ever done, IMHO, and in fact should be considered a classic indie track full stop - I'm always surprised at how little-known it seems to be. Just a lovely, wonderful, amazing song that I could listen to over and over again every day for the rest of my life.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Fall - Fiery Jack

For a band that's been around forever and seems to spend their life on the road, surprisingly I've only seen the Fall once. It was around 1985 and Brix Smith was still in the band. She had a beautiful paisley guitar. I spoke to her after the gig and knocked over her beer. Oops. Fortunately she was nice about it.

Obviously when you've put out as many records as they have some of them are going to be hit and miss, and some of them haven't stood the test of time so well. But I still think this one, from a 1980 EP, is a cracker.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Wannadies - Because

Outside Sweden, at least, the Wannadies are known mainly for their rather annoyingly infectious contribution to the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack, the "You and Me Song". I knew a few people who became positively homicidal whenever they heard it.

While I wouldn't be a huge fan of theirs, I did think they knocked out one or two tracks that should have been big hits with any indiepop fan. This is one of them, from their 1997 album Bagsy Me.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Courtney Love - Shaniko

No, not that Courtney Love. This was a band, which for reasons I'm not entirely sure of shared her name; it should probably be noted that this was before most people outside the indie world had ever heard of her and long before she became the train wreck she is today. Anyway, Courtney Love (Band), as you often see them referred to - well, I know you don't often see them referred to at all, but if you do that's usually how it is - put out three pleasant pop singles before they split up and singer Lois Maffeo moved to DC to continue her career in a band named after ... herself. I sense a pattern here.

This is from their second single, "Highlights".

Friday, August 14, 2009

Laughing Clowns - Sometimes (I Just Can't Live With Anyone)

Another fairly obscure post-punk band from the 1980s. I always felt they were better known as the band Ed Kuepper formed after the Saints, but maybe that's just me.

This is the title track from their second EP. Gotta love the horns.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Messages

Synth-pop got kind of a bad rap in the 1980s, not entirely without reason, but OMD seemed to escape a lot of the more negative commentary. Probably because the songwriting was so undeniably good, it had to be clear to all but the most determined Luddite that in their case the machinery was there to enhance the songs rather than create them or hide their deficiencies. I suppose there was also a somberness to OMD that separated them from their more lightweight contemporaries. Then again, the same was true for Depeche Mode and people still treated them like a boyband. Maybe because Depeche Mode were cuter. Who knows.

Anyway, I still find it breathtaking how utterly gorgeous some of OMD's early works were. Like this one, from their self-titled debut album. Love love love this song.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vice Squad - Last Rockers

I posted previously (here) about 1980s punk and how paranoid we all were about nuclear war. Some of it sounds a bit overblown now! Here's another track in the same vein, from an English band who I don't really know anything else by. This was on the first Punk and Disorderly compilation which I still get a bit of a kick out of.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Clean - Anything Could Happen

I haven't posted any Flying Nun in, oh about three weeks or so, so here's a classic. Good thing some '80s fashions never came back, huh?

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Sound - Dreams Then Plans

Here's another tragically underrated band from the 1980s. The comments I made about the Comsat Angels apply, except that in the Sound's case I'm not sure they ever even had a hit single. (I never saw Voice of the Beehive cover their songs, either.) They certainly had some wonderful songs though, and several very solid albums which still hold up more than two decades later.

This is from the 1984 EP Shock of Daylight, which contains some of the finest material they ever did.

RIP Adrian.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Strangelove - Crofters

Strangelove were a stunningly beautiful and underrated band (led by Patrick Duff, who was also stunningly beautiful as it happens), a band with the misfortune to be somber and reflective at a time when English pop music was supposed to be all brash and Cool Britannia. Although they toured with a lot of those bands, they could never really fit into that scene and they didn't seem to have a lot of support from their record label, either. So their three gorgeous albums sank more or less without trace. There is no justice in this world.

Their final single, "The Greatest Show On Earth", wasn't their best but the b-sides were typically wonderful. This is my favourite.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Racecar - Honeysuckle

I've already posted one by Racecar but they're so good, here's another one. It's really tragic they never made it big - when you've got a voice like this you deserve to be heard by more than a few thousand people.

This particular track is from a collection of b-sides and other cuts. It's called, erm, B-Sides and Other Cuts. Genius, huh? I really, really, really adore this song.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Pale Saints - She Rides the Waves

Pale Saints were another band lumped in with the shoegaze scene by happenstance although always seeming a little bit outside it. Their debut album The Comforts of Madness was an underrated gem of a record, Ian's mournful vocals hovering awkwardly over intricate layers which you can actually pick out thanks to the rather minimalist production (one of the factors that distinguished them - in a good way - from so many of their contemporaries). At the time I remember most of the shoegazeheads I knew worshipped them but they seem to have been largely forgotten now, which is quite a shame.

This is a B-side from their debut EP, Barging into the Presence of God, and when it was released towards the end of 1989 NME proclaimed this particular track as "The Best Song Anywhere This Week", which it was. Probably still is, in fact.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Frightened Rabbit - I Feel Better

It's been a while since I posted anything recent so here's one that proves Scotland is still just as adept as ever at producing great indie music. I saw this band for the first time at last year's Hard Working Class Heroes Festival; it was a disappointing festival overall but they were one of the highlights. (In fairness to the bands, it wasn't their fault so much as the bucketing rain. I'm sure better weather has been ordered for this year.) Nice video, too.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Stranglers - Straighten Out

The Stranglers are another band that I've kind of always had mixed feelings about. They lasted a long time, and obviously survived in much better shape than some of their contemporaries, and of course I appreciate their willingness to go outside the box in terms of musical styles (even labelling them as "punk" doesn't seem quite right, but I don't really know what else to do with them). It's just that I've never tended to get too excited by their songs. Even the classics like "No More Heroes" to me have mostly nostalgia value, and of course at my age the nostalgia factor is only of discovering them half a decade or so after the fact. For the most part, I wouldn't consider it great music in its own right.

As is so often the case, however, there is the odd exception and this is definitely one of them. Originally released as a B-side to "Something Better Change", it's the far better song of the two, the A-side being one of those slices of '70s punk mediocrity that would have disappeared into compilationland if it had been released by anyone else. I hadn't actually listened to this one for a long time until very recently and I was amazed at how powerful it still was. I wish they'd had more like it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Motors - Airport

I suppose this would probably fall into the category of "pub rock", a term I've never particularly liked. But what a great song it is. Remember the days when chart songs were actually good? OK, I don't really either, but there was a time when something like this could get to #4 on the British charts. Know what's #4 on the British charts this week? You guessed it, something crap. That's all the publicity I'm going to give to it.

Anyway, have a listen to this Motors song. Isn't it great?

Monday, August 3, 2009

The House of Love - Safe

I'm not a huge House of Love fan. Adored "Christine", liked one or two other singles but mostly I thought they were just average. However, I absolutely love their B-sides and outtakes collection, Spy in the House of Love. Why did they hold most of their best stuff back and put the boring stuff on the albums?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Lunch Meat - Under the Glare

Here's another DC punk band from the mid-1980s. I could refer to this as another in the "roots of emo" series, but since I don't really like the concept of emo, I won't.

Lunch Meat were a young and briefly quite popular group (locally) who later changed their name to Soulside and developed a bit of a reputation on the national punk scene. Most of Soulside later became Girls Against Boys, who've had a reasonable amount of success in the US indie-rock scene, although I can't say they've ever done much for me.

This is from a split 7" they released in 1985 with a band called Mission Impossible, who were so emo they actually apologised on the sleeve for the overwrought lyrics. The most notable thing about Mission Impossible was their drummer, a certain Dave Grohl.

The 7" was originally titled Thanks and then reissued as Getting Shit for Growing Up. It's the original that I have (of course), but my scanner is banjaxed and the only sleeve I can find online is the reissue. Both were released in extremely limited quantities, so it would certainly be a good investment if you happened to stumble across one anywhere.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Jesus and Mary Chain - Just Like Honey

Here's another one in the category of not-shoegaze-per-se-but-going-there-anyway. For quite obvious reasons, if you listen to it.

An acquaintance of mine, a younger fella, heard this album for the first time not too long ago and really didn't understand why it was such a big deal. Of course he'd already heard everything that came after it, so it was nothing new to him. But I remember when it came out and believe you me it was very new at the time. Groundbreaking, even. There were plenty of bands who sounded like the second Velvet Underground album, and plenty who sounded like the third, but nobody had yet thought of sounding like both of them at the exact same time. Or at least if they had, they never managed to get anyone to listen to them.

The use of feedback was what drew most people's attention to them. But for me, the big attraction was always the songs that lay beneath the noise. Strip away the feedback and you'd have a perfect Scottish pop band - and if there's one thing I love above all else, it's perfect Scottish pop.

This song remains their crowning achievement, its effortless beauty still managing to blow me away every time.

The Jesus And Mary chain - Just Like Honey

Friday, July 31, 2009

Galaxie 500 - Blue Thunder

I always think of Galaxie 500 as being sort of a shoegaze band, but only sort of. I doubt they ever thought of themselves as being part of that genre (then again, did anyone?) but they were around at the right time for it and certainly every shoegaze fan I knew loved them. So into that label they go anyway.

After an unbelievable debut album their subsequent recordings were a bit of a disappointment. Great tracks here and there, but marred by some stupid lyrics ("I stood in line and ate my Twinkies") and tunes that weren't strong enough to overcome Dean Wareham's, erm, distinctive vocals. The songs that bassist Naomi Yang sang on tend to be my favourites of their later period, which says something, I think.

But here's a nice one from an EP they released near the end of their career. It's notable also for a really nice cover of New Order's "Ceremony" and a Red Crayola cover, "Victory Garden". Who covers Red Crayola songs????

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Magoo - A to Z and Back Again

I don't really know much about this band except that they were on Chemikal Underground, although they don't have the lo-fi sound associated with that label. Closer to Stereolab, I think, albeit somewhat different vocally (to say the least). The album this is from, The Soateramic Sounds of Magoo, is a bit of a mixed bag but this is a great single.