Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Surprised to discover they made a video for this. I don't know why that should surprise me, but it does.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
You'll have to take my word for it how great they were, unfortunately, because their recordings were never a patch on their live show.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Just for fun, here's one from the 1992 compilation Ruby Trax, released by NME to celebrate its 40th year of publication. It was a three-CD collection of covers - most of which were a lot more faithful than this one!
I'm actually a really big fan of the original (despite not caring much for Ultravox generally), but this version does make me laugh.
Monday, May 25, 2009
This was their best song and biggest hit. I saw Voice of the Beehive play a cover of it once, for whatever that's worth.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
I know nothing whatsoever about Big Heifer, apart from this song, which I think is the best thing on the album.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Nowadays when you read about the DC "emocore" scene (sorry, I just can't use that word without scare quotes) it's usually Rites of Spring and Embrace who are identified as the key players but my own memory of the era is that Gray Matter were the #2 band. Their music hasn't aged as well as Rites of Spring's has, but I still like this one a lot.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Stewart Anderson's voice is a bit of an acquired taste, and overall they strike me as fitting in more with American indie rock than British indiepop. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.
This is from the EP Pure Hatred 96, which was actually released in 1994, I think.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Their early recordings were beautiful, with soft, virtually impenetrable vocals and Byrdsy guitars. After Reckoning they pretty much lost me, as Michael Stipe's voice became harsh and raspy and they started writing rubbishy songs like "Everybody Hurts". But this, from their first EP, is just gorgeous ... still.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I did like Blur, though, and still do. And some of their B-sides were quite good, such as this one, from "Popscene".
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
I was speaking recently of anarcho-punk so here's one by the ultimate anarcho-punk band. A lot of Crass's stuff is really unlistenable to me today - I know it was pretty unlistenable to a lot of people always - but to their credit at least they were never hesitant about experimenting with styles that diverged quite significantly from a generic punk sound. A bit like Chumbawamba in that respect, although Chumba's divergence was usually in the direction of increased listenability while Crass's was usually the other way ...
The significance of this one, for those who care about such things, is that it seems to indicate a change in philosophy from their previous "Don't want your revolution, I want anarchy and peace" stance. It was their final single, though, so it's hard to be sure where they would have ended up.
Monday, May 18, 2009
The Auteurs pushed a lot of my buttons. Whiney vocals? Check. Snappy lyrics? Galore. Attitude? My god, did they have attitude. Although despite the miserable misanthropic cynical bastard persona, Luke Haines actually came across quite friendly and cheerful on the two occasions I had to see them live. I've since been told, however, that I must have just caught him on a couple of (rare) good days. Whatever. The Auteurs were genius, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
I always wondered why he picked Baltimore as the location for this song. If anyone knows, do tell.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Haircut 100 were, of course, one of the breakthrough bands of that era and if I was able to put together a list of records that "converted" me their debut would definitely be on it. I know it sounds terribly lightweight and fluffy today - actually, it probably did then, too, but what did I know? I was 12 - but you have to admit it's catchy as hell. And just look at Nick Heyward's adorable cheeky grin. Is it any wonder I loved this band. I think not.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Saturn V were more a project than a band - one of many spinoffs from the delightful Razorcuts, and sounding pretty much exactly like them. Really, it's almost impossible to tell them apart. And that's not a bad thing at all.
Friday, May 15, 2009
French indiepop! Not something you hear very often. Unless, I suppose, you're French. Most of the lyrics are in French, too, which is something I admire, being a determinedly anti-imperialist (linguistic or otherwise) sort. Bands from non-Anglophone countries shouldn't feel they have to sing in English just to get people to listen to them.
Anyway, you certainly don't need to understand what they're saying to be utterly captivated by Valérie Leulliot's sweet voice, and guitars that ring out like something from Scottish pop's 1980s' heyday.
I assume there must have been others like this where they came from, and deeply regret the fact that I don't know.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
This song isn't particularly typical of their style; it's more in keeping with the classic sort of English indie rock of the very early 1980s, which probably explains why it's my favourite of theirs.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
This is one of their more straightforward pop songs, from the 1989 classic Manic, Magic, Majestic - possibly the most accurately-named album ever! It's a simple and catchy tune, but Johny Brown's marvelously evocative lyrics shine through nonetheless.
Incidentally, they've recently reformed and are gigging around London. Don't miss them this time!
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Now having said that, here's one that isn't quite the pure pop the label was famous for. Snapper were one of their weirder bands - the love child Brian Wilson and Alan Vega might have had. They didn't release much, which is probably just as well because I think this sound would have got tiresome fairly quickly, though it's great in small doses. This is from their self-titled debut EP and is probably their best-known track.
Monday, May 11, 2009
The lyrics throughout the album also sound suspiciously as if they were pilfered from the self-help section of Martin's library - never a good sign.
Still, it is an indie classic whether I agree with that designation or not, so here's one of the less arsey tracks off it.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Anyway, forget about it. Chumba had been making fantastic records for well over a decade before that rather unfortunate brush with megastardom. I first encountered them some time around 1985, when a friend copied one of their demo tapes for me. At the time I was listening to a lot of anarcho-punk but of course I was still a pop kid at heart and they blended the two sounds in a way that few other bands have managed so well. I admired their refusal to be stuck in a box, either musically or politically; and on the latter point I also appreciated the fact that they didn't overlook the Irish conflict - unlike so many of their associates in the English punk scene, who were happy to condemn their government's atrocities everywhere else in the world but ignored it in their own backyard.
I saw Chumba here in Dublin last year - amazingly, only the second time I've seen them in their long career - and they were as inspiring as ever. Their 2008 album The Boy Bands Have Won isn't the best thing they've ever done, IMHO, but at least it should silence anyone who still thinks they've sold out.
Here's one of the highlights of their "dance" phase, from 1992's Shhh.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Acetone were sort of a successor band to the 1980s Paisley Underground scene: SoCal-based, heavily psychedelia-influenced, seemingly permanently stoned (and probably more appealing to listen to if you were, too. Not that I'd know. Ahem.) They put out a few decent albums that never really went anywhere; in truth the only reason I know them is because they were on Vernon Yard, who were very generous with their free samplers at the time. Damn, I miss that job.
This is one of the few kind of up-tempo tracks from their second album, If You Only Knew, which sounds like they were listening to early-70s Pink Floyd a lot.
Friday, May 8, 2009
If you did hear anything from this album it was probably either "Julie Cries", the single, or "Sometimes", which seems to be the consensus highlight. I think this is the song that has aged the best, though.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
In thinking about it, I actually find it hard to believe this was 1982.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
This is the lovely track that leads off the album Blue and pretty much defines it for me. As always with Joni, it's worth listening to for the guitar alone. And of course so much more.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Here's one of my favourites, from his second album The Poison Boyfriend.
Monday, May 4, 2009
All these years on and I haven't changed my mind. It's got some nice moments, sure, and shows them to be reasonably adept at a number of different styles, but there just aren't many Truly Great Songs on it. Obviously it's a classic as a snapshot of its era, but that doesn't make me want to listen to it any more than any other album of that year (and in fact there were a lot of albums that year I'd rather listen to than this one).
So why am I posting this? Because, having said all that, I absolutely love this song and wish they'd done more along these lines. More's the pity that they went precisely the opposite direction, but of course, I'm not exactly the fan they wanted to appeal to anyway.