Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Lunar Camel

Here's a band that I've really only begun to properly appreciate in recent years. I always thought they were a great singles band, but never really looked beyond Once Upon a Time. Now that I've started to do so, I'm realising how much I missed out on.

This is one of those fabulous album tracks I never noticed before, from Kaleidoscope, their third album.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Mob - No Doves Fly Here

Here's another one from the anarcho-punk archives. Like a lot of 1980s punk, it dealt with the prospect of nuclear war (and in a particularly apocalyptic fashion, it has to be said). In my old-fogey moments I've often pondered how difficult it must be for Kids These Days to understand what an enormous fear that was back then. Strange that we seem to have largely gotten over it, even though there are more nukes in more (and madder) people's hands now than ever before.

Anarcho-punk doesn't really lend itself to having many songs that you could truly call classics of the genre, but this is one of them.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Replacements - Kiss Me on the Bus

In the early/mid-1980s the Replacements were one of those ridiculously cool bands who seemed to delight in their reputation for doing things they weren't supposed to do and getting away with it. They turned up to gigs too drunk to play, they refused to make music videos and when they finally did their first one it was simply a continuous shot of a stereo, they named an album Let it Be (believe it or not, some people were scandalised by that). Yes, they were pretty insufferable back then. But they did get away with it, because they were also pretty good. Pity in their later years they went all MOR and boring.

This is from the last album I liked of theirs, 1985's Tim. Why did anyone ever think hair like that was a good idea?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Joy Division - These Days

This isn't my favourite Joy Division song, but it's one I think is always underrated. What a beautiful couplet it is that opens the song:

Morning seems strange, almost out of place
Searched hard for you and your special ways

Will there ever be a band this good again?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Back in Judy's Shack - What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life

Here's what I know about this band:

1. They're Swedish.
2. They had an EP out on Series Two records last year.
3. They have cute little male/female vocals and neat little sounds in their catchy little songs (and I do mean little songs).
4. Erm, that's it.

This is the final track on that EP, and I like it very much indeed.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Verlaines - Slow Sad Love Song

I guess the Verlaines are my favourite Flying Nun band. I say "I guess", because I really hesitate to single any particular one out. But by virtue of the sheer amount of stuff of theirs I own, and the fact that I seem to know every single song of theirs by heart, I think I have to call them my favourite. Just about.

Is there a better heartbreak song in the world than this one? I don't think there is.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Bloody Valentine - Swallow

I am a HUGE My Bloody Valentine fan, and regularly lord it over my less cool friends the fact that I saw them live all the way back in the 1980s. Nyah nyah nyah.

Unlike most people, though, I actually prefer Isn't Anything to Loveless. Again, it comes down to the songs. There's simply a lot more of them on the former, while the latter is more a feat of studio wizardry. But really, you can't go wrong with any MBV (well, from Strawberry Wine on anyway).

This is from the Tremolo EP.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Passions - Absentee

I've posted a lot from records that everyone else likes that I'm not mad about, so here's one from a record I'm quite fond of that seems to have got really mixed reviews. The Passions' 1980 debut is, to my ears, a very good snapshot of its era; a bit dark and a bit minimalist, but with a hint of the New Romantic as well. They're one of these bands I always regret having been too young to ever see live - although if I had been around then I'd be even more of an old fart than I am now, so maybe it's just as well.

Actually, what first lured me to this album was its title. Michael and Miranda. What a great name for an album. Why don't bands give their albums such great names any more?

Monday, June 22, 2009

GusGus - Why?

I guess this was 4ad's attempt to jump on the trip-hop bandwagon. It didn't really work, I don't think - 4ad heads didn't really buy it and I don't think they made much of a mark on the trip-hop scene either. Or maybe they did and I just missed it because it's not really my thing. Whatever.

This is a nice little tune from the Polydistortion album.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Jubilee Allstars - Let Evening Bring Them Home

Here's another Irish band that you've probably never heard of if you're not Irish, though they were quite well regarded here. I suppose there are bands like that everywhere. In the 1990s and at the start of the decade, the Jubilee Allstars put out a bunch of decent recordings of their country and folk-influenced pop, disappeared, resurfaced again in 2005 with an album I still haven't heard and I don't know what they're up to at the moment, if anything.

This is from their second album, 2000's Lights of the City.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Delgados - Everything Goes Around the Water

I've sang the praises of 1980s Scottish pop on many occasions in this blog but some of the '90s stuff was also fabulous. The Delgados are a band I wish I'd listened to more; always liked what I heard but never saw them and really don't think I paid as much attention to them as I should have. Of course, neither did anyone else.

I like Emma Pollock's songs the best, which might have something to do with the fact that she sounds almost exactly like Kim Deal. Which isn't a bad thing at all.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cocteau Twins - Laugh Lines

The Cocteau Twins are one of those bands I feel like I'm supposed to like more than I actually do. I appreciate them, let's say. But I never really feel like listening to them, certainly not for extended periods of time.

I can actually trace back to the moment I realised this. I was about 15 or 16 and was in a queue outside a venue, the name of which I can't remember, to see a band whose name I've also forgotten. It might have been Echo and the Bunnymen or it might have been the Smiths. It was a big summertime gig anyway and, as with all big summertime gigs, my friends and I queued up outside all day. You wanted to be one of the first people in the door so that you could be right up at the front of the crowd and then maybe the lead singer (or someone else in the band - and if it was the Smiths it must have been someone else in the band!) would see you from the stage and realise you were The One for them and would pluck you up out of the crowd and take you away. Or something like that. Well, there must have been some reason we wanted to be the very first people in the door...

Anyway, since we were going to be there all day somebody would have brought a boombox to keep us entertained and at one point a Cocteau Twins tape went into it. A tape of a full Cocteaus album (or Cocteaux, if you want to be pretentious about it). I think we might have got halfway through it and it was starting to do my head in. I asked if we could put something else on - please. And from that day on I've had a relatively low tolerance for the Cocteau Twins.

That said, I seem to have an awful lot (read: just about all) of their records, so maybe I'm talking nonsense again.

This is one of the tracks from the "Peppermint Pig" EP. It has that darker, Siouxsie-esque sound of their debut, Garlands, which was always my favourite album of theirs.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The High - Box Set Go

How about a bit of baggy? The High were a "Madchester" band that not many people seemed to care about then and almost nobody remembers now. Which is a shame, because a lot of their debut album Somewhere Soon is pretty good. Nothing to go bananas over, but enjoyable enough if you're into that sort of thing.

This was their first and best single. I always thought it bore an uncanny resemblance to a 1980s tune called "Trusted Woods" by the Reverbs, but I'm sure that's a complete coincidence since nobody ever heard of the Reverbs. I must put that up here sometime, it's really good. Anyway, here's the High song... with apologies for the rubbish video.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Clash - The Call Up

I always wanted to like Sandinista! I mean, I like the Clash, and I like liking albums nobody else likes, and I liked the Sandinistas in the 1980s as well, although I don't think much of them in their current incarnation. But I have to agree with the critics who called this album too ambitious, too sloppy, too inconsistent. Give me London Calling any day.

This, however, is a GREAT single. Even if nobody bought it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Talulah Gosh - Steaming Train

Talulah Gosh were once synonymous with twee - back before it became a genre and was simply an insult (or was meant to be, anyway). Which I always thought was a bit unfair, because a lot of their songs rocked. The fact that they were sung by a young, cute female with a young, cute voice seems to be what made the difference in a lot of people's minds, which is pretty sexist, I think. Did you know she has a PhD in economics?

Of course it is fair to say that they were hugely influential on the twee scene that followed, and it's not as though they didn't fit that description perfectly at times (e.g., "My Best Friend" and the lovely "Just a Dream"). But to me the archetypal Talulah song is <2 minutes long and ~200 BPM. Like this one.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Syd Barrett - Late Night

I don't really need to say much about Syd. His music was an inspiration to all of us, and I think I could pretty much put up any one of his songs here. This one just edges it for me - listen closely to the lyrics if you want to know why.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Eyeless in Gaza - Kodak Ghosts Run Amok

Eyeless in Gaza were never an easy band to listen to, even for someone like me who pretty much loved everything on Cherry Red in the early '80s. I think the make-or-break factor was Martyn Bates's vocals, often described as "distinctive"; at his best they're stunningly expressive but at worst they're close to unbearable. And there's a fair amount of "worst" in EiG's repertoire, if you know what I mean.

I like a lot of their stuff anyway. And come on, isn't this the best song title ever?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Orange Cake Mix - Close to Heaven/Always By Your Side

This album reminds me a lot of the Durutti Column, but heavier on the electronic/ambient side of things. It's pleasant enough although I don't think I'd want to listen to the whole thing in one sitting.

Here's the final track, which is the only one on the album with vocals.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Television - Days

Marquee Moon is such an undisputed classic that it's not surprising Television's second album, Adventure, is often overlooked. To be honest I would have to say it doesn't deserve the acclaim of its predecessor. The songs aren't as good and Tom Verlaine's vocals, never great to begin with, are particularly jarring in a lot of spots.

But Television were never really about the vocals anyway, of course. It was the dual guitar work of Verlaine and Richard Lloyd (one of my first rock star crushes, incidentally, even if he was a bit before my time). And for me nothing on this album highlights that better than this one does.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Chills - Rolling Moon

Here's another great Flying Nun song, from a band sometimes described as the unluckiest in the world. This was their first single.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wreckless Eric - Whole Wide World

Going back in time just a little bit, here's one of my favourite singles from the heyday of British punk/punk-pop/pub rock/whatever you want to call it. I picked up Wreckless Eric's debut album on the strength of this song (many years after it was released, I hasten to point out. I'm not that old) and was by and large disappointed - most of the rest of it ranges from merely average to outright shambolic. But, whatever. This one is still a classic.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Weather Prophets - The Key To My Love Is Green

The Weather Prophets weren’t technically a C86 band, but I tend to lump them into that category anyway. They were around at the time, and on Creation, and - well - pretty damn C86-y, it has to be said.

They never quite set the house on fire, but over their short career they were a reliable source of simple, hummable tunes that get your head bopping and your toes tapping. And that’s what this blog is all about. Simple, hummable tunes that get your head bopping and your toes tapping.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions - Rattlesnakes

I'm tired and a bit hungover this morning, so here's something guaranteed to lift my mood: 1980s Scottish pop. Truly, the music of the gods.

Lloyd's debut album contained a number of gems, and I've gone through a few favourites over the years. But I think this one - the title track - just comes closest to pure pop perfection.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Depeche Mode - Never Let Me Down Again

I know a lot of people think of Depeche Mode as merely the synthy 1980s equivalent of, I dunno, Boyzone or something, but they're wrong. Leaving aside the fluff of the Vince Clarke era, Depeche were actually quite a subversive band in a lot of respects, from the distinctly radical-left artwork that adorned some of their early record sleeves to lyrics like I don't want to start any blasphemous rumours, but I think that God has a sick sense of humour and when I die I expect to find him laughing. Come on, do you really think Boyzone would get away with that?

Of course, as with all bands that stick around as long as they have, the rot did set in eventually. Pretty much everything from the '90s on has left me cold. But the last time I saw them live (about a decade ago), they still rocked the house down.

I think this is one of their all-time great singles, and one that has best stood the test of time.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Spacemen 3 - May the Circle Be Unbroken

I was never much of a Spacemen fan, although I like a lot of shoegazey stuff. They were just too droney and unmelodic for my tastes. Maybe if I was a better guitarist (i.e. more of a muso) and could appreciate their ability to get noises out of their instruments that their instruments were never intended to produce, which is usually the argument my musician friends give me as to why they like this kind of thing. Unfortunately I will probably never know.

So, I don't care much for the A-side of the single this appeared on, "Revolution", nor for the first B-side, a cover of Suicide's "Che" - Suicide being, of course, the Spacemen's most obvious predecessor, with a similar lack of any discernible songs behind the noise.

More interesting is the EP's final track, a dreamy version of an old hymn from the turn of the century. It's a lot closer to what Jason Pierce went on to do with the infinitely superior Spiritualized, I think.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Glorious Din - Red Dirt

Here's another obscure American '80s band. I don't know very much about them, except that I think they were from San Francisco and their singer was of Sri Lankan origin, which is something you don't see every day. Unless you're from Sri Lanka. They were often compared to Joy Division which I think you can hear in the production; there's definitely a Martin Hannett/Factory sort of sound there, although with rather more prominent vocals. I bet they were amazing live.

This is from their second (and final?) album, Closely Watched Trains. As far as I know it was released in 1987 although it sounds pretty 1981 to me.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Translator - Unalone

Translator were a rather ordinary American band of the early 1980s, who put out a couple of decent records that got a bit of airplay on college and independent radio but then disappeared largely forgotten. I really wouldn't say you missed much if you never heard them, but this one song is great.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Scritti Politti - Doubt Beat

Here's an early Scritti track which may come as a surprise to those who know them only from their MTV hits. It's nothing like the slick, almost sickly-sweet pop of Cupid and Psyche '85 (although I like that too) and instead puts me in mind of the stuff coming out of Scotland at the time, i.e. the Fire Engines and Josef K. It's actually hard to believe it's even the same guy singing, although I am assured that it is.

Apologies for the quality.