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.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Smiths - Cemetry Gates

I'll admit it, I was one of those sad obsessive Smiths fans in the mid-1980s...but I have a much lower tolerance threshold for them now. Maybe it's my dislike for nearly all of Morrissey's solo work, or for his persona, or maybe it's just that I'm older now and some of the lyrics which struck me as unbelievably profound when I was 15 now just seem kind of silly. I still like a lot of their songs, don't get me wrong, but I'm a bit more discerning about it, let's say.

Here's one of the ones that has stood the test of time.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Biff Bang Pow! - It Happens All The Time

It's a general rule of thumb that people involved in the "business" end of the music business are useless at music themselves. Which makes sense when you think about it. If you were any good at making your own music why would you spend your time dealing with other people's by, for example, releasing their records, producing their records or, erm, writing/blogging about their records? (Yes, I speak with some authority on this matter I'm afraid...)

Alan McGee is a rare exception. Despite being the brains behind Creation, with Biff Bang Pow! he also managed to release half a dozen albums of his own tunes which were, for the most part, really quite good. A lot of music critics seemed to dismiss them as a frivolous pet project (like they were Russell Crowe's band or something) but that was really unfair, I think.

Pity about his taste in football teams.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Band of Holy Joy - Real Beauty Passed Through

Here's another Holy Joy track, showing off Johny Brown's stunning lyrical gift (only he could write such a romantic love song with words like "choked and defiled"). Although dating from the 1990s - just - it has a real 1980s feel, what with the prominent keyboards and slick production. I actually think it would have benefitted from a little less technology but whatever. It's really the lyrics that make this one.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Echo and the Bunnymen - My Kingdom

Although I was quite young and still relatively new to this kind of thing, I can remember knowing instinctively when Ocean Rain came out that it was a bit of a disappointment. The edge had come off the Bunnymen's sound and they were moving towards the more mainstream "modern rock" (remember that awful term?) which left an awful lot of unhappy Bunnyfans behind.

Funnily enough though, 25 years later (I feel so old saying that) I actually think it holds up better than some of their previous albums. OK, so it's not as dark and intense and Ian's lyrics, never great to begin with, verge on dreadful in spots - but the songs themselves are really quite strong and taken as a whole it's a remarkably coherent work. Their swansong, as it turned out. Next to Crocodiles I'd put this on before any other Bunnymen album today.

The recording here is from a Peel session.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sewer Trout - Sewer Trout For President

Of the punk subgenres, one of my favourites is that which emerged from the Berkeley, California area in the late 1980s and centred on 924 Gilman Street. Though the bands in this scene were indisputably punk, in ethos and attitude, the music was often as catchy as anything being put out on NME cassette compilations at the time. They were the successors to the great pop-punk bands of the 1970s like the Buzzcocks, Rezillos and Undertones, although a bit more DIY and hence less polished-sounding than those bands (or at least their recorded legacy).

Some of the Gilman bands were also a bit more political than their '70s predecessors, although you'd rarely get the kind of pure politicism of their anarcho-punk contemporaries. This is a good example: although more of a "fun" song than anything else, the opening verse is an amusing dig at the hypocrisy of the Reagan administration.

Green Day came out of this scene, by the way, and I still love them. So there.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dead Can Dance - Saltarello

I've always been a fan of medieval and renaissance music, so Aion wasn't quite the revelation to me that it was to a lot of indieheads. Well, maybe it was in the sense that it was the first record I liked of theirs. In fairness to them I hadn't actually heard the previous records apart from one or two tracks, but those one or two tracks were stodgy goth that did absolutely nothing for me. I suppose that may be like judging this album on the basis of "Black Sun", which would obviously be completely unfair (not to mention misleading). So maybe I should go back and listen their earlier albums again. Anyway, here's a great track from Aion.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pavement - In The Mouth A Desert

Like everyone else in the universe with taste, I loved Pavement's first album when it came out but lately I'd been having some doubts about it. I suppose because I hadn't actually listened to it as an album in some time and generally only heard the songs that came up on my iPod. And because I have not a proper iPod but a cheap shitty knockoff (I won't give the company more publicity by telling you their name) it doesn't shuffle properly so it was the same Pavement songs that kept coming up again and again. And almost inevitably it was the least interesting songs on the album, like "Zurich Is Stained" and "Conduit For Sale". So I was starting to think, eh, maybe that album wasn't so good after all.

But then I sat and listened to it the whole way through again and my faith was restored. OK, so it has a few boring tracks. So do most records. The good stuff is still really, really, really fucking good. And there's a lot of good stuff on it.

On another day I might have posted "Summer Babe" or "Perfume-V" here instead but today I think I'll go with this one.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Supergrass - Caught By The Fuzz

There isn't a bad song on Supergrass's debut, but this was my favourite single at the time and 15 years on (it can't be!) it still sounds every bit as fresh and exciting. The lyrics are absolutely brilliant. A perfect teenage rock'n'roll song, even if Gaz was, I think, the only actual teenager at the time.

Did I mention I love this song?

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Devlins - There is a Light

Here's another Irish band. I feel bad that I haven't posted enough of them.

The Devlins are local Dublin boys, and have been around forever, though they don't have a huge discography to show for it. They've never received much acclaim outside this country though I think there was a bit of a buzz around them in America after their debut back in 1993. Just a bit. Colin was ridiculously gorgeous back then too, he spoke to me once and I'm still embarrassed remembering my tongue-tied reaction!

The Devlins fit in quite well with that Damien Rice/Frames genre which seems to have taken off more overseas lately, especially since the success of the film Once (which, if you haven't seen, you really should).

This is a lovely track from their third album, Consent.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Uncle Wiggly - Hope So, Hope Soon

Uncle Wiggly were an interesting band. Though firmly rooted in the US indie-rock scene whence they came, they had more of an indiepop sensibility than a lot of those bands. I have a sneaking suspicion they had a few Flying Nun records at home.

I saw them live once and one of them was wearing checkerboard trousers. Funny the things that stick with you.

This is from their debut album Across The Room and Into Your Lap.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fun Boy Three - The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum

So I now have a ticket to a proper Specials gig (no standing outside in the mud and rain watching them suffer the indignity of opening up for Razorlight, FFS). But I only posted a Specials video a week ago, so here's one by Fun Boy Three instead.

I absolutely adored the Fun Boy Three. In their short career, they made two brilliant albums of effortlessly blended genres, Terry Hall's trademark caustic lyrics, solid politics and most importantly great tunes. The fact that I was totally in love with Terry at the time didn't hurt either. Actually, I'm still kind of in love with him. Yes, I'm sad.

Anyway, here's a classic slice of anti-Thatcherism/Reaganism from their debut.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Mazzy Star - Halah

I'm a big David Roback fan, so I was automatically going to be interested in Mazzy Star when they began. I actually still remember the first time I heard this song. I loved it right away, and most of the rest of the album as well. The one down side is that a lot of the lyrics are really crap but fortunately that's not too much of a problem with this one.

I never got into their later recordings though - a bit too MOR for my tastes. And sadly my perceptions were slightly coloured by hearing a few reports of not-terribly-pleasant behaviour on the part of David and Hope in their dealings with other people. "They were assholes" was one of the phrases used.

Oh well. When you're David Roback, you're entitled to be an asshole.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pale Fountains - Palm of My Hand

I posted something already by the Pale Fountains but it was from their inferior second album, so here's an absolutely classic track from the debut, Pacific Street. All these years on and it still never fails to get me going.

Surprised there isn't a proper video for this actually.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Artery - Afterwards

I bought my first Artery record because I liked the look of it. And the title (One Afternoon in a Hot Air Balloon). And the fact that it was on Red Flame, which is usually a good sign. This makes me, I think, one of maybe 12 people in the world who heard Artery before I heard Pulp. So I've never quite been able to join in the chorus of adulation for Jarvis & Co. I like them a lot, but I can't help thinking of them as having ripped off Artery's sound a bit. That may not be entirely fair.

Anyway, if you like Pulp there's absolutely no reason you shouldn't like Artery. This is from their debut release, Oceans.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Germs - Communist Eyes

I may be a pop kid at heart, but I still haven't parted with all the punk records I collected as a teenager. The Germs' only album - the little matter of Darby Crash's suicide having got in the way of a follow-up - is really dated now (and this song more than most) but hey, we're all entitled to our memories.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Three Johns - The World of the Workers

Here's a great little slice of early 1980s Marxist post-punk from Leeds. It's amazing how that's almost a genre unto itself, isn't it?

The Three Johns were brilliant at being incredibly subversive without even seeming to make much effort at it ... as opposed to, say, the Gang of Four or McCarthy, whose politics hit you over the head. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. Thinking about it now this is probably one of their least subtle tracks, but I'm not at all sure it struck me that way when I first heard it at the age of 14 or so.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dinosaur Jr - Repulsion

Do you know what I love most about Dinosaur Jr? The "Jr" part of their name. They added it after getting a cease-and-desist order from a '60s supergroup calling themselves The Dinosaurs. I have to say of all the ways I've heard of bands getting around cease-and-desist orders, that's the cleverest yet.

As for their music? Well, it's ok. They did get a bit too heavy for my liking at times... and in general the US indie rock sound is one I have mixed feelings about. But that one verse in "Freak Scene" (you know which one I mean!) is still one of the greatest lyrics ever written. And this track, from their debut album, is pretty cool too.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Elephants - Obvious

The Elephants are a Danish band who I discovered when they played the Hard Working Class Heroes festival here in Dublin a couple years ago. HWCH is an annual weekend-long festival which features mainly bands from Ireland, although every year a few from another country or group of countries are invited. 2007 was the Scandinavians' year.

The Elephants weren't my favourite non-Irish band of the festival - that honour went to Marybell Katastrophy - but this song has stuck with me in the years since. Really must check out more of their stuff some time.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Beautiful South - I Love You (But You're Boring)

As you might expect, I was a huge Housemartins fan. They had it all - great pop tunes, clever lyrics, absolutely rock solid politics. When they split and the Beautiful South appeared, I had very high hopes but was a little let down. I do like quite a bit of the debut (Welcome to the Beautiful South), but it moved in the direction of mainstream college rock in a way I wasn't particularly enthused with. By their second album Choke I'd pretty much lost interest and I haven't listened to anything they've done since.

This is the closing track of the debut and is Paul Heaton and co. at their snide, cynical best.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Specials - Gangsters

So the Specials are playing in Ireland this weekend for the first time in god knows how many years. I'm not going, because it's at an outdoor festival and I don't do outdoor festivals any more. This is a legacy of my former music business job, when I used to have hospitality passes for every outdoor festival I went to. You just can't go back to long queues for shite beer and portaloos after that. Even if it means missing the Specials.

The appalling thing about this gig, anyway, is that they aren't even the headliners. They're "opening" up for the Killers and Razorlight. Razorlight! FFS. Well I'm sure Terry Hall (who I love, did I mention that?) will give them the welcome they deserve.

Still my favourite.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Motorcycle Boy - Big Rock Candy Mountain

Here's a nearly-forgotten slice of classic 1980s Scottish indiepop, from a band organically linked to the somewhat better known Shop Assistants and the largely forgotten Meat Whiplash.

I admit I was never much of a fan of Alex Taylor's vocals. Not that I dislike them or anything - they're just a bit boring. But the tune is great.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bailter Space - Fish Eye

Here's another sort of atypical Flying Nun track. Bailter Space leaned more towards indie rock than indiepop (although not as much as in their previous incarnation, the Gordons) and it's not surprising they ultimately ended up on the US Matador label, which unfortunately didn't seem to do much with them. This is from their second album Thermos.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Alternative TV - Action Time Vision

Here's some more '70s punk while I'm in the mood. Never got hugely into this band, but this is a fun little tune from their debut album, The Image Has Cracked.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Ramones - 53rd and 3rd

Dee Dee was always my favourite Ramone, but I didn't realise until I saw their documentary that his song about hustling for drugs was (probably) autobiographical. That's probably more a sign of me being thick than anything else, I guess. How sad.

It's a great song, anyway, which of course is why Stephen Pastel named a label after it. RIP Dee Dee.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Trash Can Sinatras - January's Little Joke

More Scottish pop! No, I can never get enough. The Trashcans had two main things going for them: criminally catchy tunes, and often astonishing lyrics (so often astonishing that we can forgive them the occasional monstrosity like the chorus of "Funny Kind of Girl"). Frank Reader has a real gift for rhymes and wordplay, and there's a verse in this song that's a perfect example:

I knew what argue meant
And I knew what punish meant
And I knew what embarrass meant
I never found out what achieve meant.

Actually, this is a fairly dark song, much darker than the almost-perfect pop that makes up much of the rest of the album. But I just think it's such a masterful effort - they got everything right on this one, from the lyrics to the strings to the slightly muffled vocals to the absolutely flawless production. One of the songs of the year, IMHO, if not the decade.

See you on Sunday.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Baby Bird - Bad Shave

Stephen Jones is allegedly an underappreciated genius, but I confess I've never taken the time to confirm the veracity of this rumour. Although the omens from this one song certainly point in that direction. I really must check out more of his music sometime.

I actually have this song on the NME compilation C96, which has its moments - Mogwai, Comet Gain, the Delgados - but is overall a pale shadow of its legendary predecessor. Unsurprisingly.