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