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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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".