Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Vinyl Files Part 3 … The Green & White Brigade - The Holy Ground of Glasgow Celtic (1968)

Taking the blog out of its comfort zone to explore something a little bit different this time. An album that taps into my love of football and my love of Celtic FC way more than it does my love of music. An album handed down to me by my Dad, much like my love of football and Celtic FC. A rarely played but very precious gem within my collection.


Some background: In 1967, Scottish football ruled the roost. That year, Celtic FC became the first British club to win the European Cup - yesterday’s equivalent of today’s Champions League - and it did so with an all Scottish playing eleven, with every player being born within a short driving distance of the club’s home ground in Glasgow. A month or so earlier, the Scottish national team had beaten the then World Champion English national side at Wembley to claim the British Home Championship, and a week or so after Celtic’s Cup triumph over Italian giants Inter Milan in Lisbon, the club’s bitter rival, Glasgow Rangers FC, narrowly lost the second tier ECWC Final against crack German outfit Bayern Munich. These were halcyon days for Scottish football. Never to be repeated, although Celtic would make another European Cup Final in 1970, and semi-finals in 1972 and 1974. 

Released in to commemorate Celtic’s phenomenal 1967 success, The Green & White Brigade’s The Holy Ground of Glasgow Celtic is essentially a collection of the terrace songs and accordion-led Irish rebel tunes so beloved by the club’s supporters ... many of whom identify strongly with Ireland; although based in Scotland, the club and its forefathers had - and still have - strong links with the Emerald Isle … it’s complicated, and deeper explanation of that scenario would require more than just a separate blogpost, it would require a whole book. 

Musically, it’s an acquired taste, obviously. I have no idea who The Green and White Brigade are, other than the fact that they clearly have great taste in football teams. The singing isn’t anything to write home about, but if you like Irish “folk songs” with um, tribal elements at their core, or if you feel the need for more accordion in your life (who doesn’t, right?), then this may just be an album for you. 

Includes timeless masterpieces such as ‘Hail Hail, The Celts Are Here’, ‘We’re All Off To Dublin’ (in the green, naturally), ‘The Soldier’s Song’, and ‘Sean South of Garryowen’, plus of course a couple of obligatory medleys. Just sing along in private, and make sure you don’t get arrested. 

In these days of mass marketing of football, where all manner of paraphernalia is available - replica kits, books, CDs, posters, club magazines, unofficial fanzines - it’s perhaps easy to forget that it wasn’t always like this, and an album like The Holy Ground of Glasgow Celtic would have been a relative rarity 50 years ago when it was released. A forerunner of things to come. For me, the music is hardly important, but purely as a keepsake, passed down from father to son, it means the world. 

(The Vinyl Files is a short series of posts covering the best items in your blogger’s not very extensive vinyl collection)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Album Review: Kool Aid - Family Portrait EP (2019)

If you type the name “Brian Tamaki” into Google, you’ll doubtlessly be directed to a plethora of pages relating to the self-appointed pastor/leader – and confirmed xenophobic homophobe – of New Zealand’s own ridiculously cultish Destiny Church. 
Little wonder then, that the band formerly known as Brian Tamaki and The Kool Aid Kids (previously blogged about here) have decided to dump the satirical and more offensive elements of that moniker to now go by the far more palatable and manageable name, Kool Aid. It’ll certainly help to cleanse the murky waters for any newbie searching for information about the Christchurch-based band.


The name may have changed but the band is essentially the same group of musicians and thankfully there’s been only minimal tweaking of the indie-meets-psychedelia modus operandi found on past work. 
The Family Portrait EP is the band’s third release of note; following on from the 2014 album Hot Buttered Blasphemy, and the seriously good 2015 EP, The Enchanted Castle. It amounts to six songs of lo-fi goodness, with three-pronged fuzzy guitar, infectious mellotron, and shared his and hers vocals – from Luke Towart and Violet French – at the core of everything the band offers here. Plus, there’s some trademark humour to be found in a generally strong set of lyrics. 
Although it’s not a Flying Nun release, it’s exactly the sort of sound that particular label specialised in. It may just be a Christchurch thing. And while nothing here, for my money, is quite as instantly catchy as ‘Eating Glue’ (from The Enchanted Castle release), all six tunes offer something different and the EP has no obvious weak moment. In fact, it’s a great listen … grab it below:



Sunday, July 14, 2019

Classic Album Review: The Boo Radleys – C’mon Kids (1996)

For a brief period in the mid-Nineties, Liverpool band The Boo Radleys strode across the indie landscape like a colossus thanks to the success of its critically acclaimed 1993 album Giant Steps. Having emerged from the so-called shoegaze scene via Rough Trade onto the Creation label, pop credibility was theirs following a run of relatively successful singles, most notably ‘Barney (& Me)’, ‘Lazarus’, and ‘Wake Up Boo!’ … and the widespread critical praise for the albums which spawned them.


However, the 1996 release C’mon Kids catches the band three years on, five albums in, and occupying rather uncertain terrain. This is the sound of a band struggling to find their place in the natural order of things. C’mon Kids is supposedly the band’s anti-pop album in so much as main man Martin Carr had a distinct reluctance to embrace all of the bullshit that came with that whole Britpop thing. And for a while his band seemed very much in danger of being lumped in with all of the other faux Sixties prototypes frequenting that particular scene. 

But if you proliferate your album with Gallagher-esque vocals, and add trippy little Sgt-Peppery interludes into the middle of tracks, then you really are just inviting trouble. 

Having said that, this isn’t really anything like any of the instantly accessible polished muck that dominated the charts for much of 1996 either. Combine the aforementioned poppy elements with walls of grinding guitar, copious amounts of feedback, lots of fuzz and distortion, then turn the vocals right down in the mix, and what you end up creating is something far too left of the mainstream to even threaten the charts. 

It all leaves me wondering what exactly the band had hoped to achieve on C’mon Kids. What they end up with is like some kind of psychedelic sludgy Britpop/grunge pick‘n’mix assortment. 

Ultimately though, it’s the layers of buzzsaw guitar that give the album its overall feel, and even beyond their short flirtation with pop stardom, it’s clear that the band’s instinct for shoegaze had survived. 

Maybe that’s its problem? … 

Three years and one album later, The Boo Radleys were no more. 

I picked up C’mon Kids on the (very) cheap but it’s nowhere near as bad as I first thought it might be. That doesn’t mean I’ve worked out what it is supposed to be yet. 

Highlights: most would say the title-track (also the opening track), and/or ‘What’s In The Box’ (a single and the album’s centrepiece), or maybe even ‘Everything Is Sorrow’; but I’d reckon ‘Bullfrog Green’, ‘New Brighton Promenade’, and ‘Ride The Tiger’.

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Vinyl Files Part 2 … The Gordons – The Gordons (1981/1988)

An interesting one this. I have a vinyl reissue of the classic 1981 Gordons debut album released in 1988. Not to be confused with The Gordons compilation album also released in 1988 – which included additional material from the band’s Future Shock EP of 1980 – or the second self-titled Gordons album of 1984 (aka Volume 2). This 1988 reissue was released on Flying Nun (FN099) after the first version of the debut was self-released by the Christchurch-based band (GORDON2). Same album, different release, different catalogue number. Clear as mud, then ...


Whatever version of the album you listen to, it’s guaranteed your ears will be ringing. It’s likely your eyes will start watering. And there’s a fair chance paint will start peeling from the walls. Even if you don’t have paint on your walls. It is, put simply, a cacophony of guitar-led noise; seven blistering tracks featuring fuzz, feedback, full tilt grinding guitar, with pulsating and frequently chaotic rhythms underpinning everything. All topped off with punky vocals of varying degrees of clarity and adequacy. Don’t ask me what the songs are about. I probably won’t be able to hear you. And who even knew a three-piece could create this much of a racket? 

There was nothing else quite like this album when it was first unleashed upon an unsuspecting local record-buying public back in 1981. Other than perhaps the band’s three-track EP released a year prior. Sure, there was punk and post-punk, both local stuff and releases from overseas, but this album defied all attempts at labelling, and it somehow managed to create a genre all of its own. It was territory nobody else occupied, although the similarly inspired Skeptics would give things a fair old crack later in the decade. 

The Gordons – Alister Parker, Brent McLachlan, and John Halvorsen – would eventually morph into Bailter Space (aka Bailterspace), a band with a much wider commercial flavour and appeal, even if the trio’s basic modus operandi didn’t really change all that dramatically. 

The album was belatedly but deservedly honoured with the inaugural Taite Music Prize ‘Independent Music NZ Classic Record’ award in 2013. 

(The Vinyl Files is a short series of posts covering the best items in your blogger’s not very extensive vinyl collection)

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Classic Album Review: The Pogues - Peace and Love (1989)

Craig Stephen's been listening to The Pogues ...

***

By 1988 The Pogues had released three excellent albums, each one surpassing the other. 
Regardless, Peace and Love is, for this writer, the finest moment of the London-Irish act’s career. No mean feat it has to be said, but I appreciate that there won’t be a swathe of fans agreeing with me. 
In some ways, it is a peculiar component of the Pogues’ canon, receiving bemused reviews in Britain, although the response was generally better in the United States.
The demo sessions apparently went well, but by the time they got into the studio Shane MacGowan’s acid and alcohol intake had reached peak levels, affecting his voice. Producer Steve Lillywhite, however, used his technical magic to hide its flaws. The theme slanted toward London rather than their spiritual homeland Ireland, a move that did not endear them to everyone.


Regardless of all of this, it’s an album I can play over and over and not become tired of. Peace and Love has a timeless quality; it beguiles and bewitches. It can also be infuriating, but this doesn’t detract from its depth. 
One of two standouts was penned, not by MacGowan, but by veteran folkie Terry Woods. ‘Gartloney Rats’ adjoins ‘The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn’ (off Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash) for its numerous references to alcohol, with the tale of a village band that would “never get drunk but stay sober”. It clocks in at 2:32 but feels much longer given its pace and endless lyrics that Woods rattles off sharply. 
Woods and Ron Kavana’s ‘Young Ned of The Hill’ is in the same vein, the speedy winger of the piece, and one with some bite, cursing Oliver Cromwell who “raped our Mother Land” but finding that, in the likes of “gallant men” like Ned Hill, Ireland will always have an iron will. 
MacGowan’s ‘Down All The Days’ is about Christy Brown, “a clown around town”, who types with his toes and sucks snout through his nose. Suitably, the song begins with the clatter of a typewriter. The final verse includes the lines “I’ve never been asked, and I never replied, If I supported the Glasgow Rangers” in reference to the black and white nature of the green and the blue of Scotland’s largest city’s twin towers of football. 
‘Boat Train’ returns to binge drinking as MacGowan’s drunken character brings up most of the booze on the gangway and requires help to get on the boat, before indulging in songs and poker games as he somehow makes his way to London. 
As with If I Should Fall From Grace With God, the album released the year previous, the musical influences hop from one area to another, with the opening instrumental ‘Gridlock’ easing out of jazz central; ‘Cotton Fields’ has a suitably calypso/Louisiana feel; ‘USA’ – again set in the southern States – has a taste of banjo but neither of the latter tracks are what you would consider indigenous music as the Pogues very much put their own stamp all over it. 
And then there’s the tale of lost love in the magnificent ‘Lorelei’, written by Philip Chevron with Kirsty MacColl on backing vocals and the mournful ‘Misty Morning, Albert Bridge’ – both of these songs are among the best the band ever did. 
Given the discord that clouded over The Pogues in 1989 it’s remarkable that Peace and Love is as good as it is; but perhaps this bedlam was what the band thrived on. 
It was, in effect, the last hurrah: yes, 1990’s Hell’s Ditch was better than the critics would have us believe, but even then it couldn’t touch any of the four previous albums. And that was effectively it, MacGowan was too fucked up to carry on and the band plodded on, but really it was all over. 
And before you leave take a peek at the cover featuring the brylcreemed Scottish boxer, who never made it out of the bottom of the undercard, and his right hand. 
***
PS: (Intrigued by Craig's closing salvo, I did some research on the story behind the cover photo and found these comments from MacGowan and Chevron – Ed) 
Shane MacGowan: "Nobody seems to know who it is. He obviously wasn't very good cause he didn't get very far (laughs). I like boxin', watchin' it. I don't like doin' it! But anyway somebody, I forget who, found this glass negative of this boxer with no name and we put peace and love on his fists. So he's like sayin' Peace And Love or I'll bust your fuckin' head in.” 
Philip Chevron: “I'm a bit foggy on the details, but I think Simon Ryan, our designer, got the picture from a photo library. The guy turned out to be a Scot, by then elderly, but still alive and apparently not greatly chuffed by his new fame.”

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Vinyl Files Part 1 ... Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth (1980)

A quite wonderful, stripped back, minimalist slice of early 80s indie out of Cardiff, featuring Alison Statton (vox), and the Moxham brothers, Stuart (on guitar and keys) and Philip (on bass). Relatively unique for its time, Colossal Youth was an album without drums, and despite its ethereal atmospheric bedroom/DIY feel, as a debut release, it has stood the test of time rather well. Essentially a collection of songs about bedsit living and life on the fringes of Thatcher’s society-less* Britain. Songs like ‘Searching for Mr. Right’, ‘Music for Evenings’, ‘Wurlitzer Jukebox’, ‘Salad Days’, and ‘Credit in the Straight World’ were all the more compelling for their simplicity and understated beauty. The latter tune was eventually covered by Hole, and Kurt Cobain himself was a notable high-profile fan of the album. Released on Rough Trade, Colossal Youth charted on the official album charts here in New Zealand (reaching number 20), the only country where it achieved such exalted “mainstream” status. Although it also hit number 3 on the UK independent album charts.


Young Marble Giants toured with Cabaret Voltaire during their pomp, and there have been a number of post-millennium reunion gigs without any new recorded material being released. There was a 2007 reissue - released as Colossal Youth and Collected Works - which came with additional work from the era, including Peel Sessions, singles, and the like. Statton later formed the jazz-orientated Weekend, which eventually morphed into the popular Working Week. These days she works as a chiropractor. 

I’m currently in possession of my second vinyl copy of Colossal Youth, and although I remain uncertain of the whereabouts of that first copy, I’d like to think it is in good hands. Hopefully hiding away in a bedsit or student flat somewhere. 

* Margaret Thatcher … ''They are casting their problems at society. And, you know, there's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.'' 

(The Vinyl Files is a short series of posts covering the best items in your blogger’s not very extensive vinyl collection)

Here’s ‘Credit in the Straight World’ … 


Thursday, June 27, 2019

10 Irish Bands Who Didn’t Want To Be U2, The Corrs, Boyzone, Westlife et al

Following on from his comprehensive lists on Scottish post-punk bands who saved the world (they actually did), and Australian bands who didn't stink like a decomposing wallaby (a much shorter list, obviously), Craig Stephen had a date with some Guinness and found a bunch of Irish bands who didn't give a flying feck about fame and fortune ...

***

Yes, Ireland has given the world some of the biggest as well as some of the worst in music over the decades and the headline only scrapes the surface.
Here are some of the bands that didn’t sell four million copies of their ninth album.
Stiff Little Fingers
Originally a Deep Purple covers band, they saw the light when punk arrived, changing their name to that of a Vibrators track. The Fingers now sounded as raw and uncompromising as their Belfast environment with a singer Jake Burns who sounded like his throat was on fire.
The first two singles and the debut album are as good as anything you’ll hear from the era. ‘Suspect Device’ and its killer flip, ‘Wasted Life’, was followed by ‘Alternative Ulster’ and an album Inflammable Material, which was certainly the case. 
However, their rock roots couldn’t entirely leave them: the riff at the start of ‘Suspect Device’ is a direct lift from American rockers Montrose's ‘Space Station #5’ (true, I’ve listened to both) and others have suggested they borrowed from the likes of The Wailers and (other) Irish compatriots.
That matters little, as there’s original sounds popping out all over Inflammable Material and subsequent releases.
Sadly, one of their best moments, ‘Safe As Houses’, from the 1981 album Go For It! has largely been forgotten about.
The Divine Comedy
Neil Hannon's witty songs, with their blend of upbeat poppy tunes and romantic melancholia, have established their own place in Britpop history, peaking in the late 90s when every student in the country seemed to know the words to ‘National Express’.
I’ll remind you of some: “On the National Express there's a jolly hostess/ Selling crisps and tea/ She'll provide you with drinks and theatrical winks/ For a sky-high fee/ Mini-skirts were in style when she danced down the aisle/ Back in '63 (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)/ But it's hard to get by when your arse is the size/ Of a small country.”
Collaborators have come and gone but Hannon’s talent for clever wordplay and grand orchestral arrangements has continued, and he’s just released Office Politics, which is worth buying (on vinyl, naturally) for the cover alone. 


My Bloody Valentine
My Bloody Valentine have become one of the most namedropped bands in the world. No one sounds remotely like them. 
They formed in Dublin in 1984 around Kevin Shields and Colm ó Cíosóig, and after burning off their twee indie pretences, were Creation Records’ stars when they headlined above the House of Love and caused ripples with Isn’t Anything (1988), the Glider EP (1990), and Loveless (1991).
Brian Eno claimed the track ‘Soon’ "set a new precedent for pop" and deemed it the vaguest piece of music ever to get into the charts. Can’t argue with that.
A House
The Dubliners went down the traditional route of indie/alternative acts and after a series of singles, EPs, and two albums, signed to Setanta and teamed up with Edwyn Collins. This work produced perhaps their most memorable moment, the single ‘Endless Art’, where the lyrics were almost entirely a list of deceased, talented artists, among them Turner, Warhol, Henry Moore, John Lennon, Elvis Presley, Ian Curtis, Sid Vicious and Mickey Mouse.
The list was entirely composed of men, causing the predictable kerfuffle, which resulted in ‘More Endless Art’ where all the talent were women (Emily Dickinson, Marilyn Monroe, Woolf, Shelley etc).
The Undertones
Teenage Kicks isn’t even their best song. That honour could belong to ‘Jimmy Jimmy’, ‘You’ve Got My Number (Why Don’t You Use It)’, ‘Wednesday Week’, ‘Here Comes the Summer’, or their biggest selling single, ‘My Perfect Cousin’, which celebrated both Subbuteo and the Human League.
Hailing from Derry, the Undertones were Mars Bar-chomping spotty working class teenagers when they kicked off and while they matured over their six years together, culminating in Top of the Pops appearances and several great albums, they always had a daft wee laddie attitude to them.
I must also mention That Petrol Emotion which included the O’Neill brothers but suffice to say that this was the natural progression to more adult subjects (ie, the situation at the time in Ireland), and a meatier sound.
Undertones singer Feargal Sharkey had a No.1 solo hit then retired to be a suit, becoming chief executive of the British Music Rights.
The Sultans of Ping FC
To get a picture of the Sultans (the name mocked a Dire Straits single) here’s a sample of lyrics from ‘Where’s Me Jumper?’ …
“I met a groovy guy, he was arty-farty/ He said, ‘I know a little Latin: anicus anicae’/ Said, ‘I don't know what it means’, he said, ‘Neither do I’/ Eat natural foods, bathe twice daily/ Fill your nostrils up with gravy/ Don't drink tea and don't drink coffee/ Cover your chin in Yorkshire toffee”.
A Cork version of Half Man Half Biscuit with better tunes and songs called ‘Riot at the Sheepdog Trials’, ‘Eamonn Andrews (This Is Your Life)’, ‘Kick Me with Your Leather Boots’, ‘Back in a Tracksuit’, and the album, Casual Sex in the Cineplex. They dropped the “FC”, then dropped “Of Pings” to become just the Sultans (yawn).



The Stars of Heaven
Stars of Heaven played melodic, guitar-based rock which combined elements of country, Britpop and psych. An unusual mix that was influenced by the Byrds, Gram Parsons and the Velvet Underground, but one that worked well, with John Peel frequently playing their songs on his show. They signed to Rough Trade and someone at MTV Europe clearly liked them too. 
I obtained their second album Speak Slowly (1988) in a bargain bin knowing nothing of the band at the time, but it proved to be an essential purchase. They were a band not of its time: the 1980s wasn’t a time to be playing stripped-down, guitar-based rock music so their audience was, sadly, limited.
The Pogues
If you’ve ever listened to the radio over Christmas you’ll be familiar with the following lyrics: “You scumbag, you maggot/ You cheap lousy faggot/ Happy Christmas, your arse/ I pray God it’s our last.”
Suitably, Shane MacGowan’s caustic lyrics were sung by Kirsty MacColl as a woman down on her luck and at the end of her tether.
Putting ‘Fairytale of New York’ aside, The Pogues were one of the illuminating lights of the 1980s, alongside The Smiths, New Order, and Half Man Half Biscuit.
They were part Irish, part Londoners, formed in 1982 as Pogue Mahone (aka “Kiss my arse”) but if you really need me to tell you anything about the band you haven’t been paying attention.


Rudi / The Outcasts
Grouped together because they were both punk bands, performed in the same era, and were on the same label, Terry Hooley’s Good Vibrations.
Rudi predated the Fingers by a good couple of years, but were initially a glam rock act. The arrival of the first Ramones album soon sorted them out.
In April 1978 the quartet released its finest moment, ‘Big Time’, which received promising reviews and quickly sold out.
Things were looking good until the police division the SPG moved in to clear the punks out of Clapham in London where they were now based, arresting both Ronnie Matthews and Graham “Grimmy” Marshall, on driving offences, jailing them for a week before they were ordered to return to Northern Ireland - or face a six-month jail sentence.
They released three more singles before splitting.
The Outcasts’ birth came about around the same time as SLF with three brothers, Greg, Martin, and Colin Cowan, and Colin Getgood.
Debut single ‘You're A Disease’ was followed later in 1978 by the poppier ‘Another Teenage Rebel’.
On a shared EP with fellow local acts, Rudi, Spider, and The Idiots, they contributed ‘The Cops Are Comin'’ about killing a girlfriend and having sex with the corpse. Yep.
They did release an album, Self Conscious Over You on Good Vibrations in 1979 which was more mainstream than the singles.
Fatima Mansions
An art rock group formed in 1988 by Cork singer/keyboardist Cathal Coughlan, taking their name from the infamous flats in Dublin.
The band’s lone foray into the world’s attention was their version (needless to say, a somewhat different take) of Bryan Adams' ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It for You’, which was one half of a double A-side with the Manic Street Preachers' version of ‘Suicide is Painless’.
They opened a European leg of U2's Zoo TV Tour in 1992, and almost started a riot when Coughlan insulted the Pope. In Milan. Released a brilliant single ‘Blues For Ceausescu’ about the dead Romanian dictator.
Honourable mentions: The Frank and Walters, Into Paradise, the Boomtown Rats, Microdisney, The Pale, Schtum, the Virgin Prunes, The Chieftains, Sweeney’s Men, Andy White, the Saw Doctors, The Cranberries and Christy Moore.

Monday, June 24, 2019

The Vinyl Files – Introduction

For the blog’s 600th post (yay me, etc) I want to introduce a new “series” focusing on the small but precious set of vinyl records in my collection. I plan to roll out a post per week, over the next few months, looking at ten of the best or most important records within that collection. But first, some context … 

We all consume music in different ways. I’m not much of a fan of Spotify. I don’t have the premium option and therefore don’t “store” albums for future streaming. I only occasionally check into Spotify for one-off album previews and only rarely check out the odd playlist that platform offers. It isn’t that the cost of premium is prohibitive or anything like that, far from it, it’s just that Spotify doesn’t really hold much appeal for me. Other members of my family swear by it.


I’m relatively old-school, and most of my current music collection consists of CDs and mp3s (albums downloaded). My collection in each of these formats is extensive and varied. Some might say its huge and rather excessive. The mp3 option, for all of its flaws – compression, variations in bitrate quality – offers the portability I crave in a way that still allows me to “own” a copy or file of the music I listen to. The CD option appeals because I like to collect “physical” things and stack them on a shelf. 
Having said that, purchasing CDs is a less frequent indulgence these days, and the vast majority of new additions to my music collection in recent years have arrived in the form of album downloads/mp3 files, which are meticulously tagged and filed away with all the pedantry of a particularly speccy and spotty OCD librarian. 
In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, when I first started collecting music, it was a combination of vinyl records and cassette tapes. By 1992, my collection was extensive and – in the wake of CDs becoming the most fashionable form of consumption – largely redundant. Desperate for cash, and determined to embrace the CD format just as soon as I could afford it, I sold virtually everything I’d spent the previous 15 years collecting – vinyl and cassette tapes, the vast majority sold in bulk to a trader on Wellington’s Cuba Street. Sold for peanuts. It broke my heart. 
Well, it did, and it didn’t. It did because they were my life; the only tangible thing(s) I had to show for more than a decade in the workforce. And it didn’t because my life was undergoing major change and I desperately needed the money to fund long-yearned-for overseas travel. And hey, I couldn’t fit that little lot into the one backpack I left the country with, could I?

It just made sense (at the time) and it made even more sense that when I was flush with the green stuff, I’d be able to rebuild the collection – replicate it, even – in the form of CDs, which had fast become the mainstream poison of choice. And that's exactly what I eventually did … but I also held on to a number or tapes and records I couldn’t or simply wouldn’t give up. I stored them at my parent’s abode for the duration of my travels. The most precious and sentimental stuff; the first vinyl record my Mum ever bought me (Glen Campbell’s Goodtime Album, 1970). Something passed down to me by my Dad (The Green & White Brigade’s The Holy Ground of Glasgow Celtic, 1968), and naturally enough, a childhood first love, 1978’s Solid Gold Hits Volume 22. Plus a few others, which I may or may not get to in future posts. 
Among the handful of cassette tapes I couldn’t bear to part with were The Cure’s ‘Seventeen Seconds’ (1980), and New Order’s ‘Movement’ (1981). Those albums remain firm favourites today, although I tend to listen to each of them in a newer format nowadays. 
Since then – since The Great Purge of 1992/1993 – I’ve purchased very little in the way of vinyl, but I have added a few records here and there, and I’ve “inherited” a few albums to add to that small core set. Last Christmas, when I was gifted a very cute and portable “record player” I had yet another purge because it was clear that some of the vinyl I had was simply unplayable – badly scratched, tatty, and/or filthy – and I figured there wasn’t much point in keeping them or trying to salvage them. Which means my collection today is even smaller (about 40 albums and a handful of singles) but rather more selective. I can play what remains and what remains tends to be those records I value most. That’ll be my focus in this series of blogposts. 
With new vinyl so much more readily available than it has been at any time across the past couple of decades, I also harbour sneaky plans to add to this wing of my wider music collection. But for now, it strikes me that the most unique or more interesting works in my post-purge music collection exist in the vinyl format, so I’ll try to cover off ten of the best in the coming weeks, with a short post about what makes each one so special.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Introducing ... Black Market

Black Market is a US-based dub producer who caught my attention a few years back when he started releasing top notch name-your-price dub downloads on Bandcamp. I say he’s “US-based” because he’s more than a little mysterious and relatively low profile. His Twitter profile suggests he’s working out of Los Angeles, while his Bandcamp page suggests he’s based in that bastion of hardcore dub vibes, Nashville, Tennessee.

Let’s just say he flies well beneath the mainstream radar, and his location is probably not all that important anyway given that he’s easily enough found on the internet. In fact, you can find all of his Bandcamp releases here and his Facebook page here.

What’s most important is the music, with his latest work – Complete Clash – offering five dubby remixes of tunes by The Clash. What I like most about this one is the fact that we get less obvious Clash numbers, and these edits reek of someone who is a genuine fan of the band.

Being honest, I’ve been less impressed with his reworking of the Beach Boys and Michael Jackson, although his Bowie stuff stacks up well enough.

Best of all though are his themed releases on the X-Files, Twin Peaks, Star Trek, and the Twilight Zone, where he cuts up narrative from those shows to create whole new dimensions of his own. Anyway, enough from me, this blurb from his Bandcamp page pretty much covers it:

What would happen if The Beach Boys had The Wailers as their backing band instead of The Wrecking Crew? What if David Bowie spent the summer of 1975 in Kingston, Jamaica with King Tubby instead of Philadelphia? Michael Jackson meets Lee Scratch Perry? These questions are the basic thesis of Black Market. Listen loud, dance, enjoy, and share. I make these albums for free but accept donations at blackmarketdub.bandcamp.com 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Album Review: Blabbermouth - Hörspiel (2019)


Craig Stephen returns with another guest review ...

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Blabbermouth – now there’s a band name and a half – are two Englishmen with a long history in diverse and enigmatic acts. Lu Edmonds has appeared in two versions of Public Image Ltd with John Lydon as well as The Mekons and Billy Bragg’s band; Mark Roberts is a former member of The Godfathers and has also played, ahem, with the Bay City Rollers. Thankfully, there’s none of the Tartan boy band poppycock on Hörspiel (which translates as radio drama in German). 

It’s more interesting perhaps to note the guests, including throat singer Albert Kuvezin, Mekons vocalist Sally Timms and “the Blabbermouth Voice-Robot Ensemble”. 

Over nine tracks you will hear singing or audio in Russian, Turkish, Spanish, Japanese and even English as well as French-Canadian and Tuvalan (from an obscure area of Siberia), and the ‘voices’ of Marx, Stalin, Eisenhower and Tony Blair.


It’s an album that I don’t imagine being played on Radio Happy; but it is an album whereby experimentation and challenging notions abound. 

The concept is a world, not too far in the future, where artificial intelligence - AI - and robots have become our new rulers. It’s not a new idea as sci-fi has been toying with the threat, if you like, for decades, but the notion of humans being a helpless minority in a world of advanced, and fearful, technology we have ourselves created, isn’t one that often gets much traction in the music world. 

Appropriately, Edmonds and Roberts use industrial, post-punk, ambient and world music using everything from accordion to Hawaiian guitar. It has a “let’s throw it all in and see what happens” feel about it. 

So, onFacts Don’t Lie’, the duo delve into weapons of mass destruction and the fake-news underbelly via a cut-up of the Chilcot Inquiry into Britain’s role in the illegal war on Iraq that concludes with the irritating tones of ex-British PM Tony Blair. And ‘Maschine-Fragment’ dissects the supposition that the last freedom in a world of pervasive and invasive AI is art. 

It isn’t by any means an easy listen, with Kuvezin’s throaty modus operandi difficult to adjust to. And yet its pursuit of the notion of a post-human world is intriguing and frightening; the usage of such diverse musical instruments and sub-genres as well as the concept of “guest appearances” from the dead and the living make for a body of work that ensures it will never be afforded the status of a throwaway pop album.