Major League Music – #22 – Cincinnati Reds

South of Cincinnati – Dwight Yoakam (1984, Reprise Records)

Before I start, I can’t spell Cincinnati, I always miss the third ‘n’ out, and I know I will do it here at least once, and because I am too lazy and arrogant to even consider using a spell checker it will stay in the piece.  So, apologies in advance if you happen to be a big fan of Cincinnati.

If you ask true Cincinnati Fans how many World Series they have, they will tell you it is five and quickly change the subject.  If you ask any other baseball fans how many the Reds have won, they will say five, but in reality, it should be four because of the Black Sox Scandal of 1919.

The 1919 World Series Final was played between The Chicago White Sox, who were overwhelming favourites and the little fancied and unfashionable Cincinnati Reds.  However, on the morning of the first game – October 1st 1919 – there was a sudden surge in betting on the Reds and their odds fell remarkably.  Rumours abound that the series had fixed.  Rumours that grew and grew, especially after the White Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte made a massively wayward pitch with the second ball of the match.  Further bad throws followed, alongside some terrible batting from the White Sox and before we knew it links to New York based gangsters had surfaced.  The Reds ended up winning and a bunch of White Sox players were then banned from baseball (including No Badger Required favourite Shoeless Joe Jackson) for match fixing (despite being cleared criminally) and the Black Sox Scandal was born and in reality, the White Sox should and would have won had they not accepted the bribes.

Putting that to one side, The Reds were pretty much unstoppable between 1975 and 1976, when they won back to back World Series (beating the Red Sox in 1975 and then Yankees in 1976).  A feat not seen since the early twenties.  The next won the World Series in 1990, where they swept the favourites Oakland.  That was the last time they won the thing. 

That won’t change this year because as I type the Reds are on the back of five match losing streak which has led to their elimination from this year championship, that fate was sealed with a 6 -1 defeat to the Pittsburgh Pirates (more of them later).  There are still 21 games to play by the way, so the Reds have been terrible.  The Royals by the way should be eliminated next week.

Usually when I research the musical history of a city in America my go to place is Wikipedia because there is usually a helpful guide of ‘Bands from…’.  Cincinnati is no different, only there is a notable exception.  The list of bands from Cincinnati is missing perhaps the biggest and most influential act to have emerged from Cincinnati in recent years, that being The National.

Bloodbuzz Ohio – The National (2010, 4AD Records) 

But lets dial it back about fifty years, because before Matt Beringer unleashed his sexy baritone on our ears, there was another band of brothers who put Cincinnati on the musical map.

I Guess I’ll Always Love You – The Isley Brothers (1966, Tamla Motown Records)

One last band from Cincinnati that you all need to know about and that is Afghan Whigs who in the mid nineties rode the wave of the grunge bandwagon and very nearly became megastars.

Debonair – Afghan Whigs (1993, Elektra Records)

This weeks new band that have never previously been heard of are Scarlet Street, a band who despite coming from Cincinnati sound a lot like Idlewild did back in the days of ‘American English’.  So not bad at all.

Patron Saint of Bad Ideas – Scarlet Street (2022, Strictly Commercial Records)

Next week the Phillies are in town, so I get to go all Fresh Prince on your asses.

Someone Else’s Nearly Perfect Albums – #2

The second instalment of this side project by some of the readers of this here blog comes courtesy of Middle Aged Man.  It is an album which has inspired a new series that will surface here in a few weeks’ time.  The Slow Readers Club are a band that I hear all the cool DJs on Six Music playing and are one that to my shame I have barely listened to, before this landed in my inbox that is.  That has now been remedied.  Middle Aged Man is spot on folks, ‘Build A Tower’ is a remarkable record.

Build A Tower  – The Slow Readers Club (2018, Rough Trade Records)

(Chosen by Middle Aged Man)

Build A Tower is the Slow Readers’ third album and is the one that is if not career defining is certainly career making as it was only after its release that the four band members were able to give up their day jobs and turn professional, at least they managed a year or so before Covid struck.

Its quite an unusual album for an indie band (at least the indie bands I listen to), as each individual song has a clear intro, verse and chorus, and most impressively both the chorus and the verse are sing-along-able. But that’s not to say it is a ‘pop’ album, it is definitely a guitar based indie record, but then coming from Manchester it was bound to be :

On The TV – The Slow Readers Club (2018, Rough Trade Records)

I have two daughters, one who knows her music and has been to see ‘The Readers’ with me a few times and one who is in her mid twenties and is a typical radio one/MTV listener who can tell me who is number one in the charts ( do they still exist?) and has no interest in her dad’s music or anything involving guitars.  Anyway it must have been a couple of months after the album was released and I would always be playing the CD in my car. I was giving her a lift to the railway station, we were chatting away and she started to sing along to the chorus, I joined in and then she stopped and a look of absolute horror appeared on her face as she realised she had been singing along to one of dad’s bands. If that doesn’t tell you just how catchy this track is nothing will.

To give you another idea how catchy the song is , here’s a link to a Manchester crowd singing along to the guitar , not the words just the tune itself (warning one for existing fans only as the Manchester crowd are not quite in tune)

Lunatic – The Slow Readers Club (2018, Rough Trade Records)

The opening track of an album sets the tone and ‘Lunatic’ does the job perfectly within 5 seconds. your toes are tapping, your head is nodding, your arms are swinging, and after hearing the chorus twice you will be singing along to the third and then the woo woos kick to carry you through to the end. ‘Lunatic’ lyrics also provides the album title ‘ Build A Tower’ giving an indication how crucial to the album it is. I researched other album titles that came from song lyrics rather than song titles – the top 2 examples were prog bands so not sure if its another series for this blog. And when performed live gives rise to the only choreographed crowd movement I have ever seen and participated in that doesn’t include clapping

(I know the photo doesn’t quite do it justice, but trust me no one has 2 arms raised clapping, it is just one arm pointing upwards)

You Opened Up My Heart – The Slow Readers Club (2018, Rough Trade Records)

If I was a musician I would be able to correctly explain the structure and how the individual elements/ instruments combine to create the wonderful whole, but I’m not so here’s a non musical description, beginning with a simple few notes on the guitar repeated before the drums and then bass play off the guitar notes. I don’t know how it is achieved but those few notes which seem to be picked out individually on the guitar combine to have the familiarity and repetition of a riff but are more uplifting and joyous.

Lives Never Known – The Slow Readers Club (2018, Rough Trade Records)

My prime listening to music time/spot is washing up after tea, (we do have a dish-washer but I claim that the pots and pans need hand washing), I’m left alone in the kitchen, I turn on the speaker and sing loudly to my heart’s content. This is one of my kitchen favourites as it also makes me feel happy with my life as it ponders what might have happened if you had made different life choices.

Not Afraid of The Dark – The Slow Readers Club (2018, Rough Trade Records)

To finish off – yet another great song – I hope you enjoy listening to The Slow Readers Club and the good news is there is another 4 albums to explore.

The One Word Countdown – # 1

Don’t walk away…..

Atmosphere – Joy Division (1979, Factory Records, Taken from 12” single)

Points 250

Back in 2009, the NME decided to do a countdown entitled “Release the Bats – The Top 20 Goth Anthems of all time”.  Now, despite the awful name, that actually isn’t a bad idea at all and indeed it is one that I might borrow, repackage and generally smartened up a bit (working title “Goth! Show Me Magic”).  I mean the NME list didn’t contain one song by Clan of Xymox so it can’t be taken that seriously. 

Stranger – Clan of Xymox (1983, 4AD Records, Taken from ‘Clan of Xymox’)

At the top of that list was ‘Atmosphere’ by Joy Division.  A song that is so far away from being a Goth Anthem that its practically wearing day glo and refusing to drink the snakebite and black it won for being top of the list.  So, it is excellent to be able announce that a new award can be thrust upon ‘Atmosphere’.  It is officially the Greatest Song to Have a One Word Title. Ever!!

Before I start waxing lyrical about ‘Atmosphere’ I need to thank some people.  So ladies and gents please be upstanding for The Musical Jury.  Some of them have made themselves known already and I hope you have checked out their respective blogs (all of which flick this nonsense into a top hat) but I won’t name them all because some asked to stay anonymous, but each and every one of the deserves a huge slap on the back and several pints of whatever it is that they drink.  Thank you firstly for persevering with this half arsed idea of a series and secondly thank you for agreeing with me – because sitting at the top of my own personal list of One Word Titles was ‘Atmosphere’ by Joy Division.

It very nearly wasn’t Joy Division though because with two sets of votes to come ‘Atmosphere’ sat in about 14th, sad and nearly unloved and then it scored maximum points for those last sets of votes and rocketed up to the top, catapulting over Pulp, Primal Scream and New Order (who were top) on the way.

‘Atmosphere’ is outstanding of course it is.  It’s one of the greatest songs ever recorded, even if it is bleaker than a foggy November morning in Grimsby.  The way that synth reverberates is the musical equivalent of an icy stare from a spurned lover, Ian Curtis’ baritone is deep and mournful and is full of emotive power, the bassline is stark and well, atmospheric and the way the guitar echoes at the 3 and a half minute mark is as vast as it is glorious and the drums at the start might be just be greatest use of a drum anywhere in the world.  Face facts ‘Against All Odds’ Fans.

But all that erm, atmosphere was given a whole new level of meaning, and a whole new level of gloom and ultimately despair (brilliant gloom, and despair it has to be said) when it is used to bring about the closing credits or ‘Control’ the film about the life of Ian Curtis. 

I really don’t need to say this, but there is a spoiler here, for those who are somehow unaware of how the life of Ian Curtis ends and I’ll be honest there is no Disney style happy ending or Dallas style dream sequence.  Its shot beautifully in black and white and you see Curtis’ wife (played to perfection by Samantha Morton, an actress almost born to play that role) walk into their house, just as the opening strains of ‘Atmosphere’ can be heard its deliberately hushed and then there is this scream – and that scream gets me every single time.  Even though I know its coming.  The first time, though, its pierces your heart and then as the tragedy unfurls, ‘Atmosphere’ comes to the fore and it is incredible and intense and does everything to remind you why Joy Division were one of the most important bands to have ever existed.

Let’s end with some other One Word Tracks by Joy Division all of which come straight from my digitally remastered copy of ‘Substance’ – regardless of what I’ve put below.

Warsaw – Joy Division (1978 Enigma Records, Taken from ‘Warsaw’)

Incubation – joy Division (1980, Factory Records, Taken from ‘Komakino’)

Transmission – Joy Division (1979, Factory Records, Taken from ‘Transmission’ single)

Thanks for reading this series.  I hope you enjoyed it.  Next week some old favourites, and I mean that in the loosest sense of the word will reappear, probably temporarily until I can think of another topic for a countdown (apart from Goth! Show Me Magic that is).

I’m going to stop mentioning One Word Titles now

Stop – Mega City Four (1991, Big Life Records, Taken from ‘Sebastopol Road’)

The One Word Countdown – #2

I heard you stop outside the door…..

Babies – Pulp (1992, Gift Records, Taken from ‘His N Hers’)

Points 245

My first memory of ‘Babies’ is playing it around midway through my first ever stint as a DJ at the university indie club.  This would have been around late November 1994 and I had a packed dancefloor, Britpop was just about to break, Oasis were becoming huge, Blur had been in the Top Ten and nobody liked grunge anymore.  ‘His N Hers’ had been a firm favourite with me since I heard Gary Crowley play ‘Razzamatazz’ on his Sunday radio show about three years ago, and people everywhere were slowly falling for the kitschy charms of Jarvis and his band.  Or so I thought.

Razzamatazz – Pulp (1992, Gift Records, Taken from ‘His N Hers’)

Because two minutes into ‘Babies’, the dancefloor is clearing slowly to this weird off kilter indie pop so that only the really cool kids remained (the same one who had asked me to play Gorkys Zygotic Mynci and the Pastels about twenty minutes earlier) and Andy the indie club head honcho is hastily handing me a 12” of ‘No Good’ by the Prodigy, which saves the dancefloor and a disaster is avoided.

Fast forward about six months or so and Britpop is definitely king and there I am again behind the decks at the indie disco, and I risk ‘Babies’ again and the floor is absolutely packed by the time the chorus has kicked in for the first time.  The same fickle creatures who wandered off to the bar and elsewhere when I last played ‘Babies’ are also there trying to dance like Jarvis, which basically involves them standing still and moving one arm and occasionally putting a finger on your lips and pouting or sucking in your cheekbones.  All of them will tell the person that they are standing next to at the bar in ten minutes that they have been into Pulp since about 1986 or something.  Saying that, they know all the words, and my dancefloor is heaving and remains regardless of what I play next so I’m pleased.   Jarvis was clearly indie clubs new champion and that was fine by me.  

But…..(and just in case you are wondering I am rolling my tongue firmly into my cheek here, which on reflection Jarvis would probably enjoy watching me do)

I’m not sure that this is the right place to call out Jarvis here about ‘Babies’ because everyone loves it – including me – considering ‘Babies’ is now officially the second best song with a one word title in the world – but and in this day and age of exploitation – ‘Babies’ is lyrically suspect and by suspect I mean ‘Confessions of a Driving Inspector’ suspect.

A young lad, who we are led to believe is Jarvis, is in love with a girl and one afternoon after school he and this girl listen to her older sister have sex or some sort of saucy shenanigans with another boy in her room.  Jarvis, then decides that he and I quote “has to see as well as hear” and so he goes into her room and hides in her wardrobe.  We don’t know how long he hides in the wardrobe for it could be days for all we know.

So presumably, Jarvis waits in the wardrobe on the off chance that this girl comes home, with a boy and they have sex without her once going to the wardrobe first and opening it and seeing Jarvis pretending to fix a shelf or something.  Where was the younger sister all this time, did Jarvis make his excuses or did he break in unbeknown to the younger sister in the middle of the night.

Anyway, Jarvis gets lucky as she is with some guy called David, but then if I am recalling this correctly, on another occasion – so he is a serial voyeur (or has he just moved in…) – the older sister spots him and then has sex with him in case her tells her mother (can we add blackmail to the list of crimes here, burglary, voyeurism, blackmail, sexploitation, , it’s like a 70s sex movie version of ‘Feel Good Hit of the Summer’).  But there is a twist, the younger sister just happens to hear and confronts Jarvis. 

But of course, Jarvis loves the younger sister, despite perving on and then banging her older sister so Jarvis doing his best Robin Asquith impression tells the younger sister that

 “I only went with her cos she looked like you…”

Well that’s alright then Jarvis.  I’m sure both these women feel valued.

I’m joking of course, ‘Babies’ is marvellous and the content of the lyrics and the characters it introduces and the awkwardness and the social inadequacy of it are why we Pulp are so endearingly magical.

Two other Pulp songs, both almost as lyrical suspect as ‘Babies’ were also considered

Underwear – Pulp (1995, Island Records, Taken from ‘Different Class’)

Lipgloss – Pulp (1992, Gift Records, Taken from ‘His N Hers’)

The One Word Countdown – #3

What is it that you want to do…..

Loaded – Primal Scream (1990, Creation Records, Taken from ‘Screamadelica’)

Points 240

It starts, as we all know, with a trumpet riff, a lazy, reverb groove loosely tracked by a guitar.  Then you get that snatch of dialogue from ‘The Wild Angels’ “What is it you want to do…?” and frankly all hell breaks loose. A crash of an electric guitar, a lazy bongo drum beat, more samples (from The Emotions and an obscure Edie Brickell track) and suddenly the UK had its first genuinely brilliant, genuinely genre bending indie dance classic.

When ‘Loaded’ landed in February 1990 it was the band first hit record, and it blew the mind of a certain 14 year old boy who up until that point, only really listened to ‘Now That’s What I Called Music Vol. 8’.

It was everything about ‘Loaded’, the effortless cool nature of the music, the samples that were so perfect, the look of the band.  Everything.  I sat gobstruck as the band appeared on Top of the Pops, as Bobby Gillespie who according to my dad “Looked Half Dead” stood centre stage, clearly miming and pretty much french kissed the microphone as the trumpet riff (despite there being precisely no trumpet players on stage) and the looping shuffle of guitar swirled away behind it.  They didn’t even pretend to play or sing and yet it was so cool.  It was at that point that I knew that I wanted to make as glorious a racket as Primal Scream did, I wanted to have a good time and I definitely wanted to have a party.

‘Loaded’ set the precedent for nearly everything that followed, bands that were usually associated with a scuzzy grunge sound suddenly experimented with dance – The Soup Dragons, The Farm, The Shamen and even The Stone Roses who twisted ‘Fools Gold’ to the point that it also became a rave anthem.  That sound that indie dance sound, was the soundtrack of the next summers and let’s be honest it was brilliant (apart from The Farm) as bands competed to make the next great indie dance record.

Obviously, the Musical Jury agreed it with me.  Because out of all the songs on the list to choose from, none of them was selected by our Musical Jury members as often as ‘Loaded’ was.   If every person who voted for placed it one position higher it would have easily have won the entire thing, but they didn’t. Regardless, ‘Loaded’ is an astonishing piece of work and was a record that seriously changed my life.

There were a bunch of other Primal Scream songs that were considered, none of which I think would have done as well ‘Loaded’.

Rocks – Primal Scream (1994, Creation Records, Taken from ‘Give Out, But Don’t Give Up’)

Accelerator – Primal Scream (2000, Creation Records, Taken from ‘XRTMNTR’)

Kowalski – Primal Scream (1997, Creation Records, Taken from ‘Vanishing Point’)

The One Word Countdown – #4

It’s got to be this time…..

Ceremony – New Order (1981, Factory Records, Eventually Taken from ‘Substance’)

Points 239

Fourth by a point!

Ok, I’ll get the arguments out of the way first.

I considered ‘Temptation’ and it would have done just as well in all probability.  It is a song that still forty years after it was released, fills dancefloors.  I also considered ‘Regret’ largely because its brilliant, but it was played at my friend Chris’ funeral last year and it has taken on a whole new meaning, and it would have annoyed me if it didn’t do as well as I would have wanted it to.

I also considered, ‘Procession’, ‘Confusion’ and very briefly ‘Shellshock’. All of which would have easily got into this the Top 20 of this dog and pony show of a countdown (Ok maybe not ‘Shellshock’).

In the end it had to be ‘Ceremony’. 

It might have been in an old documentary, but I remember Tony Wilson talking about New Order and the aftermath of the death of Ian Curtis.  “No band survives the death of their singer” he said and then with a wry look at the camera he winks, and says “Well apart from New Order”.  I may have misquoted him and I can’t find the bloody clip on You Tube to back it up – still you get the point.  What Bernard, Stephen and Peter (and later Gillian) did after Ian’s suicide was nothing short of miraculous.  The regrouping, the surge into a new direction and no song captures all that better than ‘Ceremony’ and that is basically the reason why I chose ‘Ceremony’ as opposed to all the others. 

If that’s not enough well, the guitar break at around 45 seconds in is one of my favourite bits of music of all time, and of course without ‘Ceremony’ you (probably) wouldn’t have all the brilliance of all the other songs that I have mentioned.  It is seen by many as the perfect response to the tragic events that ended Joy Division.  A song that is/was a Joy Division song (and performed if I remember rightly at their last ever live show) but given a new slant that hinted at the future.  It hinted at something different, it is a song that always to me at least, appears to have a glint in its eye, like its begging you to follow it, because there is a massive surprise waiting for you if you do.

The Musical Jury clearly agreed with me because it was one of only two songs (the other being the one at Number One) that was voted at the top of more than one Jury List

The New Order version is markedly difference from the Joy Division one, it is compared to that version all polished and shiny.  Bernie’s voice, the guitars, the drums all combining in a way that was as convincing and as confident as anything that Joy Division had ever recorded.

There is a rather wonderful cover version of ‘Ceremony’ that I have posted before but its so good it deserves a second airing.

Ceremony – Chromatics featuring Ida No (2017, Italians Do It Better Records, Taken from ‘Cherry’)

The One Word Countdown – #5

I’ll stand in front of you….

Protection – Massive Attack with Tracey Thorn (1994, Wild Bunch Records, Taken from ‘Protection’)

Points 235 (upgraded due to a tie)

Oh man.  This song.  When I first bought ‘Protection’ – the album that is – it took me about three hours to get to track two, such is the enormity of ‘Protection’ – the song that is.

The legend goes that Massive Attack originally wanted Siouxsie from Siouxsie and the Banshees to do the vocals on ‘Protection’ but she was unavailable, so Tracy Thorn stepped in at the last minute.  I’m struggling to think what ‘Protection’ would have sounded like if someone, anyone, had recorded it other than Tracy Thorn, because her vocal is just perfect and I just won’t accept that anyone could have delivered it any better.

Of course, by the time Tracy’s vocals come in (around the 40 second mark) you’ve already been floored by the keyboard that comes sliding in just before it, that in itself is incredible and just as your brain is processing how delicate and warm that feels, Tracy almost breathlessly tells us

This girl I know, needs some shelter

and the way it hits your ears, sends not only shivers down the back but your very spirit leaps out of you does a somersault above your head and then thumps you right in the heart as it comes back into your body.  It is extraordinary and it always gets me.  Every time.  I’ll come back to Tracy because she does the same thing later on.

So good is the vocal, that you barely have time to listen to the music that is weaving an intricate pattern in the background.  There is the simple piano that loops around the lyrics, especially when Thorn is repeating the ‘You’re a boy/I’m a girl” mantra around five minutes in and then fades away as a sampled rain shower comes in and closes the song.  That piano section is in itself about a million times better than nearly everything else you will listen to this week.

Then there this is the swirly guitar that opens the song, and the really really subtle drum crash that brings in the chorus for the first time, both exquisite, both so important in the build – but because Tracy is singing you barely notice them.  Talking of the chorus, is there a more moving, more emotionally fragile declaration anywhere in music?  The way that Tracy Thorn holds the last word is again, extraordinary and your spirit once again leaps out of your body, does its somersault and slaps your around the face just remind you that you are not dreaming and then goes back inside.

I’ll stand in front of you/and take the force of the blow/Protection

There were a bunch of other Massive Attack songs that were under consideration.  The first two I think would have also done very well – ‘Teardrop’ possibly would have definitely competed for the Top Ten.  The third one is a favourite of mine, but I accept that it is nowhere as good as the other three.

Teardrop – Massive Attack (with Elizabeth Fraser) (1998, Virgin Records, Taken from ‘Mezzanine’)

Angel – Massive Attack (with Horace Andy) (1998, Virgin Records, Taken from ‘Mezzanine’)

Karmacoma – Massive Attack (with Tricky) (1994, Wild Bunch Records, Taken from ‘Protection’)

Major League Music – #21 San Diego Padres

San Diego Serenade – Tom Waits (1974, Asylum Records)

The San Diego Padres should have won the Covid hit 2020 World Series, they pretty much swept allcomers aside in the league.  They were high scoring free running marvels.  They hit Grand Slams in four consecutive games (A grand slam in baseball is where during an innings the batting side have loaded the bases, and the batter at the mound then hits a Home Run, which gives the team four points) which is unheard of, and they looked a shoe in for the title. 

For the rest of the 2020 season the Padres were known as the Slam Diego Padres.  Which is brilliant word play.  Until of course they lost in quarter finals to the Los Angeles Dodgers and everyone forgot about them.  This was the closest that the Padres had come to winning the World Series in a long time.  Forty one years in fact (if we ignore the fact that they lost in the 1998 final to the Yankees).

In 1978, 10 year old child actor Gary Coleman was starring in the hilarious American sitcom Diff’rent Strokes playing cheeky Arnold Jackson.  Coleman was also making about three million dollars an hour for idly repeating his catchphrase “What you talkin’ about Willis?” to an audience who would generally fall about laughing.  He was a huge star.  

In 1979, aged 11, he managed the San Diego Padres, to the World Series Championship.  This remains the only time that the San Diego Padres have won the World Series.  Well kind of.  It was a telly programme in which Coleman played a wise cracking kid who manages (a fictional version of) the Padres to glory.  But sadly, it still remains the only time that they have won the World Series though.

In reality the Padres remain the only Californian team that hasn’t won the World Series.  Something which if they play as well as they have for most of this season could change (although it’s unlikely because the Dodgers are going to win the World Series at a canter).

Musically, there are three bands from San Diego that feature heavily in my music library.   They are listed in order of the numbers songs I own by them

The Soft Pack who were formed from the ashes of a band called The Plot to Blow up the Eiffel Tower (who also featured members of Crocodiles).  The Soft Pack started out in life as The Muslims and eventually changed their names due to iignorant and racist comments apparently.  That and it’s a really stupid band name.  Their eponymous first album is still in regular rotation in my house.

Flammable – The Soft Pack (2010, Kemado Records)

Next up are Crocodiles, a kind of surf rock band that appear heavily influenced by the Jesus and Mary Chain and the Beachboys. 

Sunday (Psychic Conversation – #9) – Crocodiles (2011, French Kiss Records)

Which brings us nicely to surf punkers Rocket from the Crypt who in 1995 following much hyping from the NME managed to sail into the UK Top 20 which the marvellous ‘On A Rope’

On A Rope – Rocket from the Crypt (1995, Interscope Records)

Finally we move onto this weeks previously unheard of band, who have been found languishing and covered in cobwebs underneath a ladder at the back of shed.  They have been dusted off, hosed down and placed back on the hook on the back of the door, ready to be used when needed.  Ladies and Gents welcome to the sound of Lords of the Satellite, who might just be the most bland thing I’ve ever posted – but they are San Diego’s Best New Band apparently.

Ever Higher – Lords of the Satellite (2022, Self Released)

Someone Else’s Nearly Perfect Albums – #1

A few weeks back I asked a bunch of people if they wanted to contribute a review of an album that they considered to be ‘Nearly Perfect’.  The responses have been outstanding so over the next few Saturdays we will be exploring some of these.  This is the first contribution from The Robster, a second one will follow on the first weekend of October.  Please check out The Robsters blog – the link is below.

Dancehall Style – Horace Andy (1982, Solid Groove Records)

(Selected by The Robster from Is This The Life? Blog)

Many people will know Horace Andy as being a regular guest of Massive Attack, his unique voice appearing on every album released by the now legendary Bristol outfit. Fewer know that he has been making records of his own for 55 years. He’s widely regarded as one of the finest and most respected singers from Jamaica, and in 1982, he delivered one of the best reggae albums of all time.

‘Dance Hall Style’ is a misleading title. There’s nothing ‘dance hall’ about the music on this record, it’s very much rooted in deep, dark dub, only with great tunes at its heart. It is, in essence, a great example of the importance of the reggae producer. Horace Andy’s name and image may be on the cover, but credit is most certainly due to Lloyd ‘Bullwackie’ Barnes and his session band, for Barnes turned these tracks into moody extended dub pieces, thick with deep, hypnotic grooves.

Despite only boasting six tracks (though some editions contain a 7th song), there isn’t a feeling that we’ve been sold short. In fact, there’s a lot going on here. Opening track ‘Money Money’ is one of Andy’s best-known songs and arguably has the strongest melody of the set. His comment on the social ills of wealth and all that it brings is backed by what on the surface comes across as a simple bass-led groove, but which quickly becomes apparent is laden with echoey effects in the best tradition of the finest dub.

Money Money – Horace Andy (1982, Solid Groove Records)

And so it continues. ‘Lonely Woman’, originally released as a single in 1972, appears in a newly dubbed-up form, while a cover of Lloyd Robinson’s ‘Cuss Cuss’ is given a treatment that makes it sound like it was penned specifically for the record. But it’s the final two cuts that raise ‘Dance Hall Style’ above very-good-album status. ‘Spying Glass’ is more socio-political comment on the use of CCTV. It’s a song some of you will be familiar with if you’re Massive Attack fans, for it appeared on their ‘Protection’ album in 1994 with Horace Andy once more delivering an astounding vocal. It’s a special song, to be fair, and here it adds a delicate melody to the dark underbelly of the record’s prevailing theme of the tension and strains of modern life. There’s no doubt it proved to be a big influence on the Bristol scene a decade later.

Spying Glass – Horace Andy (1982, Solid Groove Records)

Closing proceedings is ‘Let’s Live In Love’, which at the almost five minute mark breaks down into a pure dub wig-out, brimming with reverb over a wonderfully thick bass-driven riddim. It’s what I love to hear on a hot summer’s afternoon. As I type this, it’s currently 35 degrees outside, so I’m kind of lost in a tropical reverie, forgetting that I really don’t do well in the heat. I should spend more time listening to this record when the sun comes out.

Let’s Live In Love – Horace Andy (1982, Solid Groove Records)

There are those who think ‘Dance Hall Style’ is rather boring – too thin on stylistic variation; too many long, meandering songs; not enough songs to consider it an accomplished album. They are all fools of course. It may not be perfect – there are a few odd little edits that may be jarring on first listen – but it remains a solid 9/10 40 years on from its original release.

Thanks Robster. Marvellous stuff.

The One Word Countdown – #6

Slicing up eyeballs….

Debaser – Pixies (1989, 4AD Records, Taken from ‘Doolittle’)

Points 234

There is apparently a little known film from the late 1920s called ‘Un Chien Anadalou’.  This film is a little bit unique in that there is no real plot and no one in the films speaks a single word.  In it (and I’ve not seen it so you will have to assume that the Internet is correct) a woman prods at a severed hand, whilst it cuts every now and again to a man who appears to be stuffing rotting meat into not one but two grand pianos, which he then drags down a street.  As the piano reach a street corner, a nun cycles past – although the nun is a man.  Shortly after a man (played by Bunuel) slices up the eyeball of his wife who sits undisturbed by this on a small chair.

In the mid 80s a young chap from Massachusetts called Charles Thompson saw this film and it blew him away.  A few years later, Charles Thompson was more famously known as Black Francis and his surf punk band Pixies had written a song inspired by the avant garde surrealist shenanigans of Dali and Bunuel.  That song was ‘Debaser’ and it changed rock music for good.

It opens with Kim Deal’s throbbing bassline, which even now 35 years later, is still one of the most spine tinglingly brilliant moments in music.  That bassline is joined shortly by another spine tinglingly brilliant moment, the incredible riff which comes courtesy of Joey Santiago and then that is joined by the raspy yelp of Black Francis who hollers:-

Got Me a Movie…”

It is amazing, incredible, and according to Black Francis, it took ten minutes to write.  Ten minutes.  This morning it took me eight minutes to make a cup of tea and then a further five minutes to find my keys and another four to remember where I’ve left my jacket.  In that time, Black Francis has probably written half an album.

Putting aside the riff, the bassline and the raspy yelp, the next most glorious thing about ‘Debaser’ is the chorus, so simple, yet it is probably the most recognisable and accessible of all of the Pixies songs.  Again, it’s Kim Deal though who is the real star as her echo-y backing vocals give the chorus a real sense of magic.

There are of course bundles of other Pixies songs that have one word titles.  There are more than enough to make a decent compilation album.  Most of their best tracks could be included.  Here are just three, the first one was under serious consideration, it would have done very well of course, but as great as it is, its no ‘Debaser’. 

Gigantic – Pixies (1988, 4AD Records, Taken from ‘Surfer Rosa’)

Caribou – Pixies (1987, 4AD Records, Taken from ‘Come on Pilgrim’)

Subbacultcha – Pixies (1987, 4AD Records, Taken from ‘Pixies at the BBC’)

Just for those who need to know these things, ‘Debaser’ spent the whole of the vote counting process in the Top Ten, it never dropped below eighth place and had the last two sets of votes gone their way, they would have won the whole thing.