It’s Monday – Let’s Swear – #1

212 – Azealia Banks (2011, Self Released)

Before I start I should doff my cap to theAcross the Kitchen Table’ blog, which has inspired the title of this new series.  Those of you who read (or used to read) that blog will know what I mean.

Anyway, this is a series about rude words.   Or rather songs that feature rude words, or bands that feature rude words.  Of course swearing is not big nor clever, and I definitely don’t condone it.  Although there is something rather splendid about swearing if it’s done in style.  Think Peter Capaldi in ‘The Thick of It’, his character (and thus the programme itself) is better because he swears and the way he swears.  The same can be said about a song, it can be made better by swearing.

Saying all that, a much younger me would have definitely condoned it and thought it big and clever.  A much younger me would have gladly wandered down the street with a TShirt reading ‘You Fat Bastard’ on the back of it and roared with laughter if offended an old granny.  A much younger me would probably have suggested that swearing is a way of putting to the Man. 

 But as we will find in a future post in this series, the man doesn’t actually give a fuck.   Anyway, it’s time to ask the children to pop to bathroom…

‘212’ is incredible.  A top shelf, triple X, three and a half minute ode to cunnilingus that fuses itself over bouncy electro beats.  It comes (ahem!) in three parts.  The first is the rap, which, folks is filthy, that’s your triple XXX bit as the C – Bomb drops about 40 seconds in and then gets drops roughly every seven seconds or so afterwards.  The beats fade out around halfway through as Banks is given the chance to sing a bit – and for those who think she can’t do that – you should check out her version of Interpol’s Slow Hands.

Slow Hands – Azealia Banks (2011, Self Released)

Then the beats come back, but this time they twist and turn before mutating in a mass of distorted synths.  As debut singles go, this is really up there with the best of them, but as vulgar statements of intent, there is very little that can top ‘212’.

The Sunday Shuffle – #15

Turn The Page – The Streets (2002, Locked On Records, Taken from ‘Original Pirate Material’)

Todays randomly shuffled track has been selected by the iPod Nano and it was track that was playing when I walked onto my driveway after the school run.  That track was ‘Turn the Page’ the opening track on the marvellous debut album by The Streets.

Back when The Streets first surfaced around twenty years ago, Mike Skinner was hailed as something of a revelation within the music industry, he was touted as the most gifted rapper that London had ever produced.  Despite him not actually rapping, he might have been the most gifted social commentator that London had ever produced (and we will ignore the fact that he grew up in Walsall or somewhere like that).

For a while that looked to be true.  ‘Original Pirate Material’ was an outstanding album (the Guardian voting it the best album of the 00s decade), it was at times, dark, funny, heartbreaking, euphoric and refreshing and occasionally it was all those things at the same time. It had tales of love, getting drunk, being broke and bored but none of it felt forced or fake.  The NME even suggested that lead single ‘Has It Come To This?’ was a ‘Ghost Town’ for the Internet generation.  It’s a good song, but its not quite that.

‘Turn the Page’ is an epic tune.  It starts with that two step beat and that rather forced string sample that chimes away throughout the song and then 40 seconds later, Skinner comes in with his message, and sets the scene for everything that follows.  What exactly follows is a message about life, love, and staying positive. But ‘Turn the Page’ saves its finest moment for the last twenty seconds or so, the strings, which had been looping away suddenly reduce and fade and Skinner tells the listener, and this is the thing, its sounds almost personal, to “Stand By Me, my Apprentice, fists clenched” and right then we were with him.

Has It Come To This? – The Streets (2002, Locked On Records, Taken from ‘Original Pirate Material’)

Nearly Perfect Albums #13

Gold Soundz – Pavement (1994, Matador Records, Taken from ‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain)

Welcome to the 100th No Badger Required post. If you read more than one thank you. If this is your first visit, welcome.

In 1994 when I moved into the Halls of Residence at University, the first two records that I played on my stereo were the first two Pavement albums, in order obviously.  I turned the volume up, flopped myself on the bed and waited for all the indie slacker kids to come knocking on my door. 

The reason I did this was because of my mate Richard.  A year earlier he had gone to University in London and when I visited him in his Halls of Residence, every room that I walked past was playing Pavement and me being the naïve indie bedwetter that I am, foolishly thought that Guildford students would be the same as Mile End’s. 

Around track four of ‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’ there was a knock on my door. 

Cut Your Hair -Pavement (1994, Matador Records, Taken from ‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’)

I opened the door expecting to see a slacker in a plaid shirt, hailing me into a new and exciting world.  Instead I was met (genuinely) by an old man in a full vicars cloak and dog collar.  He was the father of the girl who had moved into the room next to mine – and he asked me incredibly politely if I would mind turning it ‘down a notch’.  But its Pavement…I whispered meekly, before nodding, and glumly shuffling back to the stereo.

I had to wait a full two weeks before someone knocked on my door and complimented me on the music that was blaring out (and that was Pop Will Eat Itself, the music that is, Pop Will Eat Itself didn’t knock my door, that would have been mad and totally unexpected).

‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’ is obviously a nearly perfect album full of wonderful wry observational songs with catchy and unusual melodies that highlight influences that stretch well beyond the obvious Sonic Youth ones – ‘Silence Kid’ for instance clearly rips off an old Buddy Holly record but it works.

Silence Kid – Pavement (1994, Matador Records, Taken from ‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’)

Elsewhere you get songs about suburbia (‘Elevate Me Later’), skateboarding (‘Range Life’) and extended jams (‘Filimore Jive’) and ultimately it would be a career highlight for any normal non superhuman band.  But here is the kicker, this folks, isn’t even the greatest Pavement record out there. 

Elevate Me Later – Pavement (1994, Matador Records, Taken from ‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’)

New Band Friday – #5 – Pastel

Deeper Than Holy – Pastel (2021, Spirit of Spike Island Records)

I’d like you all to think about The Verve for a second.  An early Verve gig if you like, when the band made dreamlike shoegaze-y records drenched in effect laden guitars and pounding drums.  That period just before they made huge anthemic hits that brought Burberry Scarves and Laura Ashley jumpers to their gigs.

A time when epic tracks like ‘Butterfly’ could have lasted for ever, as Richard Ashcroft half stood, half perched, barefoot on the edge of the stage, like a hawk who had spotted a baby rabbit.  Basically when Ashcroft and co were good, remember that excitement, remember how good and huge those songs sounded.  If you miss that sound, that frisson of expectation, then you are going to love Pastel.

Pastel are a five piece from Manchester and Swansea whose debut single ‘Deeper Than Holy’ is five minutes of excellence and it sounds like what you would get if rolled all the best bits of The Verve, the Roses, The Charlatans, Ride into one big ball of energy.  A positive rollercoaster of psychedelia, laconic vocals and swaggering ambition.  When ‘Deeper Than Holy’ came out they proudly declared themselves as “the saviours of guitar music”.  Its that sort of ambition that makes them more exciting, more interesting and more relevant than any of the other identikit bands that have emerged in the last three years or so. 

Blu – Pastel (2021, Spirit of Spike Island Records)

The Ramshackle Brilliance of the Chart Show Indie Chart -#5

This week 17th August 1996 and going up at Number Seven

Becoming More Like Alfie – The Divine Comedy (1996, Setanta Records)

In August 1996, I had just past my 21st birthday and was on the cusp of moving to London for the first time. We’d found a flat to rent in Plumstead, South East London and had gone to look round the area. It must have been sunny or we had too much cider at lunch, because we took on the flat, despite Plumstead being full of knuckle dragging racist bellends who struggle to walk and clap at the same time.

The flat itself was quite nice, a stones throw from Englands highest security prison, Belmarsh, two stones throw from the biggest local authority housing estate in Europe and three stones throws from a relatively decent Woolworths.

Next door to Woolworths was a shop called We Selfridges. The ‘We’ being really small so it looked like ‘Selfridges’. It just sold fridges. It was a joke that got less funny every time I saw it.

One the highlights of our ten months in Plumstead was a Sunday afternoon walk to Woolworths. Once we walked past a blazing row between a clearly jilted man and his former squeeze, which ended with him telling me as I walked past that the lady in question “had slept with half of Plumstead.” If this lady had found more one man in that place even worth having a drink with, she would have done well.

Anyway, in that branch of Woolworths I once found a copy of ‘Cassanova’ by The Divine Comedy for £1.99. Which was a bargain. Even if it by no means their finest work.

Elsewhere in the chart – at six – a record I remember being sent an advance copy about four months before it actually came out

Trash – Suede (1996, Nude Records)

At five, possibly the worst track I’ve ever encouraged you to click on

Mouse In A Hole – Heavy Stereo (1996, Creation Records)

At three, a record that somehow never got to be the theme for ‘Deal or No Deal

What’s In the Box (See Whatcha Got) – The Boo Radleys (1996, Creation Records)

At two, was this nugget of tremendousness. A record I’d never heard before today.

Encyclopedi-ite – Sammy (1996, DGC Records)

But at number was something even better, possibly one of the best records that I have posted on this here blog

Phasers On Stun – Urusei Yatsura (1996, Chemical Underground Records)

Give it Another Spin #1

Tarantula – Ride

Mary Anne – Ride (1996, Creation Records)

Before I start, this is a series that is inspired by reading about the Goliath Bird Eating Tarantula.  I was so impressed with the fact that there is a spider that can measure up to around 30cm in length and can weight 170grams that I wanted to write about it and somehow crowbar something musical into that. 

That, folks, is why I am sitting in the lounge at nearly midnight on a Tuesday listening to the fourth studio album by Ride.  An album I genuinely haven’t listened to in around 17 years and even then I think I might have switched it off after track six, because back then in 2005 I thought this record was garbage.  It was a record that should have come with a stamp on it saying “Nowhere near good enough”. 

So inspired am I by the brilliance of giant tarantulas that I have now convinced myself that I should reacquaint myself with the fourth (and at the time, final) studio album by Ride and that is how this series came to light.  It made more sense in my head if I am honest.  It’s also the only record I can think of with the word ‘Tarantula’ in the title.

By the time ‘Tarantula’ came out in 1996, Ride had already split up.  Gardener and Bell, the two main songwriters in the band were barely speaking and certainly getting them into a studio was proving difficult.  The album eventually got itself recorded, and it was released somewhat under a cloud, very little press, very little publicity, obviously no tours or promotional stuff.  It was largely panned by the media.  The Melody Maker called it, rather wonderfully “The Eight Legged Snooze Machine”.  Creation sensing problems, deleted it a week after it was released and literally no one cared, least of all Ride.  

But how bad was it? 

Well, if the truth be told, pretty bad.  I’ve just listened to it all the way through, trust me on this.  Oasis lite indie pop at best and I don’t mean good Oasis either, I mean ‘Standing on the Shoulder of Giants’ era Oasis.  Not good.  Lyrically it’s woeful, because Mark Gardener had pretty much lost all interest in writing songs for Ride by then and Andy Bell just wasn’t the songwriter he clearly thought he was.  Bell wrote nine of the tracks on here, and that really shows.  I’ve just thrown a bunch of magnetic letters at a fridge and I think I could turn that into a more meaningful verse than anything on ‘Tarantula’.

Sunshine/Nowhere To Run – Ride (1996, Creation Records)

I was wrong, musically, it doesn’t sound like bad Oasis.  It’s worse, it sounds like Heavy Stereo.  To put how far removed from the sound Ride (nearly) perfected in the early nineties, if you imagine a map of the UK, ‘Nowhere’ would be where Devon is (best obviously), ‘Tarantula’ is that rundown estate full of crack dealers just outside Croydon.   That’s how close it is.

Walk On Water – Ride (1996, Creation Records)

Its not completely terrible though. ‘Black Nite Crash’ the lead single is, to be honest, one of Ride’s finest singles.  All crashing guitars, angry, sarky lyrics and thumping drums.  Drums that haven’t been heard on a Ride record since ‘Dreams Burn Down’ at the very least.  So that’s good.

Black Nite Crash – Ride (1996, Creation Records)

Introducing….Kids, Eh – #1

Welcome to a new series.  I am unsure if this is going to be a regular thing or an occasional burst of sugar-coated excitement.  I think probably the latter, but we shall see how we get on.  The idea is simple.  I set the iPod onto random and my daughter, and occasionally her friends, review the first three songs that come on – with each one given a suitable swearword check before we start – and then she reviews them. 

At the time of doing this little social experiment, my daughter seems to have a liking for music that would be described as being part of the ‘chill out’ genre.  For instance, she really loves this track

Kelly Watch The Stars – Air (1997, Virgin Records, Taken from ‘Moon Safari’)

What she doesn’t like right now is noisy music.

Our plan was to invite two of her friends around to help with the first instalment of ‘Kids, Eh!’ but they have sadly contracted Covid so sadly we have to push on without them, which is ok because it means we get more jaffa cakes.

We sit on my daughters bed and I explain to her how this is going to work.  My daughter looks at me and says “Am I not choosing the songs?”  I shake my head and she looks distinctly unhappy about this decision.  I tell her it would be much funnier for the blog if a nine year old tells a bunch of sad old men (no offence intended folks) what’s not very good about the songs that they love.  She looks slightly happier at this decision.  I also tell her that the songs are going to be chosen at random so no one has any choice over them. 

“Are you Ready?” I say.  She grabs a pencil and a Doodle Pad, and nods.  I press the circle in the middle of the iPod which means we are shuffling and the first track to come on, isn’t quite a massive anti – climax.  Its…

A to B – The Futureheads (2004, 679 Recordings, Taken from ‘The Futureheads’)

On reflection what I should have done (and in fact still might) is take a bunch of classic tracks from the last 25 years and used those – still let’s press on, hindsight being what it is.

‘A to B’ is given a harsh 4 out of ten 10.  My daughter jots some notes on a piece of paper – “They are speaking gibberish” she says, “I couldn’t follow what they were saying, I heard the word ‘alligator’ and ‘pigcat’ and its not very good”.  I raise an eyebrow at this.  I’m not sure I heard the word ‘pigcat’ but I ask her if there was anything else she wanted to say.

“I like the drumming but not the gibberish”.

I tell her that mummy and daddy saw the Futureheads live many years ago (they supported The Zutons in Exeter) and that they were very good and that I quite like ‘A to B’.  She is not impressed, but she is even less impressed with the second song that the iPod throws up.

Self Healer – Idlewild (1998, Deceptive Records, Taken from ‘Captain’)

As this two minute blast of shouty punky indie finishes, my daughter takes her hands off of her ears.  She shows me her pad which has the number 0 written on it with a sad face drawn inside the middle of zero.   Not a fan or early Idlewild I ask.  She tells me that the band need to “Go outside more” and that it sounds like they are “running away from an awful fire”.  ‘Self Healer’ is also “too loud, too shouty and too blah, blah blah” which pretty much sums up their entire career in nine words.  She follows the last ‘blah’ with the word “Next”.

I tell her that Idlewild were a strange thing, because the bands later work was much more melodic and tuneful than the shouty stuff she has just heard.  As an example I stick on

American English – Idlewild (2001, Parlophone Records, Taken from “The Remote Part”)

“Hmm, not bad” was all she said.  A review which again sums up succinctly nearly every review of nearly every Idlewild record.

The third track offered up by the iPod is

Hip Eponymous Poor Boy – Jack White (2012, Third Man Records, Taken from ‘Blunderbuss’)

This at least makes my daughter smile, I watch as she taps her pencil in time with this one.  “I like this a lot more”, she said. “Its much quieter and gentle”.  I tell her that she has seen Jack White live, albeit at Glastonbury and albeit from the safety of her buggy and she might well have been asleep at the time.  She doesn’t seem to care.

“Why he is singing about hippopotamus’” she asks me, “Is he mad, or is he singing to a toddler to get them to go to sleep?”.   She holds a sign up saying ‘5’. 

All of which mammal related tomfoolery makes ‘Hippopotamus, Poor Boy’ by Jack White the winner of the first Kids, Eh challenge.

Music Found In Charity Shops – #5

Good News For People Who Love Bad News – Modest Mouse

Bought from Teignmouth Cats Protection League Shop for £1.50

I used to know this guy, we will call him Gavin.  That’s not his real name.  He turned out to be a Neo Nazi and started posing on social media holding AK47’s and such like.  So we don’t talk anymore. 

There is a reason for mentioning this.  Whenever I listen to Modest Mouse, I think of Gavin.  The reason isn’t because he was a fan, he liked death metal for a start (I mean the Nazi signs were there, I should have spotted them), but it’s because whenever he got in my car and the stereo was playing anything that even vaguely resembled indie rock, he would instantly ask “Is this Modest Mouse” like they were the only band who ever used guitars.  That or he was secretly obsessed with ‘The O.C’ because everyone on ‘The O.C’ spent their entire lives sitting around listening to Modest Mouse.

If the truth be told, before I spotted this CD in the Cats Protection League Shop, I owned precisely TWO Modest Mouse tracks, both of which I downloaded for free off the NME website, when they used to give away the occasional free MP3, so Modest Mouse have not, until this very morning, NEVER been on the stereo in my car.

Anyway, ‘Good News for People Who Like Bad News’ turns out to be the fourth album to have been released by Modest Mouse, who, if you have never heard of them, are an American indie band who sound like a cross between Pavement and Talking Heads.  Oh and a certain J Marr, was a member of the band for about five years – I don’t think he plays on this particular album though.  ‘Good News….’ also happens to be the album which saw them achieve mainstream success after years of what unsuccessful bands call ‘Critical Success’.

That success was largely down to the track ‘Float On’ which at the time at least was almost entirely different from anything that the band had release before.  Put simply they made a fist pumping anthem with a singalong chorus.  Its very good by the way even if was seen as a massive departure for a band who previously had made philosophical records and death and the afterlife full of growls, punchy drums and guitars that moaned when perhaps they should have wailed.

Float On – Modest Mouse (2004, Epic Records)

The upbeat pop nature, was of course a taste of things to come, the record opens with ‘The World At Large’ which sounds positively R.E.M like in its delivery, subtle guitars, catchy backing vocals, twinkly bits, and just a hint of anxiety lurking underneath it.  Again, its pretty good, if not a tad repetitive

The World At Large – Modest Mouse (2004, Epic Records)

Whilst ‘The View’ sounds like the sort of record that Franz Ferdinand were making at the same time. Angular spiky indie rock, with lyrics that are not quite sung but not quite spoken either, but with that odd off kilter pop edge to it. 

The View – Modest Mouse (2004, Epic Records)

The last track I will mention is ‘Satin In A Coffin’ which is slightly different from the other tracks on offer.  ‘Satin In A Coffin’ sounds like the sort of record Nick Cave would have made if he made a record with The Decemberists.  All mandolins, and stomping beats with a doomy drawl laced over the top. 

Satin In A Coffin – Modest Mouse (2004, Epic Records)

The Sunday Shuffle – #14

black screen – LCD Soundsystem (2017, DFA Records, Taken from ‘American Dream’)

Today’s randomly selected track was chosen by the power of Alexa.  I’d just got back in from the school run and asked her to ‘Shuffle’ and she choose a track from the wonderful fourth album from LCD Soundsystem, ‘American Dream’.  Which of course, everyone knows was the album that they recorded after they reformed in 2017, after a six year hiatus and the ‘Greatest Farewell Gig’ of all time at Madison Square Garden.

What might not be known is that ‘black screen’ is James Murphy’s tribute to David Bowie.  A few years before the band reformed, Murphy was asked to help on the production duties of ‘Blackstar’ the final Bowie record.  Murphy declined (although he did play drums on some of the album), a decision which he regretted deeply.

‘black screen’ details that regret marvellously, in a way that only LCD Soundsystem can.  A slow burning twelve minute ode to missed opportunities, and the fear of upsetting your heroes.  The whispery vocals echo around the speakers as an 80s synth bounces around mournfully.  Its tremendous.  Around five minutes in the magnitude of the level regret hits home as, Murphy’s voice drops and almost cracks as he sings “But I should have tried….more” the last word is an echo-y whisper and its eerily brilliant in a ghost like way.   Whether that is deliberate I know not.

‘black screen’ is so starkly beautiful, especially in what I will call the second phase of the song as the synths sink away into a single note and its slowly joined by a lonely sounding piano, which sounds almost classical, up against the synth.  Eventually the synth fade away into nothing and just a single piano chord is left. 

An absolutely incredible track.

Nearly Perfect Albums – #12

Power, Corruption and Lies – New Order

There are only two albums released on Factory Records on this list and they feature three of the same musicians.  Which means, as you might have guessed that ‘Chicken Rhythms’ by Northside didn’t make it.

‘Power Corruption and Lies’ was the second album by New Order and the reason it is included on this list instead of say ‘Low Life’ or ‘Technique’ (both worthy contenders as it happens) is because it was this album that laid the history of everything that came before it to rest (if that’s not too clumsy a phrase) and laid the foundations for everything that followed.  Well ‘Temptation’ and ‘Blue Monday’ (released two months earlier than this album) probably laid the foundations, ‘Power, Corruption and Lies’ hammered them home.

When I first heard this record as a 15 year old, I didn’t like it.  I think I was expecting to hear ‘Blue Monday’ but of course back then in 1990 I didn’t know that the band refused to put hit singles on their albums (although some cassette versions did have ‘Blue Monday’ on it) – and now, older and wiser this makes me love this record even more.

‘Power, Corruption and Lies’ is the sound of a band moving on, opening track ‘Age of Consent’ starts with one of Peter Hook’s finest basslines, its happy and forward thinking and then you get Barney’s lyrics ‘Won’t you please let me go…”and that joyously catchy synth follows.  Its one of the greatest opening two minutes of any album ever recorded to be honest.

Age of Consent – New Order (1983, Factory Records, Taken from ‘Power, Corruption and Lies’)

But its not all about New Order being the clued up electro pioneers that they undoubtedly are, occasionally they revert back to that old sound, just because, they can.  ‘586’ for instance, starts its life as an instrumental that wouldn’t sound out of place on ‘Unknown Pleasures’ but then around the two minute mark it fades away to be replaced with possibly the greatest bit of the whole album, that tight electro blast that follows is just incredible.

586 – New Order (1983, Factory Records, Taken from ‘Power, Corruption and Lies’)

If that electro blast in ’586’ is the best moment on the record then the best song is ‘Your Silent Face’.  There are very few moments in music that carry so much emotion (although I think I’ve identified three in this series already!) and the bit where Barney Sumner sings “no hearing or breathing, no movements, no colours, just silence” is just astonishing.  In fact the whole song is mesmerising from start to end – that synthesiser melody that runs through it, despite it being a very obvious Kraftwerk rip off shimmers majestically, through everything.

Your Silent Face – New Order (1983, Factory Records, Taken from ‘Power Corruption and Lies’)