It’s Monday – Let’s Swear – #4

EMF – EMF (Live at the Bilson) – (1990, Parlophone Records)

When EMF first emerged out of the Forest of Dean, they were very quickly and very wrongly marketed as a boy band.  Largely down I would imagine, to their youthful good looks which appealed to both readers of the Melody Maker and Smash Hits (both of whom stuck them on the cover when ‘Unbelievable’ wandered uninvited, like a bunch of ‘big boys’ at a teenage disco, into the Top Five).  Whilst Melody Maker concentrated on the bands liking for acts like The Clash and some of the indie rave pioneers, Smash Hits printed posters of them with their tops off and asked them what EMF stood for.  And as impressionable teenagers stared at the bands pecs, EMF told them that “EMF stands for Epsom Mad Funkers” .

But it also had another meaning, as anyone who bothered to flip ‘Unbelievable’ over and play the B Sides would have found out, because there tucked away was this potty mouthed ode to taking ecstasy and losing your shit.  The E stood for just that apparently and the MF stood for something very rude indeed.

EMF Live at Bilson is excellent.  It starts out seemingly as a fairly weak Carter USM tribute, before the techno (ish) beats hijack it like the aforementioned big boys as a teenage disco, and it descends into its potty mouthed finale and the crowd goes absolutely mental, then again I think they are probably all off their trolleys on Ecstasy, motherfucker (motherfucker).

As if doing it once was bad enough, in 1991, just a year later, the band released this throbbing piece of electronica as b side to the bands fourth single ‘Lies’ (its essentially a remix of ‘Lies’ though) which again relied heavily on the rude version of EMF. 

Head the Ball – EMF (1991, Parlophone Records)

Oh go on then

Unbelievable – EMF (1990, Parlophone Records)

The Sunday Shuffle – #18

Freak Scene – Dinosaur Jr (1988, SST Records)

More running this morning.  I decided that whatever song was playing the moment I reached three miles would be the selected song – and I was rather pleased when this absolute stone cold classic fired up around just before. 

For a song that is just over three and a half minutes long it is chock full of wonderful moments.  For instance, that guitar bit at the start, that is now, probably one of the most instantly recognisable intros in alternative rock.  Back when I was lad, just hearing two seconds of that fire up would be enough to send me running to the dancefloor to entertain people with my Kermit in a Blender Impression.  

Then you have the riff.  Or rather, the first riff.  A riff so big that you can park a bus in it.  It jumps in from literally nowhere at thirty seconds and then explodes again about eight seconds later into this ridiculously heavy section that jangles away like a heavy rock version of the Troggs.   Ah man its so wonderful. 

Not quite as wonderful as the break that occurs around one minute in, when the heaviness is almost forgotten, and a pop song emerges as guitars strum away like something on Postcard Records and the vocals go all summery until J Mascis forgets all that and brings in that riff.

Or riff number two if you like, a whirling, snarly beast of riff that literally snaps the song in half like an angry elephant stomping through a wood.  Its one of rocks music finest 40 seconds and that almost gently brings us to the line that launched a thousand club nights called ‘Freakscene’ across the land – you know the one….

Just don’t let me fuck up will you, cos when I need a friend It’s still you

Just Immense.

Nearly Perfect Albums – #16

America – Dan Deacon

True Thrush – Dan Deacon (2012, Domino Records, Taken from ‘America’)

There are two distinct reasons why ‘America’ by Baltimore based electro acoustic composer Dan Deacon should suck.   The first is that he describes himself as an ‘electro acoustic composer’ and if that isn’t a phrase that makes you want to smash someone around the face with a cymbal then I am not sure what is. But that is what Deacon describes himself as. 

The second reason is that this album comes in two very distinct halves, the second of those being a ‘musical suite’, which is usually enough to send anyone running to the hills with tin foil stuffed in their ears.  Yet, despite both these alarms ‘America’, Deacon’s eighth album, seriously rocks.   It’s a high energy ecstatic adventure through the American landscape.  It kicks off with ‘Guilford Avenue Bridge’, which starts with some avant garde off kilter house beats before turning into something altogether different but its gleefully fist pumpingly excellence whatever direction it heads off in.

Guilford Avenue Bridge – Dan Deacon (2012, Domino Records, Taken from ‘America’)

For a record that supposed to be an electronic dance record, the first half of this record (which is the not the ‘Suite’) sounds an awful lot like the sort of record that the Flaming Lips or Animal Collective perhaps were making around the same time, songs that have a drug infused twinkle in their eye but hold a hand out to beautiful surging pieces of pop music (see ‘True Thrush’ above).  Saying that ‘Prettyboy’ I think owes a debt of gratitude to Mogwai.

The second half of the album is altogether more serious but no less euphoric.  It’s split into four tracks, each one called ‘USA’ and then number I to IV – and bunch of classical instruments join the party, and we are pretty much putty in his hands the second the brass section fires up.  Section 1 ‘USA 1: Is a Monster’ is exactly that, a simple orchestral backdrop that swells angrily like a Gremlin exposed to water after midnight before bursting into something akin to a Ministry remix.  That’ not supposed to put you off, its great.

USA I: Is A Monster – Dan Deacon (2012, Domino Records, Taken from ‘America’)

Talking of great, ‘USA II: The Great American Desert’ is the albums standout track (although I will never tire of ‘True Thrush’) with its soaring choir and massed drums, it sounds and feels like the sort of the song that should soundtrack a dramatic end to a film, where a jeep drives out of control to the edge of a ravine, as overhead cameras pan out and then back in again as the hero hurtles along on horseback, which might indeed be the entire point of it, but anyway, its (nearly) perfect.

USA II: The Great American Desert – Dan Deacon (2012,Domino Records, Taken from ‘America’)

A Linked Series – #3

A Date with the Night – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2003, Polydor Records)

The third instalment in this chain link fence of a series sees us move, from the grungy sawdust bar in Atlanta, where Tilly and the Wall and have just finished playing ‘Night of the Living Dead’, to a party in converted warehouse apartment in downtown New York.  Somewhere in the lounge area, the hip, trendy and semi famous are gyrating away to a splendid mixture of gonzo disco noise and post punk playfulness that is blaring out of the stereo.  This is because someone has just shoved ‘Date with the Night’ onto the stereo and, as the phrase goes, shit has going down.

In 2003, the hype that followed Karen O, Nick Zimmer and Brian Chase around was almost as infectious as their songs.  It was believable to see this band, actually being the future of rock music.  Especially when they had songs are catchy and as easy to dance to as ‘Date with the Night’ and singers as aurally impactive as Karen O.

In ‘Date with the Night’ Karen O sounds incredible, like a cross between an over excited 10 year old at a boy band gig and a wailing rock goddess who just happens to be out on the pull.  When you add her vocals to the frankly ridiculously drumming (which is sort of like a contorted 70s disco groove) and the art rock riff that underpin the song, it just makes it all better (also it contains no bass whatsoever).  It has hooks in all the wrong places, and just sort collapses at the end in a triumph sigh.  Its marvellously out of sorts but I have a feeling that its deliberate because it sounds so perfect.

So where do we go next – we can stay in New York and pick up one of the several brilliant bands that call it home.

New York City Cops – The Strokes (2001, RCA Records)

Or we could go another date (Wall are also from New York, so that would be a double link).

Last Date – Wall (2016, Wharf Cat Records)

We might of course, fancy more bands with double words in their name.  Which could lead us several ways – but this probably isn’t one of them

Cough, Cough – Everything Everything (2012, RCA Records)

No Badger Required Gig Reviews – #3

Metronomy – Totnes Civic Hall – February 19th 2022

Its about three pm on a very wet Saturday afternoon in Totnes and I’m standing inside a cold hall, which sold carpets the last time I was here. I’m waiting for local heroes Metronomy to come onstage. I am a bit wary because its one of these ‘New Album Playback Shows’ and before Christmas I paid £30 to see Damon Albarn do something similar. He played for 40 minutes, and then buggered off to his massive farm in the South Hams countryside and swam in a swimming pool filled with pound coins. I have a feeling Metronomy may do something similar, although I doubt they have a swimming pool filled with pound coins, but the curfew for this matinee gig is 3.45pm, presumably the blokes wants to try and sell a few carpets before the end of the afternoon.

The band open their set with ‘Love Factory’, one of the bounciest tracks off their new album ‘Small World’ – which folks, is not going to change the world. It goes a bit ‘Modern Romance’ in places, and its not a record that I will come back to an awful lot if I am honest. Ten minutes ago, before the band came on, I was wondering if this would be a good idea or not, it was cold and I was about to watch a band whose latest album had bored me. But bugger me sideways, ‘Love Factory’ sounds awesome live.

Love Factory – Metronomy (2022, Because Music)

Then, much to everyones surprise, the band ripped up the ‘New Album Playback’ rulebook, by bursting into several old favourites. They follow ‘Love Factory’ with Torquay tribute ‘The Bay’ which somehow seems to make the previously freezing venue seem warmer. Perhaps, it was me who was starting to thaw.

The Bay – Metronomy (2011, Because Music)

Of the new songs, the two singles, obviously stand out, particularly ‘Things Will Be Fine’ which is greeted like its been in the bands set for the last ten years. By now of course Joe Mount has the crowd eating out of his hand, he’s inviting the crowd to the pub after the gig (most of whom look like they might just finish their shopping and go on home), and waving to the children down the front. It’s excellent fun and Mount is a very likeable frontman. Even when he grabs a cowbell and start channelling his inner James Murphy.

Things Will Be Fine – Metronomy (2022, Because Music)

The biggest cheer of the afternoon is reserved though for ‘The Look’, it’s still the bands best song and it sounds fantastic today, with pumped up disco beats running through it and a crowd clapping along hands in the air style.

The Look – Metronomy (2011, Because Music)

Its well past the curfew when we all troop out, most of us grinning because Metronomy have been brilliant fun, its also stopped raining, which doubles the width of most people’s grins. The only person not grinning is the angry looking man with 25 ‘Turkish’ Carpets sticking out the back of his transit who is looking at his watch and tutting.

Never Ending Playlist – #33

Here’s Where The Story Ends – The Sundays (1990, Rough Trade Records)

Back in 1991, I owned ‘Reading, Writing and Arithmetic’ the enigmatic debut album by the Sunday.  I had it on tape. Well it was a copy and it was left in my bedroom by one of my brothers mates.  I assume it was one his mates, it certainly wouldn’t have been my brothers because in 1991 he was going through his Goth phase, and he was interested in then was trying to look like the singer from the Fields of Nephilim and listened to really awful Alien Sex Fiend albums.  So what I should be saying is that back in 1991, I stole a battered badly taped version of the debut album by The Sundays from a mate of my brothers.

Hearing ‘Here’s Where The Story Ends’ again, got me thinking about that cassette and that got me thinking about other cassettes that I ‘might’ have inadvertently stumbled across in the midst of time and two occasions sprang to mind.  I do want to point out that I’m not and never have been a serial stealer of cassettes, but……

In 1990, whilst out mucking around with my mate Chris we came across a car that had clearly been stolen and dumped along a track in the woods that behind his house.  Being the two sensible 15 year old lads, we obviously ran to the nearest phone box and told the police that it was there, after we’d rifled through the car and nicked anything worth nicking from the stolen Renault 19.  For me this was a copy of ‘Ex:El’ by 808 State on tape.  

I’m sorry if that was your car.   I guess all I can do is play you a tune.

In Yer Face – 808 State (1991, ZTT Records)

In 1994, after a House Party in Maidstone, I borrowed a 12” of ‘Heaven Sent An Angel’ from a mate called Justin.   I got it home and found a cassette of the ‘The Great Rock n Roll Swindle’ by the Sex Pistols tucked inside the cover.  I didn’t put it there, but I also didn’t give it back when I handed back the Revolver 12”. 

I’m sorry Justin, I guess all I can do is play you a tune.

My Way – Sid Vicious (1979, Virgin Records)

Perhaps it’s karma but I once left my cassette copy of 101 Damnations on a train at Strood in Kent as I dashed to grab a connection.  I never saw that cassette again. 

24 Minutes to Tulse Hill – Carter USM (1990, Big Cat Records)

Lost Indie Classics #2

Radars – Dawn of the Replicants (1997, East West Records, Taken from ‘Rhino Rays EP’)

For some of you, the following line, might be considered to be quite a statement, but I’m going there, ok…Dawn of the Replicants are easily the most culturally significant thing to have ever come out of the small Scottish town of Galashiels. 

Now, the prog rock fans out there will be right now by wiping the cornflakes that have just been splurted out of their mouths off of their (bearded) chins and shouting with some sort indignation about Fish from Marillion.  Because about 700 years ago, Fish wrote a song called ‘Kayleigh’ which was inspired by his time growing up in Galashiels and so proud are the residents of Galashiels that when the Market Square was refurbished in 2012, the lyrics of ‘Kayleigh’ were inscribed into the new paving slabs.    Fish also apparently has a market named after him in Glasgow as well, so he has done more than enough for culture.

Kayleigh – Marillion (1356, Ye Olde Bucket of Slop Records)

Besides I hear that the new housing estate being built on the back of the town is going to have every street named after a Dawn of the Replicants song and that every house on the proposed Lisa Box Close has already been sold.  Although the ones on Skullcrusher Lane are not selling so well.

Lisa Box – Dawn of the Replicants (1997, East West Records)

The poets amongst us are not happy either, and right now they are spluttering out their turmeric lattes and adjusting their peaked caps and declaring that Robbie Burns wrote not one but two poems about Galashiels, and he was the once voted the Greatest Ever Scotsman. Which is quite an achievement, until you realise that Ally MacCoist was 19th and Jeanette Krankie 5th (I have made this up, Robbie Burns is actually brilliant and in that poll, he beat overwhelming favourite Mel Gibson William Wallace into second place after a penalty shootout).

Regardless of that, for all the romanticism, brilliant poems and plaudits that Robbie Burns already has, in all his life, he never once got close to writing something as beautifully poetic as the second verse of ‘Windy Miller’.  Frankly, I imagine its only vanity and respect for Burns’ children that stops Scotland celebrating Paul Vickers Night instead of Burns Night.

Sit on top of the sun/Burn your skin and cry/Your world without the pretty blue sky”

Windy Miller – Dawn of the Replicants (1997, East West Records)

There is a third voice, and it’s the book club, who have put down their fruit tea and unfolded their arms and are quietly now reminding us that Sir Walter Scott built a house and lived in it across the river from Galashiels.  Yeah, well the clue there are the words ‘across the river’.  I doubt whether Sir Walter Scott ever popped across the bridge to the Galashiels branch of Aldi, he was too busy writing overly long Gothic novels about dragons and stuff, so he is discounted (again, Walter Scott was a very good writer and ‘Ivanhoe’ is a rollicking good read, and easily inside my Top 20 favourite novels of all time, as far as I know, he didn’t write much about ‘dragons and stuff’).

Besides, as celebrated as Wally is, and as revered as his novels are, he would given all his money, fame and fortune to have written something that was even on the same page of marvellousness as ‘Candlefire’ and with that I rest my case by repeating my opening statement.  Dawn of the Replicants, easily the most culturally significant thing to have ever come out of Galashiels.

Candlefire – Dawn of the Replicants (1997, East West Records)

It’s Monday – Let’s Swear – #3

Schatze – Ohtis (2021, Saddle Creek Records)

The other day my daughter told me about a boy in her class who was frankly being a dick (she didn’t say that of course, she’s nine).  It was all seemingly innocent enough stuff like stealing her chair and being overly masculine in PE, because he’s slightly bigger than everyone else.   She was pretty cool about it and stood her ground brilliantly (basically she told him to stop being an idiot), but it bothered her enough to mention it to me and ask if what she should do if he does it again. 

Now the right answer here is telling the teacher and let them deal with the little toerag, but there was a small part of me that wanted to tell her to kick him in the balls and tell him to go fuck himself.  Because then he definitely wouldn’t do it again. 

I rationed that she is perhaps two years away from fully appreciating the power of a swift boot to the nutsack and a well placed curse.  So I told her what she has done was the right thing and to tell the teacher if he carries on.  He’s not a bad lad to be honest, just prone to being a dick from time to time, hey he’s male, its genetic.

All of which brings us swiftly to Ohtis, who, I think formed well over twenty years ago, but for the best part of that their singer Sam Swinson put the band in limbo whilst he battled heroin addiction.  In 2019 they finally released their debut record, a wonderfully dark collection of 8 alt country songs about, well, heroin.

Rehab – Ohtis (2019, Saddle Creek Records)

Last year they wrote a song all about a Selfish Anti Social Male called ‘Schatze’.  For this they teamed up with the Detroit DIY artist Stef Chura to release this wonderfully wry track.  What makes it brilliant is the call and response format that the track adopts.  On one hand you have the male (Swinson) who tells us, in a marvellously deadpan manner that “I do, do what I please/I’m a piece of shit, I just think I’ll get away with it”.  On the other hand you have the girlfriend (Chura) who appears to be long suffering and reaching the end of that very long tether. She tells him, as sweetly as anything to “Grow the fuck up dude, what the fuck?”.

And so it goes on – getting increasingly Meta as it goes, with knowing references to Instagram and such like before the girlfriend just loses it completely and gives the one reaction that we’ve all been expecting “Fuck you very much, sir” but again the curse is positively chirped, anger has never sounded so positive.

The response from Swinson oozes smarm “Absolutely”. 

The Sunday Shuffle – #17

No Woman – Whitney (2016, Secretly Canadian Records)

Todays randomly shuffled track comes courtesy of Alexa whose was selecting the tunes for me as I tidied the house on a Saturday morning.  Whitney were formed out of the smouldering ashes of Smith Westerns, who were much appreciated around these parts.

All Die Young – Smith Westerns (2011, Fat Possum Records)

‘No Woman’ was the band’s second single and it’s a fine piece of alt country.  An achy old ballad about leaving one city and going to another in order to escape an old life or perhaps an old lover.  In Whitney’s case, I would imagine this is a reference to the break up of Smith Westerns, when two of the band upped sticks from their native Chicago and ended up in Los Angeles and formed a new band. 

‘No Woman’ is tremendous it has this lovely little piano loop running through it, alongside a muted trumpet and some beautiful acoustic guitar which, if you close your eyes, evokes thoughts of being on the open road.  Singer Max Ehrlich also adopts this terrific falsetto that really carries the song and starts to crack as the chorus soars into the song.

The band’s debut single was the equally splendid ‘No Matter Where We Go’ which was released in the late part of 2015.  Both tracks feature on the debut album ‘Light Upon the Lake’ which was voted 33rd best album of 2016 by The Guardian – which should at the very least be a reason to check it out.

No Matter Where We Go – Whitney (2015 Secretly Canadian Records)

Nearly Perfect Albums #15

The Chemistry of Common Life – Fucked Up

There are two reasons why my appearance on the long running radio programme Desert Island Discs have never been aired.  The first reason is perhaps the most obvious, that is I have never been asked to appear on the smug middle class snooze fest that is Desert Islands Disc (saying that the episode with Michael Holding a few weeks back was excellent –there is something incredible about hearing this coming out your radio at 9.30 in the morning.  Holding then ruined the entire show and day by picking something by Phil Collins.). 

The second reason is that is I would definitely want to pick ‘No Epiphany’ by the Canadian hardcore punk band Fucked Up as one of my choices and I really think that the Radio 4 listeners might not see its appeal – although some probably would to be fair.  Presenter Lauren Laverne for one.

No Epiphany – Fucked Up (2008, Matador Records, Taken from ‘The Chemistry of Common Life’)

Now, I know what you are thinking, that I trying to be clever or controversial.  I’m genuinely not.  It’s not my fault that the band have called themselves Fucked Up and as such have squandered nearly all the chances that they would ever have of being played on Radio 1 (or Radio 4, and even, sadly Radio 6 Music).  It’s also not my fault that their singer Damian ‘Pink Eyes’ Abraham has a voice that when words come out of it they sound like he has eaten a few bottles of Jack Daniels.  It’s still a brilliant song. 

 ‘No Epiphany’ is one of the greatest guitar records ever made and if any other band with any other singer had recorded it, it would have been picked on Desert Island Discs about seventeen times already.  If you are interested – 18 different guitars are used in the recording of ‘No Epiphany’.

‘The Chemistry of Common Life’ is the second studio album by Fucked Up and it really is a record to get excited about.  The music is astonishing, its frantic, energetic, noisy, and uncompromising all at the same time.  Yet, its way more melodic than you expect from a punk rock record, it’s definitely a record that has its roots in indie rock.

Black Albino Bones – Fucked Up (2008, Matador Records, Taken from ‘The Chemistry of Common Life’)

From the very first seconds it takes no prisoners and when after about 90 seconds Pink Eyes utters his first words you know that this is not going to be anything like you’ve heard before.

Son The Father – Fucked Up (2008, Matador Records, Taken from ‘The Chemistry of Common Life’)

Crooked Head – Fucked Up (2008, Matador Records, Taken from ‘The Chemistry of Common Life’)

But yet again we find ourselves at a junction because, just like we saw previously with Spiritualized and Pavement – this folks, is not even Fucked Up’s finest hour, that came about ten years later.