The Never Ending Playlist #37

Wilmot – Sabres of Paradise (1994, Warp Records)

Wilmot is not sadly a tribute to the eighties funny man and musical theatre star, Gary Wilmot. A man who for several months when I was about eight or nine was always on programs like Sunday Night at the Palladium – which kids, was the eighties equivalent at Live at the Apollo, only with more ropey singers, and added homophobic and racist jokes.

Instead ‘Wilmot’ is something entirely different. It starts out with this slow almost ska like beat that tweets and wails and bursts into life around a minute in and when the trumpet sample kicks in around two minutes in. By that time of course, ‘Wilmot’ its already in a full on party mood, but as the swirly ambient beats combine terrifically with the drum and that addictive trumpet sample you’ll find yourself reaching for the sun hat and a jug of Sangria or something. Its bloody marvellous, and as I happens I listened to it whilst in the waiting room to see the dental hygienist. It felt weird, because its basically the sound of the carnival unravelling in your ears and I looked up grinning away half expecting to see the other people waiting all grinning back at me, as if they were listening to it as well, which of course they were not.

If you are interested it sounds great played back to back with this.

Bingo Bango – Basement Jaxx (2000, XL Records)

Sabres of Paradise are of course the work of Jagz Kooner, Gary Burns and the all round genius that was Andy Weatherall. Its taken from the band second album ‘Haunted Dancehall’ and every bit of it is excellent and it may well find itself featured in the ‘Nearly Perfect Album’ series in the coming weeks.

A Linked Series #5

Cracked LCD – Ladytron (2002, Telstar Records)

Welcome to the fifth link in this musical equivalent to a Choose Your Own Adventure story. This instalment sees us stick with our LCDs but finally sees us move away from New York and head to Liverpool where we catch up with electropop pioneers Ladytron. The link in our chain is a track from their breakthrough second album ‘Light & Magic’. Although if we are catching up with Ladytron we should really do it at the Glastonbury Festival.

At the 2000 Glastonbury Festival- the huge chuffing security fence fell down and about two million people got in the site for free. Gangs of marauding youths were stand at the edge of bridges and demand £10 from anyone wanting to cross it, or criminals would just wander in the tented areas and pick up bags and walk off with them. It was whilst one of those gangs was rifling through my tent (stealing of all things, a hammer and a bottle of vodka) that I discovered the brilliance of Ladytron on the New Band stage at around 4.30pm on the Saturday afternoon. I’d gone there because there was a rumour going around the site that The Strokes were playing a surprise set, they didn’t but we stayed for 40 minutes of sublime indie inspired electronica supplied by four cool people dressed head to foot in black. By 6.00pm I liked Ladytron more than I’d ever like The Strokes.

Ladytron are another one of those bands that always seemed to be on the cusp of bigger and better things, but never quite got themselves over the line. In 2011 after five albums (all of which are recommended) they went on a lengthy hiatus, before returning in 2019 with a new album – which I haven’t to my shame heard.

There are lots of directions we could go now, we could for instance, explore bands who are named after songs. Ladytron of course being named after the Roxy Music song.

Ladytron – Roxy Music (1972, E.G records)

Or we could hang around in Liverpool, I suppose, I mean they have a few bands worth checking out and it is recognised as the World Capital City of Pop (genuinely true). You can thank this lot for that (or Atomic Kitten depending on your view).

Strawberry Fields Forever – The Beatles (1967, EMI Records)

Or maybe we could go down Tron bit of the name, which basically gives me an excuse to post something by Daft Punk.

Derezzed – Daft Punk (2010 Walt Disney Records)

It’s Monday, Lets Swear #8

Box Elder – Pavement (1989, Treble Kicker Records)

In 1989, in the middle of an English class, my friend Jason was asked to read a page or two from whatever Shakespeare book we were reading at the time. He ploughed in, giving it gusto and character. Suddenly, the teacher, a frightening old spinster held together by coffee, hairspray and tweed, stops him mid sentence and tells him he is reading the wrong page, “Pages 32, Chapter 3…” she snaps.

In four seconds, Jason went from being a slightly insignificant lad to being a shoo in for the next class captain because he just looked at the teacher and said “Oh, Fuck, sorry”, to gasps and generally gapes of amazement, I’m pretty sure one of the cool girls, moved her chair a foot closer to Jason. We all expected Jason to be thrown in the school dungeon for at least a week but the spinster barely batted an eyelash and asked him to carry on. Pandemonium ensued (silently), has she heard…? Was swearing now ok in the classroom?

With five minutes to go, the spinster told us to put down our books and she said “Many of you will be wondering, why I didn’t punish Jason for his cussing earlier” eager nods from the room, Nick, the class spanner, rubbed his hands expecting a very public dressing down for Jason. The spinster continued “It was because his swearing was unintentional and most importantly, like all forms of acceptable swearing, subtly unexpected, almost like Jason forgot where he was.” The spinster suddenly went up in everyone’s estimations, until three minutes later she gave us all an essay to do on the use of ‘Cussing and Cursing’ in ‘The Merchant of Venice’.

The swearing in ‘Box Elder’ by Pavement is brilliantly unexpected, coming at the end of a catchy chorus all about escaping a dead end town. It’s so well done that like Jason, Malkmus seems to have forgotten that the tapes are rolling. It’s brilliant because when he utters the curse, you know, just how awful life must be and that’s why he needs to go to Box Elder, MO. But its so fleeting so ambivalently done that it just makes you smile with pleasure.

‘Box Elder’ is taken from Pavement’s very first EP, the wonderful and if you can find a copy on vinyl, valuable, ‘Slay Tracks (1933 – 1969)’ and it marked the arrival of not only the band as one who are destined for greater things but also highlighted Malkmus’ talent as a songwriter.

Slay Tracks had four other songs on it, all of them are essential but ‘You’re Killing Me’ is probably the best of the bunch and of course, The Wedding Present made ‘Box Elder famous before Pavement really had a chance to but they left the swearing out.

You’re Killing Me – Pavement (1989, Treble Kicker Records)

Box Elder – The Wedding Present (1990, RCA Records)

The Sunday Shuffle #22

Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes (2011, Sub Pop Records)

For today’s randomly shuffled track I took myself and the iPod into the garden. I decided that the herb patch at the back of the garden needed tidying up. It had become a massive jumble of weeds, young stinging nettles, old mint plants and deep underneath all that some fresh strawberry plants which need air free space to prosper. I looked at my old gardening gloves, they were not going to protect me from the stinging nettles – so for laughs I decided that the song playing at the time that I received my first nettle sting would be todays randomly chosen track.

The gloves did rather well as it happens, it was eight songs in, when I uttered a word more suitable for tomorrow’s series followed by a more refined exclaim of ‘bastard’. The song that was playing was the title track from the second album from Seattle alt country indie folksters Fleet Foxes. Its a record that I know very little about and additionally its a record that I have barely played in the ten or so years that I have owned it. It sounds a lot like in parts the works of Crosby, Stills and Nash according to the reviews. The NME hated it and called it ‘Canoe Music’, which is actually rather witty for the NME. The BBC on the other hand loved it, calling it a thing of beauty. So there we go.

Oh two tracks that survived the stinging nettle test

Welcome to the Cheap Seats – The Wonderstuff (1991, Polydor Records)

Compute – Soulwax (2004, PIAS Records)

Nearly Perfect Albums #20 – Funeral – Arcade Fire

The ironic thing about ‘Funeral’ is that for a record that is primarily about death, and coping with people dying (during the recording of this album, about twenty family members and friends of the band collectively died, hence the album title), it is an album that feels full of life.  It at times also seems extraordinarily happy and its full of big songs, songs that should have the words ‘STATEMENT’ branded onto its forehead and painted purple in case you missed it. 

It took Arcade Fire the opening four minutes of ‘Funeral’ to convince indie rock fans to that the future did not necessarily belong to the new rock revolution that the NME were talking about.  A future where bands like The Datsuns and Jet were considered ‘groundbreaking’.  Because those four minutes were breathtaking.

Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels) – Arcade Fire (2004, Merge Records)

It begins subtly enough with the gentle throb of an organ and a simple piano chord repeated that slowly builds into something epic.  Then Butler’s voice kicks in, all raw and emotive, musically it was a bit like Talking Heads, a bit like David Bowie in his pomp, a bit like nothing we had heard before.  But it was magical.

Pretty soon we got a song called ‘Power Out’ which sounded like New Order and Joy Division at the same bloody time.  It sparkles brilliantly, swelling into a huge anthem.  It’s a fist pumping, passionate, mesmerising beast of a record, and after a first listen you are thinking that this must be highpoint of this record, they can’t top that, right?

Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out) – Arcade Fire (2004, Merge Records)

And of course, you’d be wrong, there are two moments, greater than ‘Power Out’.  If you look back up at the top of this post I talk about ‘Funeral’ being full of big songs, songs that are statements and whilst ‘Power Out’ is definitely a big song, its positively tiny when you compare it firstly to ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ and scarily miniscule up against ‘Wake Up’

Rebellion (Lies) – Arcade Fire (2004, Merge Records)

Wake Up – Arcade Fire (2004, Merge Records)

Of the big songs, ‘Wake Up’ is perhaps the biggest of all.  A thunderous lust for life all about seizing the day with a massive chorus and a soaring blast of energy that didn’t just grab indie rock by the shirt collars it slapped it about it the chops whilst roaring in its face to try harder.  It remains the best song the band have ever written.

‘Funeral’ made misery sound good, and it is a record that we now know that only Arcade Fire could have made.  Of all the records that I have shortlisted as being ‘nearly perfect’, it is this one (and perhaps a couple of others) that I struggled the most to justify not being in the ‘completely perfect’ pile

Great Number Twos of Our Time #2

Because sometimes a Number 2 is better than a Number 1

Song #2 – Blur (1997, Food Records)

Blur’s ‘Song #2’ was immense, a quick shouty blast of adrenaline from a band who were clearly bored rigid by their Kings of Britpop tag and really wanted to move away from the laddish culture being pedalled by other bands at the time.   It was recorded, apparently, as a sarcastic dig at the grunge boom that had arrived a few years earlier, with its shouty chorus, quiet verse, shouty chorus section designed specifically to appeal but at the same time mock fans of bands like Nirvana.

In reality though, no one cared because it was such a spectacular song. Its brilliance was simple but effective – a drumbeat that sounds like most of your everyday Blur songs, that kind of lull you into that false sense of security before the guitars kick in, and they properly kick in as well – and then Damon almost jumps in – like he has been blown into the song by an industrial wind machine with his rousing yelp of “Woo Hoo!”.  It’s the musical equivalent of being pushed down a hill on car bonnet to meet a table full of cream cakes at the end.   Which in case you were in doubt, is a lot of fun.

The result is of course a song that is now absolutely synonymous with sport events, or footage of speeding cars or adrenaline based activities like through oneself off a mountain.  Its no surprise that ‘Song #2’ was the closest the band really came to being household names in America.

‘Song #2’ crashed into the UK charts at Number 2, which for a song called ‘Song 2’ which lasts exactly two minutes and was voted the second best song the year by various end of year polls, seems kind of perfect.  It is almost as if it went to number one it would have been deeply unsatisfying.  It was fact fans keep off the top of the UK charts by the excretable ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ by professional sex pest R Kelly. 

The CD came with two additional tracks – here they are

Get Out of Cities – Blur (1997, Food Records)

Polished Stone – Blur (1997, Food Records)

Major League Music #1 -Kansas City Royals

Last Thursday saw the start of the new baseball season.  I love baseball, I love the drama, the theatre, the nacho hats, the spitting, the sledging, the stupid crowd cameras, the comedy oversized gloves, the razzamatazz, everything.  I also don’t really care what anyone else thinks.  Yes I’ve heard your really old and boring arguments about the winners being “The World Champions” and about it being “Just rounders” and everything else.  My fingers are in my ears, la, la, la, can’t hear you.  All I’ll say is that if you’ve never been to a baseball game, you’ve never actually lived.

You’ve also not lived unless you’ve sat in a tiny bar in a tiny Austrian village with not so tiny Americans and debated ‘charging the mound’ surrounded by Austrian wine and cheese until the early hours of the morning.

My love affair with baseball dates back to 1985.  In 1985 I used to read a sports magazine every week and one week it was all about American sports and I asked my grandad which was the best baseball team.  He told me about teams like the Dodgers and the Red Sox but I looked at my magazine and I decided there and then that the Kansas City Royals were for me.  It was the logo.

For twenty odd years I largely forgot about that, until the Internet helped me keep up to date with their antics.  Back in the eighties the Royals were quite good, now they are not so good, but they were World Champions about five or six years ago. 

Anyway, this series is dedicated to the cities that battle it out for 162 games over the summer.  Each week I’ll focus on bands from or heavily linked to that city (or on some occasions the state) and might even talk about the team.  To kick off, here are two bands from Kansas

Romance Dawn – Radkey (2013, Little Man Records)

Radkey are fans of the Royals but are actually from St Joseph in Missouri, which isn’t far away (St Joseph actually straggles the state line between Kansas and Missouri, (Not only are you getting baseball and brilliant music, you are also getting a geography lesson, I am really too good to you guys)).  The band are formed from three home schooled brothers (surname Radke) who have released two albums of deliciously raw punk rock.  They were barely out of short trousers when they released their first few EPs – ‘Romance Dawn’ is taken from their second one ‘Devil Fruit’ which I totally recommend if deliciously raw punk rock by a bunch of home schooled teenagers in your thing – and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be.  Next up, hip hop fused with indie rock….why not?

Tangerine Love – BLACKSTARKIDS (2020, Dirty Hit Records)

Remember what I have said about bands who insist that their name is in capitals.  Well here’s another BLACKSTARKIDS who hail from Kansas and blend hip hop and indie and they are all sorts of brilliant.  I recommend 2020’s breakthrough record ‘Whatever, Man’ as a start point, particularly the track above and the Green Day riff stealing ‘Frankie Muniz’

Frankie Muniz – BLACKSTARKIDS (2020, Dirty Hit Records)

The Never Ending Playlist – #36

Archie, Marry Me – Alvvays (2013, Transgressive Records)

I’ve only ever seen one public proposal, and that was in a pub in Chatham on a particularly hazy Friday night, a guy who I didn’t know proposed to his love, who I also didn’t know and she said yes.  He’d handed her a watermelon Bacardi breezer and then dropped onto one knee.

It was pretty boring, there was applause and I think the barman bought some free drinks for him and his bride to be…But…. Just moments before after I twigged what was going on there was a huge part of me willing her to say no.  I was silently begging her to shake her head and even though I’d never spoken to either of these saps before in my life, I wanted her to turn around and snog the face off the man standing behind her.  She didn’t she said yes and hugged him.  I think I was 18 at the time, it was definitely before I started University.

As I and the people I was with wandered off to the club around the corner we discussed the proposal and all decided that she could do so much better.  I mean he was wearing a Pearl Jam T Shirt for a start.  Secondly, he’d proposed to her in a pub in Chatham, I mean I suppose they could have met there and it might have been an anniversary and this was the most romantic gesture known in the world, but come on, its Chatham.  She should have looked at him and said “Seriously….you couldn’t take me to Paris or at the very least to decent Indian restaurant at the other end of the High Street.  Could you have not bought me a decent drink first….Honestly”.

‘Archie, Marry Me’ was the debut single from Toronto indie poppers Alvvays way back in 2013, which seems far too long ago.  I played this to absolute death when it came out and its still a record I really enjoy.  I love the sardonic lyrics and alimonies and paying off student loans all wrapped up in a sweet chorus that chimes “Hey! Hey!” at you. 

This was the follow up single, which was nearly as good

Adult Diversion – Alvvays (2014, Transgressive Records)

Lost Indie Classics #4

Monday Morning 5:19 – Rialto (1997, East West Records)

Rialto were the brainchild of one Louis Eliot, who believe it or not, is the son of the 10th Earl of St Germans.  St Germans is a small village in Cornwall, which just happens to include a massive country estate called Port Eliot.  One day, apparently, he will I think, inherited the entire estate, lucky chap it’s a beautiful spot and hosts a very good literary and music festival every year. 

Before Rialto existed, Louis was in another band of indie also rans, a band called Kinky Machine, who released I think a couple of albums before Eliot disbanded them and formed Rialto.  Musically, Rialto were lumped in with bands like Gene, Strangelove and Marion, that had that kind of feel to them.  In reality they made mainly sub par Pulp-like indie that was largely ignored because Pulp had already done it much better.

Yet the Melody Maker loved them and said “of the all highly touted new groups to have emerged in recent months, Rialto are the pick of the bunch” and predicted that they could become as big as Oasis.  It always was a bit off the mark, the Melody Maker, I mean they championed this lot as well

Reproduction is Pollution – Orlando (Shelley Version) (1995, Sarah Records)

There was of course one exception to the sub par Pulp .  The string soaked absolute majesty of ‘Monday Morning 5:19’ which is something of a masterpiece, and somehow failed to turn Rialto into megastars. It reached the giddy(ish) heights of Number 37 in the UK charts.  If it had been released at a time when Pulp were at the height of their powers, then I think Rialto might have been household names for a while at least. 

‘Monday Morning 5:19’ did kind of pave the way for bigger success, the follow up single ‘Untouchable’ crawled into the Top 20, but that was about as good as it got successwise for Rialto.

It’s Monday – Let’s Swear – #7

It’s A Motherfucker – Eels  (2000, Dreamworks Records)

I mean it’s a horrible word, when it’s used incorrectly.  Like perhaps, when Fred Durst uses it in a song or perhaps when its repeated fifty times in a film starring Liam Neeson for no reason or a 13 year old calls you it because you won’t buy him some cider from a council estate Bargain Booze store.

But in can be a beautiful word, like here, when Mark Everett or E as he likes to be called, uses because it’s the only word suitable to sum up how terrible he is feeling.  

Because folks, the motherfucker in this case is life and everything in it.  You probably expect, given the title, this to be an angry rant at the world and it general shittiness, but it isn’t.  Its two minutes of a bare stripped back piano with strings forlornly pining away behind it and its heartbreakingly beautiful.  Its also one of the saddest songs out there painting a vividly sparse picture of an emotionally fragile man who is seemingly teetering on the edge of combustion through the stark loneliness of missing somebody as his barely sung lyrics about ‘talking to the walls’ bounce off of those sombre piano sounds.

‘It’s A Motherfucker’ is taken from the bands third album ‘Daisies of the Galaxy’ and it nestles nicely right in the middle of it, a moment of heartbreak in an album that is positively upbeat considering that one that preceeded it was about losing your mother to cancer.  Despite its title, this is a song that sort of feels insulting to its beauty to have included it in such a puerile series as this. 

Flyswatter – Eels (2000, Dreamworks Records)

I Like Birds – Eels (2000, Dreamwork Records)