Music Found in Charity Shops – #7

Between the 10th and 11th – The Charlatans

Found Oxfam Exeter for £2.99

Weirdo – The Charlatans (1992, Beggars Banquet Records)

The Exeter Oxfam shop is more of a second hand book shop than a charity shop.  It has three rooms dedicated to them.  Right at the back of one of them is a small area where the music can be found, which is where I picked up this little gem.

Of course, ten years ago, the Oxfam shop in Exeter had an entire room dedicated to just music, and I would often be late for the train or meetings because I’d spent an hour in there flicking through the vinyl or the CDs.  For a long time, it was the best second hand record music shop in Devon.

Thirty years is a long time in music.  Back in 1992, The Charlatans released their second album.   When it was released it received mixed reviews from the press and for some unknown reason the band found themselves subject to something of backlash. 

But that was a long time ago, because now ‘Between the 10th and 11th’ is considered, quite rightly, as the hidden gem in the bands extensive back catalogue, a record that is, as it happens, far superior to its better known predecessor ‘Some Friendly’ and probably only bettered by ‘Tellin’ Stories’.

‘Between the 10th and 11th’ is a wonderfully eclectic record that sways between psychedelia and the more typical organ dominated sound of their first album, but its more spacious, there is more guitar for a start and Tim Burgess’s vocals sound fantastically polished across it (for which a degree of thanks should laid at the door of producer Flood I suspect).  Its’s a chock full of brilliant tracks.

‘Weirdo’ for instance, , it’s just insanely good.  That crazy horse swirly organ sound that dominates it, to Burgess’ wonderfully drawn out vocals “So much to know aboooouuut”.  Its such a tremendously unhinged blast of techno rock.

The other single from album that stands out is ‘Tremelo Song’, which remains I think as underrated as the album itself.

Tremelo Song – The Charlatans (1992, Beggars Banquet)

But of course, its not just the singles that stand out, “Can’t Even Be Bothered’ is a gorgeous song.  Easily the best thing on the album, and very close to being the bands finest moment ever.  The way it switches between sounding weary in the verses to the angry and brash in the chorus, is stunning

Can’t Even Be Bothered – The Charlatans (1992, Beggars Banquet Records)

The other track that stands out is ‘Page One’, which is one of those album tracks that leaves you scratching your head and wondering why on earth the band (or record label) didn’t release it as a single in its own right.  Marvellous.

Page One – The Charlatans (1992, Beggars Banquet)

It’s Monday, Let’s Swear #14

Talk – Big Deal (2012, Mute Records)

Big Deal were a two piece band from California/London who around ten years ago, caused a little bit of a buzz with their brand of fuzzy acoustic indie rock.  The band were fundamentally the work of an American guy (Kacey Underwood) and a British lady (Alice Costelloe).  They met somewhere and he taught her how to play Sonic Youth songs on guitar and thus a band was born.

Musically, it is just a voice and guitar, which flits between being acoustic and gently electric, it makes the music very up close and personal.  At times they sound like The XX if they had their roots in the grunge area.  The intimacy of the band added a degree of mystery to the band.  Were they a couple? Were they just friends? Questions, like these followed the band around for a while, especially given the lyrical content of the music as well.  Of course they turned out to be a couple, the nearly always do.  But when you hear ‘Talk’ you kind of understand why people were asking those questions. 

‘Talk’ was I think the bands second single and it’s a beautifully fragile affair, a story of a broken-down relationship in which a girl desperately wants to talk to her ex (I’ll assume it’s a boy) but his very presence messes her up so much, that talking is impossible.  It’s a terrifically understated song.

Here’s a couple of tracks off the bands debut album ‘Lights Out’. 

Cool Like Kurt – Big Deal (2012, Mute Records)

Homework – Big Deal (2012, Mute Records)

The band released two more albums but split in 2016 when Alice and Kacey’s relationship deteriorated.

The Sunday Shuffle – #23

Masquerade – The Fall (1998, Artful Records)

Today’s randomly shuffled track comes courtesy of the old iPod Classic which kept me company on Monday morning walk through the village that I did after I had dropped my daughter at school.  About ten minutes into the walk I reached the top of a hill, I was out of breath, and cursing the my decision to wear a pair of jeans that were, probably, at least one size too small for me.  I think this is because they may have shrunk in the wash, rather than me eating too much chocolate. As I stood there and caught my breath, I decided that whichever song appeared on the iPod next would be todays randomly shuffled track of the day.   That track was obviously ‘Masquerade’ by The Fall. 

The week after ‘Masquerade’ was released, Mark E Smith, was guest of honour at the 1998 NME Awards (The Brats, as they were called back them, in a joke aimed at mocking The Brits, a joke which got less funny every year), as they had decided to give him the ‘Godlike Genius Award’.   At that award ceremony Mark E Smith famously had an argument with Jo Wiley live on the TV, which ended with Smith telling her to “Fuck Off”.  Thus justifying the NME’s decision immediately. 

One of the B Side’s to ‘Masquerade’ was a track called ‘Calendar’, which was a collaboration with a lad called Damon Gough, who was at the time, an unknown musician (he later of course became Badly Drawn Boy).  Gough gave Smith a lift home, but only after Smith had promised to record one of his songs – that song then turned into ‘Calendar’ and Gough even played guitar on the track.

Calendar – The Fall (1998, Artful Records)

Nearly Perfect Albums #26

Drukqs – Aphex Twin

I know I have probably said this before but of all the bands and artists that appear on this list, it was the Aphex Twin that caused me the most selection problems.  Because, any of his releases could have made this list, well apart from ‘Selected Ambient Works Vol 1’ because that is actually perfect and therefore barred from this list.  For a long time I was going with ‘I Care You Because You Do’ and then I was going with ‘Richard D James’ but in the end I went with the 30 track, 100 minute epic that is ‘Drukqs’ with its impenetrable songs titles and its classical piano interludes.

Kladfvgbubg Micshk – Aphex Twin (2001, Warp Records)

The first time I ever listened to ‘Drukqs’ I was driving to Bristol for a meeting.  I remember constantly fiddling with the volume knob, turning up the ambient hums and then frantically turning down the splintered breakbeats and scary squelchy noises. 

It’s a wonderful listen, the music on it ranges from drum n bass that frankly pounds you in the face repeatedly and then runs off laughing in true Aphex style.  It has techno that people with well-manicured beards would say is ‘intellectual’.  It has techno that is so mad it would make a horse dribble with excitement.  It has early 90s rave flashbacks, it has 80s style electro workouts, it even has Richard D James’ parents singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him and on one occasion, it has what sounds like a backward version of ‘Silent Night’ performed by a team of amateur belllringers.  Naturally its all total genius, well apart from the track ‘Bit 4’ which appears to be nothing more than an electronic groan, but even that doesn’t seem out of place.

Btoum- rounada – Aphex Twin (2001, Warp Records)

Lornaderek – Aphex Twin (2001, Warp Records)

As I’ve kind of hinted above, it’s a proper mismash of an album, with no tracks across the 100 minutes sounding anywhere near similar to each one. It’s never dull and is always original.  You get regular dancefloor bangers mingling with ambient abstract piano interludes. Piano interludes like this

Avril 14th – Aphex Twin (2001, Warp Records)

Which on its own has have over 134 million plays on various streaming sites, thanks to its use by Kanye West, John Legend, and various films.  Effectively ‘Avril 14th’ is the biggest hit that Aphex never had.

The best track comes near the end, the eight minute monolith that is ‘Ziggomatic 17’ which flits between being a straight down the line jungle banger to a four to floor rave anthem, it can’t make up it mind and its all the better for it. 

Ziggomatic 17 – Aphex Twin (2001, Warp Records)

New Band Friday – #10 – VEPS

Ballerina (Norah) – VEPS (2022, Kanine Records)

I think word must be getting out about bands who insist that we spell their name in capitals, because here come another one this week.  Four supremely talented teenagers from Oslo called VEPS, who are possibly the finest thing to come out of Oslo since Ivar Skippervold.

VEPS are another one of those prodigiously young bands who are making music that goes well beyond their tender years.  They formed in 2018 when they were all just 14 years old.  Three of the band could already play musical instruments, and encouraged their friend Maja to play the drums, despite the fact that she had never sat behind or even touched the drums before.  By the age of fifteen they were already writing their own songs.  

In 2020, they signed to the New York based label, Kanine Records and in April 2021, they released their debut EP, ‘Open the Door’ of which the lead track was the excellently spiky ‘Ecstasy’.

Ecstasy – VEPS (2021, Kanine Records)

In the spring of 2022 they released their follow up single, the wonderful ‘Ballerina (Norah)’ which evokes memories of early 90s indie guitar pop.  Its full of brilliant guitar hooks and has a nifty little chorus that hangs around.  It might be an obvious comparison but VEPS sound a lot like Veruca Salt or if you want a more European similarity – Bettie Serveert (more of them soon). 

File under Excellent folks.

Major League Music – #7 – New York Yankees

New York, New York – Frank Sinatra

Until about ten minutes ago, I was convinced that the ‘Baseball Furies’ the make up wearing, bat wielding gang that chase The Warriors from 96th Street Station to Riverside Park wore Yankees shirts.  For that reason alone, I dismissed all the trash talking from friends about the Yankees being the spoilt rich kids of the baseball world.  As far as I was concerned the Yankees were great simply because the Baseball Furies were easily the coolest gang in The Warriors.  But it turns out that they were not wearing Yankees shirts at all, and I read in despair that their make up was based on the band Kiss.  You can really go off things, I’m all about the Turnball AC’s now and I’m glad that the Furies got their arses kicked by The Warriors despite heavily outnumbering them.

Putting all that to one side, the Yankees are, the most successful baseball team of all time, they have won twice as many World Series Titles than any other team and have more players in the Hall of Fame than any other team in history so their influence o the game can’t be denied.  Even if they do insist of playing “Are You Ready For This?” by 2 Unlimited before every sodding home game.

Saying that the Yankees are in something of a downward blip at the moment, its been thirteen years since they won the World Series, one of their longest barren periods yet.  

Musically, New York has long been seen as one of the most influential cities in the world.  It is (in some places at least) considered to be the birthplace of hip hop, garage, house, punk rock, and new wave music.  But away from all that, salsa was born in New Yorks Latino neighbourhoods, bebop, doowop and boogaloo all have their origins in one of New York’s suburbs.  I could do an entire series on bands and acts that have come of New York (and other better blogs already sort of have done that), another one on just the hip hop groups from Brooklyn and then another one on songs that are about New York. 

Like these four for instance

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

New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down – LCD Soundsystem (2007, DFA Records)

NYC – Interpol (2002, Matador Records)

Empire State of Mind – Jaz-Z and Alicia Keys (2009, Roc-Nation Records)

And here is this weeks local band tip, and there were literally hundreds to choose from – but I’ve plumped for Geese, in whose music you can apparently hear the sounds of Television, Parquet Courts, The Strokes, The Rapture and LCD Soundsystem, we’ll be the judge of that.

Low Era – Geese (2021, Partisan Records)

Of course, we shall revisit New York later in the year when the Mets come rolling into town

Next Week – another city with two baseball teams – Chicago, first up the White Sox

The Never Ending Playlist – #43/Scenes Invented by the NME #2

Honey – Swim Deep (2012, Chess Club Records)

One day I will stop randomly mentioning genres that the NME invented and actually do a proper series about them all.  Until then, here’s another one.  B-Town.  So called because all the bands who were lumped in this B-Town bracket were young indie guitar bands (and all of them white with floppy fringes, stripey long sleeved t-shirts and ball crushingly tight jeans of various colours) from Englands second city Birmingham (although I’m willing to bet that some of them were from Coventry, Wolverhampton and even god forbid, Walsall). 

‘Honey’ by Swim Deep, was pretty much B-Town’s finest hour.  A tremendous slice of indie pop whose chorus is the dictionary definition of ‘earworm’.  The sort of song that I know would have been glued to my stereo had it been around when I was 15.  It has that sort of mid nineties jangly Britpop feel to it.  I quite like it, although its not aging that well.

Anyway, by and large B-Town wasn’t very good, and it didn’t last that long, possibly the NME simply forgot about it after one of the bands associated with it called B-Town “the worst nickname for this great city I have ever heard and it makes me cringe every time I hear it”.  Well I’ve mentioned it five times already chap, so I hope you are not reading.

B-Town (sorry!) first started being mentioned in late 2011, which coincided with the emergence of a band called Peace, who the NME adored and shoved on the cover of their paper.  Peace were B-Town’s greatest prospect, despite not actually coming from Birmingham but Worcester, and if the NME had thought it about for more than five minutes they could have come with ‘Worc Rock’.  Which works in so many ways.

This is considered to be Peace’s finest moment.

Wraith – Peace (2013, Columbia Records)

Here are some other bands associated with B-Town (and I promise that is the last time I will ever mention it).

Friend Like You – JAWS (2013, Side One Records) – who might just be the exception to the capital letter rule.

Sign In, Dream On, Drop Out! – Poppy and the Jezebels (2012, Gumball Machine Records)

Lost Indie Classics -#7/Scenes Invented by the NME #1

Better Than Before – Midway Still (1991, Roughneck Records)

There was in the early nineties a gaggle of bands who did more touring than they did actual recording.   The bands schlepped their way around the UK in knackered out old vans, adding weight to the rumour that they would play pretty much anywhere for 50p and a few sandwiches.  The one band who for about six weeks who looked like they might break out of that group were Kent’s Midway Still. 

The reason why Midway Still almost broke out is because they knew how to make a pop song.  Albeit a pop song that sounded like it has been recorded in your dads garage with instruments found in a skip.  Oh and the NME, loved them and made their debut record ‘I Won’t Try’ Single of the Week.  Which is by the way, excellent.

I Won’t Try – Midway Still (1991, Roughneck Records)

Then, because this is what the NME did, a scene was invented to lump them and their mates in.  Welcome then to Transitcore.  Yup.  A scene comprising of indie rock bands who tour the UK in transit vans.  Other bands in the Transitcore scene were unsurprisingly Leatherface, Snuff, Mega City Four (more of them later), and the Senseless Things, who actually did break out of the transit and enjoy some minor success before re finding the keys to the transit and getting back in it as their success dried up slightly.

Too Much Kissing – Senseless Things (1990, Decoy Records)

John Peel was also a big fan of Midway Stil and after the release of ‘I Won’t Try’ he invited the band into the studio for a Peel Session.  During that show Peel famously played ‘You Made Me Realise’ by My Bloody Valentine at the wrong speed.  Midway Still inspired by such mavericky brilliance, covered the song as part of the session and stuck the track on the B Side to their next single.

You Made Me Realise – Midway Still (1991, Roughneck Records)

It’s Monday, Let’s Swear #13

We the People – A Tribe Called Quest (2016, Epic Records)

After a break of nearly 20 years, A Tribe Called Quest returned in 2016 with a single called ‘We the People’.   It was a ferocious blast that took aim at misogyny, racism, xenophobia, intolerance and fear.  It’s main anger was directed  at then would be President Donald Trump and gave the orange buffoon both barrels, without actually mentioning him.  They didn’t need to, the lyrics alone, said enough.

All you black folks, you must go/ All you Mexicans, you must go/ And all you poor folks, you must goMuslims and gays, boy, we hate your ways/ So all you bad folks, you must go.”

The track opens brilliantly with a drum sampled from a Black Sabbath song, an air raid siren and an incredible riff before the lyrics all kick in.  As the group charge headlong into one of the most politically charged tracks of recent years, fierce uncompromising brilliance from start to end and another example where swearing in a song, when done with anger, frustration and from a political or social standing is absolutely necessary.

In three and a half breathless minutes, A Tribe Called Quest spoke to an entire nation, mostly through gritted teeth and almost sounded as sad as they did angry, regardless of whichever it was, they weren’t standing for it.

They weren’t the only ones taking aim at Donald Trump either.  A year later, as if inspired by the Tribe, Joey Bada$$ went one step further and actually called Trump in magnificently angry style.

Rockabye Baby – Joey Bada$$ (2017, Pro Era Records)

The Sunday Shuffle #27

Polymers are Forever – Future of the Left (2012, Remote Control Records)

Today’s randomly shuffled track comes courtesy of the old iPod Classic, which I have now decided to use every day in protest at Apple’s ridiculous decision to stop manufacturing iPods from here on in.  I will aimly wander about with it on display in the hope that Apple head honcho Tim Cook just happens to be on holiday in South Devon and just happens to walk past me, sees the iPod and stops dead in his tracks….

“Oh what I fool, I have been!” he will say, clutching his forehead in despair.  “There I was thinking that only poorly dressed 00’s throwbacks with bad haircuts and awful taste in music still use the iPods.”  He will then recommission them and make me ‘Head of Cool’ at Apple.  Obviously.

As protests go, it’s not very likely to get very far I admit.  Apart from the bit about being ‘Head of Cool’, that much is pretty much a given.  However, I don’t want to think about the day when my iPod Classic gives up the ghost and I won’t be able to replace it, and I will be forced to buy an iPhone, which I don’t want or need. 

If you ask me the iPod is probably one of the most important technological inventions ever.  A device roughly the size of bar of chocolate that is able to hold more than 20,000 different pieces of music and allow you to play them whenever and wherever you want.   That is an incredible thing when you consider that when most of us started listening to music on the go, it generally meant carrying a pencil around with you in case the cassette got chewed up.  The iPod will be sadly missed.

Here’ some more Future of the Left tracks from their excellent album ‘the plot against common sense’.

Sheena Is a T-Shirt Salesman – Future of the Left (2012, Remote Control Records)

Sorry Dad I was Late for the Riots – Future of the Left (2012, Remote Control Records)