Nearly Perfect Albums #25

Since I Left You – The Avalanches

You know what I love the most about this record?  It’s the fact that it contains more than 900 individual samples.  Knowing the problem some acts have with the clearing of samples, it is a modern day miracle that ‘Since I Left You’ was ever released at all.   Take second single, ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ which itself contains elements from 37 different spoken word recordings, including one of a talking parrot and another one which makes up the bulk of the chorus and chimes “He’s a Nut!, He’s crazy in the coconut”

Back in 2000 when it landed in our ears, it sounded like nothing that had come before it, and that includes your so called ‘car boot techno’ Bentley Rhythm Ace.

Frontier Psychiatrist – The Avalanches (2000, Modular Recordings)

But, it’s not the volume of samples that is impressive, it’s the way that the samples are used, the way that they are twisted, manipulated, and turned upside that makes ‘Since I Left You’ so uniquely refreshing.  It’s the way that tiny snippets of songs suddenly appear, sped up or chopped up – like where ‘Holiday’ by Madonna is used briefly but devastatingly in the album title track.

Since I Left You – The Avalanches (2000, Modular Recordings)

Much of the wonder is how the songs gel together, in any five-minute section you may hear a collection of sounds that shouldn’t ever be considered to mashed together let alone actually done, horse noises, golf instruction videos, school rooms, flutes, horns, anything really.  Its incredible, every second of it because you never know what you are going to get.  Even now twenty years after release I’ll listen to a track and hear something that I didn’t recognise or remember.  Like ‘A Different Feeling’ for instance which takes seventies horn sounds from an old soul record and mixes them seamlessly with video game sounds from the early nineties.

A Different Feeling – The Avalanches (2000, Modular Recordings)

I suppose you could say that there is an over reliance on the formula, drop a beat add a sample, speed or mix that sample up, add a voice sample and away we all go.  You would think that people would get sick of it pretty quickly.  But, like I said it’s the thrill of the unexpected that of suddenly hearing something unexpected pop up and having that one sample rattle away in your head for the rest of the day. 

The album ends with what I think is a high point, with the track “Extra Kings” which is a brilliant flute inspired psychedelic number that sounds a lot like some of the work of Animal Collective or perhaps even the Flaming Lips.  It ends with (I think) the same voice that warbles the chorus of “Since I Left You” telling us that “I’ve tried but I just can’t get you/Ever since the day I left you” as the songs swells around it.  Bloody marvellous

Extra Kings – The Avalanches (2000, Modular Recordings)

‘Since I Left You’ is an album overflowing with ideas, creativity all of which have been transformed into brilliant songs that are a lot of fun, made with humour, joy and thriving on the thrill of the unexpected.  Such dedication to music and the recorded art is hard to ignore and even harder not to love.

……ing Bands #2

1979 – Smashing Pumpkins (1995, Virgin Records)

I nearly interviewed Billy Corgan once, but he was in a grump and decided he wanted to play video games instead.  It was in 1996, when the band were on a three night residency at Wembley Arena as part of the world tour to promote ‘Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness’ Album.  I’d managed to convince the bands record label to give me twenty minutes with him.  I didn’t really know what I was going to say to him but I at least thought it would be fun to ask him his favourite flavour of ice cream following the ‘Today’ video.

Today – Smashing Pumpkins (1993, Hut Records)

Anyway, I arrived at the backdoor of Wembley Arena, nice and early, a good two hours before the band were due on stage.  My plan was easy, interview Billy, get him to sign my copy of ‘Siamese Dream’ and retreat to the pub opposite the tube where I’d left my mate Chris.  I’ll be an hour, tops I told him.

There are about a hundred people waiting in the backstage area outside the venue.  Some of them are would-be journalists like me, you can tell by the fact that their notebook is not folded in half and they have more than one pen (I have three pens, one black, one blue, one green and I bought my notebook in the Waterloo branch of WHSmiths about an hour ago).  One guy claims to be the Reviews Editor for Kerrang!, another claims to be from The Times.  Everyone else is a Japanese female and nearly all of them are carrying gifts.  The Japanese girls keep trying to get backstage, which is why the security isn’t letting anyone else in.  I do try telling the security guard that I am not hiding a small Japanese lady under my jacket.  Its no good.

It takes for ever.  I write a page of questions and wait further instructions.  Eventually we get let in.  I am plonked in a room with three others, and they tell us that one of the band will be with us in a minute.  Its not Billy Corgan, its not D’arcy, its not even James Iha but it’s a guy called Matt Walker, who is the stand in drummer.  I mean Matt no offence, but literally no one wanted to talk to him.  

I opened my book, and waited as my colleagues asked Matt intricate questions about the band, their sound and a host of other questions that meant nothing.  Questions which Matt, clearly bored, knackered or both answered as best he could.  When it was my turn, I said that most of the good questions had been asked.  I checked my book, cleared my throat and asked “What’s your favourite flavour of ice cream?”.  He looked at me, “Great Question” he said smiling “Definitely strawberry”. 

I closed my book and left with a grin.

Hummer – Smashing Pumpkins (1993, Hut Records)

Major League Music = #6 – Seattle Mariners

Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle – Nirvana (1993,DGC Records)

On occasion in this series, I am lucky enough to be able to call upon the services of a couple of people who I happen to know live in the cities (or near at least) that I am featuring.  Today I am featuring Seattle, and that means I get to introduce you all to Joe. 

I’ve never met Joe, physically at least.  I’ve met him on Zoom a bunch of times, and in meetings that are supposed to be about quite important stuff, we spend about 45 minutes of the allowed hour talking about music and baseball.  He is a huge Seattle Mariners fan and an ardant supporter of the local music scene.  So today’s bit about the baseball team, at least two of the tracks and the new local band recommendation all come from him.  Here he is…

The last time I saw the Mariners play in a post season match I was 18 years old.  They lost to the New York Yankees (more of them next week – SWC).  That was in 2001.  Since 2001, I’ve got married (twice), had two kids, three dogs, nine cars, a mortgage, travelled the world, been in four bands, punched Macauley Culkin (long slightly libellous story, probably for another time – SWC) and got a full time job.  You might think that clearly I’ve been too busy to watch the Mariners in the World Series.  Nope, they’ve never been past the divisional section since 2001.  Heck, they’ve never been to the world series.  Ever.  I love the Mariners, but they suck.  Actually, at times I love the Mariners because they suck. 

Music in Seattle doesn’t suck though.  Jimi Hendrix for example was born in Seattle, and we gave the world Nirvana, Sub Pop Records, The Sonics, Tiny Vipers, Mudhoney, Band of Horses, The Posies and a host of others. On the downside we also gave the world and I hope I get the phrase right ‘sax wanker’ Kenny G (Pretty much spot on Joe – SWC), no matter how many times this city apologises, it never seems quite enough.

Thanks Joe, here’s some music from three of the bands in that list

The Witch – The Sonics (1965, Etiquette Records)

Development – Tiny Vipers (2009, Sub Pop Records) – I’d never heard of Tiny Vipers before meeting Joe, but I totally recommend them if you like bands like Waxahatchee or Bright Eyes perhaps.

March to Fuzz – Mudhoney (1991, Sub Pop Records)

And, this weeks new band is Antonioni, which comes personally recommended by Joe, and you know what, they are very good indeed.

Mary Bell – Antonioni (2021, Lauren Records)

Next Week we meet the Yankees of New York

The Never Ending Playlist – #42

Insomnia (Monster Mix) – Faithless (1995, Cheeky Records)

27 years later and this still does it for me.  That slowed down drum beat, slowly building as the synth kicks in.  I bet there is not one person reading this who hasn’t at least once in their lifetime stuck their hands in the air as the beats and that arpeggio (is it an arpeggio..?) kick in, seconds after Maxi Jazz mutters “I can’t get no sleep”.  Anyone who says no is a liar, or simply hasn’t had a life anywhere near interesting enough.

You see when ‘Insomnia’ first came out, dance music was sort of terrible, or rather it was in a terrible state. M People were considered to be cutting edge, the infinitesimally awful ‘handbag house’ had taken over the clubs. Drum and bass was kind of kicking around, but it hadn’t really exploded and even Big Beat hadn’t really taken off.  So when ‘Insomnia’ arrived it didn’t just stand out, it came accompanied by bells, whistles, cheers and a right old hooha and unlike ‘handbag house’ it simply refused to go away, the dancefloor equivalent of the Duracell Bunny if you like.

What made ‘Insomnia’ different was that it was a song that wasn’t actually about staying up all night raving away in some outsized shed.  It was a song about what happens after a night in a club finishes.  It was a song about the come down.  That weird feeling when you get home at 6am and the world is waking up and having breakfast and you are putting your pyjamas on knowing that in about two hours you will be up anyway.  Faithless warned you about the feeling you would get, but it told you within a track that was itself a complete euphoric rush.  The clever bastards.

The track at the top is the full nine minute version (although there is a 27 minute version around now, if you really can’t get any sleep) but if you prefer your rushes somewhat shorter here’s the radio edit

Insomnia (Radio Edit) – Faithless (1995, Cheeky Records)

And here is something else by Faithless, which I only include because it reminds me of Trigger Happy TV.

Drifting Away – Faithless (1995, Cheeky Records)

Kids, Eh #3

“Can we listen to some bands, with girl singers this time please?” says my daughter, as I am about to fire up Alexa for round three of Kids, Eh.  A series, in case, you have forgotten, where my nine year old daughter reviews three songs randomly selected from a playlist that I have lovingly prepared.  Her reviews, are short, acidic and have very little praise attached to them.  Her words are nearly as sharp as her pencil and all songs are scored out of ten.

I nod my head and promise that this time – the songs will only feature female voices.  I rearrange the playlist and press play and given her current hatred of anything “too shouty and wah wah wah” I hope that Huggy Bear don’t come on.

Turns out we are luck because track one just happens to be one of the greatest records ever recorded and I grin and tell her that she will love this.  I tell her that Courtenay Barnett was the first rock star she saw live.  She actually demanded to be let out of her pushchair so she could dance to her, whilst we watched her on the Main Stage at Glastonbury 2015.  She was two and a half at the time. 

“Toddlers, will dance to anything, daddy” she tells me, with a frown. Uh-oh.

Avant Gardener – Courtenay Barnett (2013, Mom and Pop Records)

“You know that sound a cat makes when it’s really hungry, and wants you to feed it” she says, just as Courtenay deadpans about thinking a nurse is clever for stopping people from dying, literally the best bit of the whole song.

I nod, cautiously. 

“Well, that’s what she sings like” and then proceeds to a do a passable impression of a hungry cat saying the word “Guitar”.  “I like the drums though, I don’t understand some of the lyrics, why is she getting in an ambulance?”  She writes 3 on her pad and I look at her and remind myself to change the name of this series to “Murder Your Darlings”.

Next up, a band that the NME described as being ‘frottage inducingly intense’.  I don’t tell my daughter that obviously, I’m not sure I can explain to a nine year old what ‘frottage’ is.  I could tell her to ‘ask her mother’ I suppose… I just tell her that it’s a band called Savages and that they are ‘a bit shouty’.  I’m pretty sure that she tutted.  I’m going to stop her going to that trampoline club, the attitude, honestly.

Husbands – Savages (2012, Matador Records)

About twenty seconds into this my daughter covers her ears, she doesn’t like this, she hates it in fact.  I mean it’s not really music for nine year olds, a women shouting “husbands” over and over again as a musical mental breakdown takes place around her, its not exactly Andy and the Odd Socks is it.

“Its awful” she said, “she sounds really angry” I tell her that she is making a statement about not liking men or a male orientated world (I’m massively simplifying feminism to a nine year old, give me a break).  “Well she should do it without shouting because more people would listen” and all around me I hear people ripping up their Andrea Dworkin books.  Unsurprisingly she marks it as a ZERO (she told me to put it in capitals)

Lastly, possibly something that I am positive that she will like.  It’s Best Coast, it’s impossible to not like Best Coast, with their summery vibes and songs about California and their albums covers that feature cats – which gives me an idea.

“This is by a band called Best Coast and one of their albums features a cat on the cover”, I tell her.

“I like them better than the others already” she says.

I Don’t Know How – Best Coast (2013, Jewel City Records)

She listens to this all the way through at the very least and then when it finishes, she holds up her pad and the number six is written on it.  “I like the guitars in this one and I really like her voice, and I really like the way its kind of two songs in one”.  It sort of is, you get the sweet Bethany Cosentino and guitar bit at the start for about two minutes and then the rest of the band join it to pump it up a bit.  An hour later I find my daughter sitting in her room listening to Best Coast’s debut album ‘Crazy For You’ – you know the one with the cat on the cover.  All of which makes Best Coast this weeks deserved winners.

Its Monday, Let’s Swear #12

The North – Vintage Crop (2020, Anti Fade Records)

One of the finest records that saw a release in 2020, was the sneering, post punk brilliance of ‘Serve to Serve Again’, the third album from Geelong’s Vintage Crop.  It was a record that almost totally passed me by, and definitely would have done if it wasn’t for the current king of indie, Steve Lamacq and a one hour wait at Plymouth Train Station.

I’d been in Plymouth for work reasons and had finished early so I though I’d grab an early train but having got to the train station, I found all the trains delayed for an hour.  So I sat on a bench, pulled out my phone and clicked on a podcast that I’d been meaning to listen to for a while.   In that podcast Steve Lamacq was playing some of his favourite records from the last year, that being 2020 of course.  One of these was ‘Serve to Serve Again’ by Vintage Crop.    If you have not heard it, please remedy that as soon as you can, because you are missing out.

Vintage Crop’s sound darts between an early garage rock sound with that post punk art school edge. It sounds like the Buzzcocks, and that is a very good thing indeed.  It sounds like a record that should have been recorded in 1978 using second hand instruments and its brilliant because of it. The second single from it was ‘The North’, which is everything that modern day punk rock trying to sound like it from 1978 should be, repetitive, catchy, spiky and contains enough swearing to make your father stuff a hankie into his ears.

All sorts of bloody brilliant.

Here’s the other two singles from it – but just buy/stream the album, yeah, you won’t regret it.

The Ladder – Vintage Crop (2020, Anti Fade Records)

Gridlock – Vintage Crop (2020, Anti Fades Records)

The Sunday Shuffle #26

Only Memories Remain (demo version) – My Morning Jacket (2015, Capitol Records)

Today’s randomly chosen track was picked by my phone on the way back from an evening drinking session at a mates house.  I say session, it was all very refined, three bottles of local Devon ale and a small rum and ginger for the walk home.  The walk home isn’t far, about a mile and to make things interesting for me, I decide that whatever song was playing when I reached Badger Corner would be todays randomly shuffled track.

Badger Corner is so named because about two years ago, when walking back at almost the same time of night, a badger leapt out the hedge and attacked me.   Well, it leapt out the hedge at least, and made me scream like a four year old who has been told its time to leave the playpark because mummy has to go to Asda and pick up some broccoli.   After leaping out the hedge, teeth bared, fangs (probably) dripping in blood, the badger growled like some form of devil dog and ran off up the hill.  I’m pretty sure I heard it laughing its badgery laugh in the field behind the hedges about ten minutes later when I’d stopped shaking.  I may have said this before, but badgers rock.  They are the animal equivalent of Lemmy from Motorhead.

On this occasion though, there were no badgers, well none that I saw at least, then again I was making as much bloody noise as I could without being a public nuisance. 

The song that was playing (loudly) when I reached Badger Corner was ‘Only Memories Remain’ by big bearded alt-country superstars My Morning Jacket.  It is taken from their seventh album ‘The Waterfall’.  ‘Only Memories Remain’ is a tremendous track, a song which is essentially saying goodbye to a loved one.  It’s sparse, soulful and really showcases the range of Jim James’ voice.  It feels kind of intimate but warm and welcoming at the same time.  I think he sound a lot of Lennon around the time he recorded ‘Jealous Guy’ on it, which considering he is from Kentucky and not Toxeth, that is quite an achievement.  

The version that came on was the demo version, so here just in case you were interested is the album version.

Only Memories Remain – My Morning Jacket (2015, Capitol Records)

This was the song that preceded it by the way and probably did enough to keep the badgers away, although I like to think of them behind the hedge, all moshing away, whilst ripped to the nostrils on Jack Daniels.

Milk It – Nirvana (1993, Geffen Records)

Nearly Perfect Albums – #24

Radiator – Super Furry Animals

Demons – Super Furry Animals (1997, Creation Records)

Is this the first record in this series that is on Creation Records?  I think it might be, it’s definitely not the last that much I do know (and I might do a whole month dedicated to Creation Records releases soon).  Anyway before that, let’s talk about ‘Radiator’ the brilliant, relentless second studio album from the Super Furry Animals.  It is an album that I think moves away from the strange slightly skewed version of Britpop that their first album ‘Fuzzy Logic’ delivered and is more an album steeped in experimental pop sounds and dalliances with some seriously distorted techno.  It is also an album brimming with confidence and exceptional lyrics.

None more so than in the single ‘Hermann loves Pauline’ which is essentially about Albert Einstein’s parents, but takes on an acid laden path via Ernesto Guevera and Marie Curie (“Ha, French BREAD!!)

Hermann Loves Pauline – Super Furry Animals (1997, Creation Records)

There are so many highlights on this record, you could of course just talk about the other singles on it, the swooping country brass tinged, smoke flavoured ballad that is ‘Demons’.  Or the wonderfully dysfunctional leftfield indie pop of ‘Play It Cool’.

If ‘Demons’ had been released in the Britpop era it would have catapulted the band from being ‘popular’ to instant megastars, only for the band to have driven all over that status in their bright blue techno tank a few months later.  

Wonderful as all that is, it is the last three songs on ‘Radiator’ that pushes it from being a simply brilliant album to one that is nearly perfect.  It is during these three songs that you see all the ideas that the band have blending together, ideas that seemingly grew into other songs for other albums.  The slow burning but brilliant ‘Down A Different River’ is a song that reflects on a cocaine misadventure, it blends lofi Americana with the merest hint of electronica and its utterly captivating

Down A Different River – Super Furry Animals (1997, Creation Records)

The album closes with a massive sing along, the chest puffing, fist raising epic that is ‘Mountain People’.  A song that if the Welsh Assembly had any sense, they would lobby whoever they need to in order to make it the Welsh National Anthem as soon as possible.  Although the musical breakdown at the end, which features all manner of electronic spluttering, relentless out of sorts drum beats and mangled bleeps, (all of it totally unexpected) might prove awkward at future sporting events. 

Mountain People – Super Furry Animals (1997, Creation Records)

A Linked Series – #6

Dinner Lady – Cabbage (2016, Skeleton Key Records)

Our last entry in this series saw us in Liverpool being entertained by Ladytron.  From there we have hopped along the M62 and eventually find ourselves in the town of Mossley.  When we get there we find five scruffy oiks graffitiing a bus shelter with ant establishment slogans and throwing shopping trollies into the river. 

Their attitude is astounding, their swagger, their confidence, their knowing looks all suggest that they may just be the future of rock.  So we stop them ‘Spraying ‘Fuck the Tories’ on the wall of Poundland and ask them – “Who are you and why are the future of rock”

“We” they spit, “are a five piece collective, intent on destroying rock music from inside” they stop and look us in the eyes, “We are Cabbage”.

Hmm.   We are unconvinced that any band named after a vegetable can destroy the rock music from inside, until someone forms a punk band called Parsnip Envy that is at least.

When Cabbage first erm, sprouted, into the music world, they were quickly touted as the next big Manchester sensation.  One paper called them the ‘Next Buzzcocks’ another likened them to The Fall which to be honest was more than enough evidence to explore them.

Comparisons to the Fall are quite justified, they produce a garage rock rumble alongside lyrics that hail from performance poetry and angry dissatisfaction at the political landscape.  The lyrics are satirical, at times juvenile (lines about wanking into quiches) and full of really quite good puns. ‘Dinner Lady’ is taken from their debut EP ‘Le Chou’ which was released about six years and its excellently vile, especially as like all good records should, it starts with a band member vomiting into a bin. Here’s another track from ‘Le Chou’ EP.

Contactless Payment – Cabbage (2016, Skeleton Key Records)

So where do we go from here, we could hang around in the outskirts of Manchester and explore bands who ‘weren’t quite from Manchester’ like this lot from Oldham, which is just up the road from Mossley.

She Comes In the Fall – Inspiral Carpets (1989, Mute Records)

Or as usual we could look at songs or bands that have a meal in their name. Like this little alt-rock ditty from Chicago based noiseniks Twin Peaks

Making Breakfast – Twin Peaks (2014, Grand Jury Records)

Or we could explore bands or songs that have food or more specifically vegetables in their name like this mob.

Californication – Red Hot Chilli Peppers (2000, Warner Bros Records)

Oh and by the way – just in case

Major League Music #5 – Minnesota Twins

Rock and Roll is Alive (and It lives in Minneapolis) – Prince (1995, Warner Bros Records)

In 2017, I sat in a small bar just off the main drag in the French Quarter of New Orleans and watched on a massive screen a play off game between the Twins and Yankees from New York (more on them later).  I was sat with a guy, Dan, who I’d met on the Algiers Ferry about two hours ago and my friend Jason. Dan was a massive Twins fan. He wasn’t feeling positive about the match though. 

He told me that in 1991, the Twins won what was (in his opinion) the greatest World Series contest ever.  The final match went to the baseball equivalent of ‘extra time’ and was sealed in the 11th innings by a flying catch from the right hand side of the field. Dan tells me it was one of the greatest days of his life, but he was only 13 at the time. 

That was the last time the Twins won the World Series.  As Dan, refills our glasses from the massive jug of beer that sits in front of us, a chap from the Yankees hits a Home Run on the screen.  Dan starts talking again, apparently since 2002, the Twins have qualified for the Post Season Shoot Outs six times, and they have failed to win a match.  Four of the previous five post season matches have taken place against the Yankees.  The Twins NEVER beat the Yankees and just to reiterate the point he whacks the desk and spills the beer.

About 90 minutes later we walk out of the bar and into the jazz dive bar across the road.  The Twins having lost. Again.

The Twins are based in the twin cities of Minneapolis – St Pauls, so all the music from here in will feature bands from those cities, that way I don’t have to post anything by Duluth boy Bob Dylan.

So let’s start here, because, well, because we shouldn’t need an excuse should we..?

Don’t Want to Know if You Are Lonely – Husker Du (1986, Warner Bros Records)

Husker Du formed in St Paul in the late seventies and are one of the most influential post hardcore punk bands that there is. The list of bands that cite them as influences is pretty long, but Kurt Cobain once said that “Nirvana is nothing new, Husker Du did all this way before we did” and that folks should be recommendation enough for you to check them out.

Next up, a quick trip along Route 64 and something from the best band to have ever formed at a barbecue and the first band that Courtney Love ever performed with (although the band deny this and claim it might have been ‘just a rehearsal’).

Handsome and Gretel – Babes In Toyland (1990, Sub Pop Records)

Bringing it all a bit full circle we come to a band who are also massive Twins fans and a band who recorded a version of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ so that it can be played at every Twins home match.  Sadly I can’t find a copy of it anywhere.

Chips Ahoy – The Hold Steady (2006, Vagrant Records)

And finally, this weeks not heard before band picked at random from a local music page are…Durry, a brother/sister duo who “combine 80s synths with Fall Out Boy Records and getting your glasses smashed”.  Interesting concept, but are they any good…? We will be the judge of that.

Who’s Laughing Now – Durry (2021, Self Released)

(Next Week Seattle – and I can’t think of a single band that’s ever come from there)