It’s Monday, Let’s Swear – #17

The Man Don’t Give a Fuck – Super Furry Animals (1996, Creation Records)

As per yesterday, this is going to be the last sweary Monday track for a little while.  It has been a series which at times has been puerile (The Teenagers), downright disgusting (Azaliea Banks), thought provoking (Eels) and disturbing (Primal Scream) but has always started the week off with some decent swearing.

There is a reason for putting this series on hold.  All will be explained from next Monday, which if my maths is correct will be June 27th.  Anyway before that let’s have one final good old swear.  ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’ was the inspiration to this series – well that and the entire back catalogue of Anal C____.  It is probably the finest sweary song in existence.

Around ten years ago, possibly longer, I was waiting for a bus in Exeter City Centre.  Across the road from the bus stop was a pedestrian area where a guy with a guitar, a small amp and a mike had been playing a few songs.  He wasn’t bad but he also wasn’t very good.  My bus appeared to be no in rush so I sat and watched the chap, about two minutes later a couple of security guards start talking to him, they are the security guards from the nearby posh jewellery shop and they seem to have taken offence at chappie’s second rate Beatles covers.  There is some finger pointing and chappie then just shrugs his shoulders and launches into ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash.  The guards walk off.  As soon as they have gone, chappie segues, not quite seamlessly into a verse of ‘The Man Don’t Give a Fuck’.  It is subvertly brilliant in a not very brilliant sort of way, and as my bus rolls in, almost perfectly timed, I nip over and shove a couple of quid in his hat. 

The Man Don’t Give A Fuck (Live) – Super Furry Animals (1996, Creation Records)

Jumpin’ Jack Flash –  The Rolling Stones (1968, Decca Records)

The Sunday Shuffle – #26

Angel – Belly (1993, 4AD Records)

So, this going to be the last Sunday Shuffle for a little while, at least until the autumn.  Don’t worry I’ve marked the page; we won’t forget where we are.  There is a reason for this, I’m moving the Major League Music series to Sundays.  There is a reason for that as well but that will be explained in all good time.  A bunch of people know why. 

Anyway, until then, let’s get on with business.  Today’s track was chosen by the reinvigorated iPod Nano as we walked back from the daily school run.  It was the track playing when I reached the end of horse poo alley.  So called because horses seem to enjoy pooing in that area.

Belly were formed in 1991 and were essentially a vehicle for ex Throwing Muse Tanya Donnelly.  In a short space of time she managed to take Belly to places that Throwing Muses never really went.  Their debut album, the excellent ‘Star’ went Top Five in the UK and the first two singles from the wonderful ‘Gepetto’ and ‘Feed the Tree’ both filled indie dancefloors for a long time afterwards.  They arrived at the time when grunge was still exploding in the UK and their blend of sugar coated indie pop resonated with fans of bands like The Lemonheads and others who purposedly sat on the lighter more pop orientated side of the grunge movement.

Gepetto – Belly (1993, 4AD Records)

Feed the Tree – Belly (1993 4AD Records)

‘Angel’ the track selected by the Nano is a bit of belter too, it has a kind of woozy psychedelia running though it alongside that familiar, almost comforting jangle that Belly did so well.

Oh and happy father’s day to you all dads out there, wherever they maybe.

Nearly Perfect Albums – #29

Either/Or – Elliott Smith

Out of all the records that I have earmarked for discussion in this series, ‘Either/Or’ was the last album to be added to the list, as I only bought it about six weeks ago.  This is because I was very late to the Elliott Smith party, but right now he is the artist that I am listening to more than any other.  ‘Either/Or’ is a wonderful record, a bonafide classic, that saw him gracefully move from being a troubled but intimate folk singer to a troubled but intimate superstar in the waiting. 

Speed Trials – Elliott Smith (1997, Kill Rock Stars Records)

If you needed music proof of Smith’s sudden move to being famous indeed, you can take a listen to ‘Speed Trials’, there is a moment in this song about 90 seconds in where it feels like someone has switched on the lights because suddenly Smith sounds more punchy and more awake that he ever had previously.  In Smith’s case, this means a vocal that develops into something more than just a whisper.

‘Either/Or’ is an album that explores many emotional themes love, depression and ultimately addiction, or rather alienation caused by addiction.  The most obvious one of these is ‘Between the Bars’ which is kind of a love song about addiction, but kind of not a love song about addiction, if that makes sense.  Either way, it a hugely brilliant song.

Between the Bars – Elliott Smith (1997, Kill Rock Stars Records)

Despite the songs about alienation and depression, it isn’t album that sounds or feels massively negative.  Instead, it feels perceptive, it feels like a record that doesn’t really care if people like it or not, but one that just wants you to accept that this is how it is going to be.  Its all the more beautiful for it.  The way that songs like ‘Ballad of Big Nothing’ if recorded by anyone other than Elliott Smith  would have been drenched with a well-placed string quartet, but here on ‘Either/Or’ they are not because they are just perfectly fine as Smith originally intended them to be.

Balled of Big Nothing – Elliott Smith (1997, Kill Rock Star Records)

Musically, it fluctuates as well, between songs that used trademark, intimate semi acoustic guitar backdrop which you expect from Smith and a more beefed up riff based song which if nothing else highlight how good a guitar player Elliott Smith was.   Here is an example of both from the album.

Angeles – Elliott Smith (1997, Kill Rock Star Records)

Cupid’s Trick – Elliott Smith (1997, Kill Rock Star Records)

As I said earlier in this piece, right now I’m listening to a lot of music by Elliott Smith and whilst the beauty of ‘Either/Or’ is slightly damaged by the fact that we cannot unknow how it all ended, one thing I clear, this record sits alone at the top of his releases.

Say Yes – Elliott Smith (1997, Kill Rock Stars Records)

….ing bands #4 Kings of Leon

Mollys Chambers – Kings of Leon (2003, Sony Records)

I was squashed inside the New Band tent at Glastonbury on a Saturday afternoon the last time I saw the Kings of Leon.  I can imagine that it will be a long time before I see them play anywhere like that again as they are more likely to be headlining than playing a relatively small tent.  I am also guessing that if that ever happens I probably won’t want to see the Kings of Leon anyway.

It was about two weeks before the bands debut album ‘Youth and Young Manhood’ was due for release (but the reviews had already been incredible and it Is a record that if it were not for the awful honky tonk toss fest that is ‘Talihina Sky’ that ends it would have crept its way into the Nearly Perfect category) but the band had been tearing up the UK and the day before the festival, The Guardian, pretty much the go to place for decent unbiased music reviews back then, called the band:

the kind of authentic, hairy rebels the Rolling Stones longed to be”

Seemingly about 750,000 read that review and agreed because nearly all of them were trying to get into the New Band Tent (Now the John Peel Stage) on that afternoon. 

And of course, the band were amazing live. For once the hype appeared to be justified.  By the time, about 20 minutes later the band played the extraordinarily brilliant ‘Holy Roller Novocaine’ the crowd was pretty much whipped up into a frenzy.  Each song, whether we knew it or not was greeted with rapturous applause and everyone just stood there chanting “Leon, Leon, Leon” it was all a bit primal to be honest but at the same everyone in that tent, knew we were witnessing something very special indeed.  I saw a lot of bands that weekend, but none of them even got even remotely close to topping that gig.  Still to this day one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to.

Holy Roller Novocaine – Kings of Leon (2003, Sony Records)

The Kings of Leon were back then incredible, incendiary live shows, tremendous dress sense, even better facial hair and the tunes and swagger to match all that.  They looked and acted like rockstars.

Spiral Staircase – Kings of Leon (2003, Sony Records)

All of which we know. 

What we don’t know of course, is why in the name of everything that is sane and holy did the band manage to go from being the new improved Rolling Stones to the sort of band who record dire shitshows like this

Waste A Moment – Kings of Leon (2016, Sony Records)

in just over ten years….

Major League Music – #9 Texas Rangers

Texas Never Whispers – Pavement (1993, Big Cat Records)

Every week the Major League publishes it’s ‘Power Rankings’, basically a run down of which teams are hot and which are not.  My team the Kansas City Royals are currently so far away from being hot that they are hiding inside a large freezer.  They currently sit rock bottom of the Power Rankings and so are once again seemingly the worst team in the Major League.  The team currently at the top of the rankings??  The bloody Yankees.

Today’s team are the Dallas based Texas Rangers, (who are currently 17th in the Power Rankings) who I know very little about.  What I do know is that they have previously been owned by what some people might describe as a right shower of shit.  In 1989, the club was sold for $89 million to a consortium headed up by George W Bush, or the King of Stoopid as he is known round these parts.  In 1998 the club was sold again to a man who is more hated in Merseyside than Piers Morgan and Boris Johnson put together, Tom Hicks.  In 2010, Hicks sold the club to its current owners.  Meaning for the first time in at least thirty years the Texas Rangers appear to be owned by individuals who do not appear to be morally bankrupt assholes. 

The change in ownership in 2010 also coincided with an upturn in the fortunes of the Rangers, who reached two successive World Series Finals but lost them both (to San Francisco and St Louis respectively).  They remain one of the few teams to have never won the World Series and judging by their form over the last two seasons that isn’t going to change anytime soon. 

Musically, Dallas is all about folk and country music having given the world people like LeAnne Rimes, Old 97s and Maren Morris, none of which I am in that much of hurry to listen to.  Away from fiddles and videos shot in big ol’ barns, Dallas has spawned at least two bonafide legends. 

Firstly, Meat Loaf was born and grew up in Dallas and he remains to this day the only singer to have released a Christmas album in March, that’s how leftfield and relevant Meat was.  The second legend to have been born in Dallas was hip hop pioneer Vanilla Ice, who could regularly be seen in Dallas nightclubs on open mic nights.  When he’d finished cleaning the tables, he sometimes was allowed to clean the toilets.

Aside from Ice and Loaf one of the biggest musical acts to have come of Dallas in recent years is Erykah Badu, who apart from Michael Stipe, remains the best person to have performed on Sesame Street.

Love of My Life (an ode to hip hop) – Erykah Badu (2002, MCA Records)

In 2002 the Dallas formed choral rock band The Polyphonic Spree had a (somewhat surprising?) Top 40 hit in the UK with ‘Light and Day’ and has since been used to advertise Sainsburys, which I suspect is exactly the audience that Tim DeLaughter was looking for when he wrote it.

Light and Day – The Polyphonic Spree (2002, 679 Recordings)

There were of course several members of The Polyphonic Spree when they first started out, one of them was a young lady called Annie Clark, who a few years later went on to be better known to us as St Vincent.

Digital Witness – St Vincent (2014, Republic Records)

And this weeks previously unheard of band dragged back from the cliff edge of obscurity to the relative warmth of the car park café is the wonderfully named and Internet unfriendly Hen and the Cocks, who apparently sound like “what Green Day would sound like if Patti Smith was their singer”.  Well, we will be judge of that (they sound like a bit like Babes in Toyland though).

Speed – Hen and the Cocks (2021, Unknown Label)

Next Week – Colorado

Oh and its my birthday today, feel free to shower me with gifts I don’t mind them being late.

The Never Ending Playlist – #45

Bend Over – Wagon Christ (2001, Ninja Tune Records)

IPod Nano update, because I know that you haven’t been able to sleep since the news broke on Sunday morning. 

It’s fixed. 

Not sure how or why or indeed what I did, but yesterday before I pressed the big blue button which said ‘PURCHASE’.  I gave the Nano one last chance to wake up.  I held the off button down for about thirty seconds and suddenly from literally nowhere the apple logo appeared. 

It was fuzzy and bit blurry, almost as if my Nano had a bit of a hangover, but it looked like it was working, the screen whirled and then a picture formed on the screen.  It was the cover art for ‘Bend Over’ by Wagon Christ.  A song I didn’t even know I had on my iPod Nano. 

My mind raced, had my iPod on awakening from its owner indued coma, suddenly inherited a load of songs from somewhere else.  Would it suddenly start speaking Russian?  Of course not. It was just a song that I had loaded but had never been played.  Which is a shame because its marvellous slice of wonky dance pop that hints at a darker side with its sample of a lad in (one assumes) youth custody who is being invited to a ‘big house with a pool’ – the lad being all too aware of what he might need to do if he goes there.

Regardless the Nano appears to have forgiven me for my carelessness and I resolved there and then to make it a nice comfortable iPod bed to travel around in to keep it safe. 

Its good to have you back buddy.  You fancy a trip to Bedfordshire in a couple of weeks?

The Distance – Cake (1996, Capricorn Records)

Music Found in Charity Shops – #8

Lipstick Traces – Manic Street Preachers (2003, Sony Records)

Bought Oxfam, Exeter for £2.49

Spectators of Suicide – Manic Street Preachers (2003, Sony Records)

There is only thing worse than the stench of a major label flogging a Greatest Hits Package to diehard fans of a particular band.  That is the stench of a major label flogging a B Sides and Rarities Package to diehard fans of a particular band.  There are very few compilation albums of this type that appear to be worth getting.  This one is no different.  Sort of. To misquote some pundit somewhere, its an album of two halves.  The first CD is excellent, the second is not.

The first CD of this album contains 20 songs that saw a release as a B Side to one of the singles that the Manic Street Preachers released from their first six albums.  Not taking away anything that the band have released since their sixth album, but that was pretty much the bands golden period, for the first four at least, the Manics mattered and I for one would have travelled a great distance to see them play.  Hell I would have stood outside with an ear trumpet if it mattered.  Like all great bands, Manics B-Sides were at times as good as the A -Sides and this collection of songs are just that.

For starters, the opening track ‘Prologue to History’ is superb, a smashing slice of piano led punk pop.  The piano intro sounding uncannily like the opening to ‘Wrote for Luck’ but it hinted very early of what might be to come.

Prologue to History – Manic Street Preachers (2003, Sony Records)

There are other highlights too, ‘Dead Trees and Traffic Islands’ for one, which I think was the B Side on one of the ‘Design for Life’ singles, sounds like a track that should have perhaps made it on to an album because its great.

Dead Trees and Traffic Islands – Manic Street Preachers (2003, Sony Records)

Its when you get to the cover version CD that things go downhill very quickly.  Sure there is a rather lovely version of ‘Bright Eyes’ and the bands version of ‘Wrote For Luck’ is superb but the rest are either live versions that sound like they were recorded from the car park or just not very good. The version of Nirvana’s ‘Been A Son’ sounds flat and I rather wish that they hadn’t bothered.

Been A Son – Manic Street Preachers (2003, Sony Records)

Bright Eyes (Live) – Manic Street Preachers (2003, Sony Records)

If you see this in a charity, keep the first disc, ditch the second.

Its Monday, Let’s Swear – #16

Pills – Primal Scream (2000, Creation Records)

Bobby calm down.  

It’s ok mate, it was only an iPod Nano, seriously I can buy another one in which I can reload all your best songs and jog past the marina in Torquay as you warble on about syphilitic aliens and whatnot and then when I get home, I can continue to tell the world how great you are.  Honestly, it’s ok.  Be Cool.

Slight diversion here, a few years ago me and the wife travelled down to Cornwall to watch Primal Scream at the Eden Project on the 20th anniversary ‘Screamadelica’ tour.  We stayed the night at a Bed and Breakfast in the wilds of the St Austell countryside.  We told the owner we would be back quite late as we were going to the Eden Project to see Primal Scream.  She was pretty oblivious to who they were.  The following morning as we ate our organic granola and drunk our freshly squeezed juice in the rose garden, the owner asked us how our “Primeval Scream” was. 

Oh how we laughed at her ignorance.

But you see, she was clever our hostess, because before asking us that question she had clearly been listening to ‘Pills’ the most furious track on Primal Scream’s most furious album, the vowel hating, government baiting wonder that it ‘XTRMNTR’.  Because folks ‘Pills’ is as close, musically, as you will ever get to hearing an actual Primeval Scream laid down on wax – or whatever it is you lay music down on these days.

Essentially ‘Pills’ is the briefest of glances inside the head of Bobby Gillespie, or perhaps in this case, it’s a glimpse inside his bathroom cabinet.  Based on the final third of ‘Pills’ that ain’t a pretty place, but then again, practically no one expected it to be.  What essentially starts as your average Primal Scream song (one of the weakest on the xcllnt ‘xtrmntr’) descends into a nightmarish clash of sounds, strings, beats, shouts, yelps, but mostly pretty impressive swearing.

Exterminator (Massive Attack Mix) – Primal Scream (2000 Creation Records)

The Sunday Shuffle – #25

Seagull – Ride (1990, Creation Records)

I dropped my iPod Nano today.

 It hit the wooden floor in my lounge with a clunk, bounced slightly, flipped and then clunked on the wooden floor again.  I was about to go for a run.  I only moved to grab my keys and the stupid thing slipped out of my hand.

I picked it up, these things are hardy little chaps I told myself it will be fine.  The screen is black, but it was switched off before I dropped it.  Was it always that black? I ask myself with a shiver.  I press the little button on the top expecting to see the little apple symbol appear and then it slowly burst back into life. 

But there is nothing. 

I do a reset or try to.  Nothing.

I rub the screen, thinking that it will make a difference, I try the on switch again, I turn the volume up and then down again.  Still nothing.  

I decide to leave it for a bit, its probably just dazed.  I go for my run and when I get back, I do all the above again and then I plug it into a laptop which tells me with an angry sounding beep that “The Device is Not Recognised”. 

Shit.

The iPod Nano is buggered. 

It’s one of my most precious possessions, we’ve travelled the world together me and that Nano.  We’ve run around the back streets of various towns, villages, cities, fields and tracks together.  We’ve clambered up rocks on Dartmoor together, we’ve walked around the chaotic old town of Tbilisi, we’ve watched street magicians in New Orleans, travelled in a lift to the top of the Calgary tower, we’ve watched the mist roll in across Lyme Bay as I sat on a well positioned bench and nibbled a Chelsea Bun. 

And I dropped you. 

Today’s track is therefore chosen by my phone and it was followed by this

The Dark of the Matinee – Franz Ferdinand (2004, Domino Records)

But frankly I’m not in the mood today.

Nearly Perfect Albums – #28

Rounds – Four Tet

According to Neil Young and then St Etienne ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’.  I’m prepared to bet a rather large bag of doughnuts that Neil Young has never listened to ‘My Angel Rocks Back and Forth’ by Four Tet.  That folks with break your heart into two very even and symmetrical parts and leave you weeping like a lovesick puppy, on the kitchen floor. 

My Angel Rocks Back and ForthFour Tet (2003, Domino Records)

It is simply one of the most beautiful pieces of music you will ever hear.  It is essentially a ballad with no words, that chimes and tinkles away at your senses.  It is led by that most post rock of instruments, a harp, which is plucked (or in this case I imagine, sampled) away sweetly while a scratchy beat whispers alongside it.  Its marvellous in a “man I must stop chopping onions whilst listening to this track kind of way”.

As marvellous as it is, ‘My Angel Rocks Back and Forth’ isn’t even the best track on this album.  For that you have to look at ‘As Serious as your Life’ which blends Tibetan chimes, strings, acoustic guitars and then mutates them all together until it sounds like nothing on earth.  Its utterly unique and utterly amazing. 

As Serious as your Life – Four Tet (2003, Domino Records)

That’s the thing with ‘Rounds’ it’s unique.  There is simply nothing that sounds anything like it.   Here stands a record that was recorded, mixed and probably produced on a laptop, and it sounds otherworldly, timeless, heartfelt and incredible.  A record that was so hard to pigeonhole that the NME created an entirely new genre for it and then immediately made Four Tet the flagbearers for that scene.  They called it ‘Folktronica’, though it was quickly, like, nearly all of the other scenes that the NME invented, ignored.  ‘Rounds’ is a dance record, simple as that.  It’s just a dance record that you don’t want to dance to, because you want to listen to its intricate beauty, the way harps mix with hip hop beats, or the way that weird noises merge together to make a noise like no instrument on earth should sound like.

She Move She – Four Tet (2003, Domino Records)

I can see why they coined the genre ‘Folktronica’ though, it is an album heavily influenced by folk music. But its also an album influenced by hip hop (‘She Moves She’ clearly has its roots set in hip hop) and R & B.  But ultimately it’s the uniqueness that sets this aside, ‘Spirit Fingers’ for instance, mixes perfectly a violin led jig against what sounds like a house beat, its insane but it makes you giddy with its hypnotising brilliance.

Spirit Fingers – Four Tet (2003, Domino Records)