Give It Another Spin – #5

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants – Oasis

Where Did It All Go Wrong? – Oasis (2000, Big Brother Records)

Because, wrong it did indeed go.  The signs were there, ‘Be Here Now’, which could have and still might one day be another contender for this series, was as records go a bit of a duffer.  But we just pushed it one side because we believed them when Oasis told us that they would ‘Live Forever’.  But by the time, the pompously named ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants’ arrived we all knew they Oasis were finished and that they were as the song goes “just a band”.

I haven’t listened to ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants’ for about fifteen years.  It’s in the loft in the sealed box marked “Don’t save in a fire” but the other day as I shuffled the music on the iPad ‘Where Did It All Go Wrong?’ came on (which as it happens, it a decent tune) and I decided to give it another spin to see if I still think its the bloated turd I always thought it was.

The answer is, yes I do. It’s an awful record, clunking, half arsed, half finished and but for the saving grace of four tracks, utterly devoid any of the swaggering attitude that oozed from everything Oasis did and said before it. Christ, at times Liam Gallagher sounds likes he has totally forgotten that he is in Oasis.

Fuckin’ In The Bushes – Oasis (2000, Big Brother Records)

It says something when the best track on an Oasis album is an instrumental, but ‘Fuckin’ in the Bushes’ is just that.  It’s the only track on the album that actually treads, or threatens to at least, new ground, with its drum loops that are clearly influenced by Noel’s interactions with acts like The Chemical Brothers.   If the rest of this album had even half of the arrogance of this, then ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants’ would be at least, ‘quite good’.   That track at least hinted that somewhere behind the dust and the haze, Oasis were still there.

The other saving graces are the single ‘Go Let It Out’ which whilst nothing new, does at least hark back to a time when Oasis ruled the world, and one that gets a little better each time I listen to it.  ‘Go Let It Out’ might just be the forgotten Oasis classic.

Go Let It Out – Oasis (2000, Big Brother Records)

The other saving grace may surprise some of you because, its Liam Gallaghers songwriting debut, ‘Little James’.  Lyrically, its far from brilliant but there is something about ‘Little James’ that tugs at your heartstrings, even if it is as complex as a 12 piece Peppa Pig puzzle, but then again most of the great Oasis songs are not as complex as that.

Little James – Oasis (2000, Big Brother Records)

You can argue that when ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants’ was made, the band was in perhaps in a state of flux, having two of the bands original members quit, and Liam and Noel basically couldn’t stand each other whilst they recorded it, and that affected it’s quality.  Well perhaps, but Oasis never really recovered from this record, the damage had I think been done.

Major League Music – #9 Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore – Nina Simone (1978, Epic Records)

For those of you, who like me didn’t know, an Oriole is a bird and not a badly spelt biscuit. The Baltimore Oriole is a type of blackbird and its so named because of the similarity between the coat of arms for Lord Baltimore and the male oriole. I bet you are glad that you started to read this now.

The baseball team of the same name has been in Baltimore since 1954, but the team itself are one of the original members of the major league. I think before the Yankees were the Yankees, they might have been the Orioles. Anyway, the Orioles have won three World Series Titles, the last being back in 1983 and in recent years they have been in a bit of a slump, rather like the Kansas City Royals. They have just two post season appearances in the last 10 years or so. Their fan base and TV money having been severely damaged in 2004 when the Montreal based team the Expos moved to Washington to become the Nationals. Since the Nationals emerged the average attendance at Baltimore games has dropped from nearly 33,000 in 2004 to just under 10,000 in 2021. Baseball fans are it seems as fickle as football fans.

Musically, Baltimore, like seemingly everywhere in the US, can boast a rich heritage. It is perhaps most well known for its jazz scene which can be dated back over a hundred years. In the 1960s, a man called Jimmy Smith twisted the sound of the Hammond Organ in ways that had never been heard before and created a whole new Baltimore Jazz Scene.

Straight Ahead – Jimmy Smith (1972, Verve Records)

More recently, the city has recently given us a host of excellent bands, with the likes of Beach House, Future Islands and Wye Oak all emerging from the city within the last fifteen years or so. Baltimore has also given us Dan Deacon and Animal Collective – both of whom deserve your immediate attention

Myth – Beach House (2012, Sub Pop Records)

Seasons (Waiting on You) – Future Islands (2014, 4AD Records)

Shriek – Wye Oak (2014, City Slang Records)

This weeks previously unheard act who will be catapulted from relatively obscure to slightly less obscurity via the medium of this blog is Pangelica. Who apparently forms part of a thriving underground in Baltimore and makes ‘avant-garde hip-hop meets space rock and haunting left-field pop’ but we will be the judge of that.

Saturn Returns (Monsters In your Bed) – Pangelica (2021, Devine Records)

Next week….Texas…..

The Never Ending Playlist – #45

Sweet Smoke – Mr Scruff (2002, Ninja Tune Records)

Back in the first period of lockdown (remember that, it was weird, people genuinely being nice to each other, and you know doing stuff that was helpful) I taught my daughter how to DJ. Well sort of, bearing in mind I am a self taught DJ who can’t mix and has no idea what half the buttons on the system do or mean. Anyway, to practise we downloaded some free software mucked about a bit and then made a mix tape. We used three albums to make this mix tape. ‘Moon Safari’ by Air and two compilation albums released by Ninja Tunes and I let my daughter loose on them. ‘Sweet Smoke’ by Mr Scruff opened that mixtape, and it is a song that I have a lot of time and love for.

In fact I (and most of you I would imagine) heard ‘Sweetsmoke’ months before I realised that it was Mr Scruff that had recorded it. The reason for this is that for about ten months, ‘Sweetsmoke’ was the soundtrack used by any reality tv show to depict sunny scenes or scenes involving fun things. It was literally everywhere.

It’s easy to understand why all those TV companies used it to soundtrack their summers. It is a splendid piece of music. Slabs of wobbly sounding keyboards battling for supremacy against a dubtastic bassline and the odd snippets of vocals.

‘Sweet Smoke’ is taken from the second album by Mr Scruff, which is the rather excellently named ‘Trouser Jazz’ and that comes highly recommended as well. Here are two more tracks from it, which featured on things all over the place including car adverts, video games and episodes of The Bill.

Beyond – Mr Scruff (2002, Ninja Tune Records)

Shrimp – Mr Scruff (2002, Ninja Tunes Records)

Lost Indie Classics – #8

Palomine – Bettie Serveert (1992, Guernica Records)

In 1977, Virginia Wade became (I think) the last British female player to win Wimbledon. In that final she beat Betty Stöve from Holland. This tiny largely irrelevant matter would have perhaps been lost in the annals of time and reserved for a particularly dull episode of Eggheads, if it wasn’t for the fact that a few years later, Betty went on to write a book about tennis. She called that book ‘Bettie Serves‘ or to give it is proper Dutch name ‘Bettie Serveert‘. A few years later, an Amsterdam based four piece saw the name, liked it and used it for their band.

That opening paragraph was folks, nearly everything I know about Dutch indie rock and, as it happens, very little of it was actually about Dutch indie rock. The only other thing I know was that in 1992, Bettie Serveert briefly threatened (albeit politely) to rearrange the indie rock map and move the centre of its universe from Camden to Amsterdam. The reason for that was their rather wonderful debut album ‘Palomine’ and the single with the same name.

‘Palomine’ (the track) is a brilliant slab of early 90s indie pop. It’s the sort of song that builds to a tremendous crescendo, the instruments changing pace from relaxed to raucous as the song develops. Rather like the best bits of say, Veruca Salt or the Throwing Muses. The latter being an easy and lazy comparisons, but ultimately worthwhile seeing as Bettie Serveert eventually found a home at 4AD records.

Here’s a couple of other tracks from the excellent ‘Palomine’ album as well

Tomboy – Bettie Serveert (1992, Guernica Records)

Balentine – Bettie Serveert (1992, Guernica Records)

It’s Monday, Let’s Swear – #15

Agent Bla – Rote Learning (2017, Kanine Records)

A while ago a friend introduced by to an app which allowed you to listen to radio stations from across the world.  It’s called Radio Garden and its amazing.  I’ve literally lost hours down Internet radio rabbit holes, listening in to incredible live jazz sessions on French speaking Caribbean stations, or finding myself blown away by songs that features instruments I’ve never heard of on a Malian station that only appears to broadcast on Wednesday nights. 

One morning I was busy scrolling through the thousands of stations and I stumbled across the terribly named ‘Indie X FM’, a station dedicated to playing alternative music that is based in Los Angeles.  It was about 3 in the morning in Los Angeles and despite the terrible name their input at that time is extraordinarily good.  Old 80s indie records sit comfortably alongside new releases from the likes of Wet Leg and The Clockworks.

Pretty In Pink – Psychedelic Furs (1981, Columbia Records)

Angelica – Wet Leg (2022, Domino Records)

But regardless of that it was the stations carefree attitude to songs that are potty mouthed that hooked me in. Take ‘Rote Learning’ by Swedish ‘death pop’ sextet Agent Bla.  If the UK equivalent of Indie X FM (which would be the really awful Radio X) played ‘Rote Learning’ at any time of the day it would be kicked off the radio for good.

For those in the dark (which included me until about 20 minutes ago) Agent Bla are from Gothenburg who formed a band after discovering a shared loved of Joy Division and Slowdive.  They are signed to LA based Kanine Records and combine (it says here at least) goth, dream pop and post punk to make something they called ‘death pop’.  Folks they sound like Beach House with fuzzed up guitars and they might just be my new favourite band.

The Sunday Shuffle – #24

Activ -8 (Come With Me) – Altern 8 (1991, Network Records)

Todays randomly shuffled track is courtesy of the iPod Classic and was the song playing as I walked into the bakers to buy a mid morning snack (almond croissant and an Earl Grey tea).  Its by guitar burning, rave pioneers, Altern 8 and its very very good indeed and means I get to you about the time I went to the worlds worst illegal rave.

It’s the summer of 1995, and I have just spent a lovely evening at a riverside pub with my mates Jon and Chris.  We are now queuing up for a spicy hot potato from a chap who sells them out of the back of Bedford Rascal near the taxi rank.  As we are waiting we overhear a conversation about an illegal rave that is kicking off up in the woods near a village called Boxley.  We amble back to Chris’ car and discuss whether or not this rave would be worth checking out.

We decide it would be.   So we finish out potatoes and head off towards the village of Boxley.  When we get there it is about midnight and the village car park is deserted apart from one car over in the corner, which appears to have people inside it.  Jon decides to ignore the fact that we can’t hear any music and wanders over to the car to ask the occupants if they know where this supposed illegal rave is taking place.

He wanders back very quickly, seemingly content that the male and female in the car are not remotely interested in where the rave is taking place.  As he returns there is the sound of serious techno coming towards us.  Two cars drive past us and we decide to follow them, just in case they have more knowledge about this rave that we do, which wouldn’t be hard, as we’ve heard it from a guy who buys hot potatoes from a guy who has an oven in the back of a Bedford Rascal and thinks that squirting ‘Louisiana Hot Sauce’ over it makes it ‘special’.

But we are in luck the cars turn off the road and off up a track which leads to some woods, after half a mile we reach a clearing where there are about fifteen other cars – rave music blares out of the open doors of a small hatchback vehicle and people are milling around and some are genuinely dancing to it.  This it appears is the illegal rave and its rubbish on the grounds that it is neither illegal nor a rave, but a noisy makeshift car park.  We hung around for about ten minutes, in case an actual soundsystem happened to be passing and then we slowly drove away.

Evapor – 8 – Altern 8 (1992, Network Records)

Oh and as todays marks the 200th post from No Badger Required – here is a bonus tune

Nearly Perfect Albums – #27

Daydream Nation – Sonic Youth

When I was younger if anyone asked me what my favourite Sonic Youth album was I would always say ‘Sister’ because being an idiot I thought it was a more interesting answer than the correct answer.  Which is of course ‘Daydream Nation’ because that is the only answer you can give if you are asked that, admittedly, niche question.

 ‘Daydream Nation’ is essential, in fact its more than essential it’s the sound of American alt rock driving around in an open topped bus and announcing with some conviction that its about to change the face the music as we know it.    You only need about 50 seconds of album opener ‘Teenage Riot’ to know that but for the record I’ve never met a single person who has listened to this all the way through and not loved it.  Even if does call for J Masics of Dinosaur Jr to be made president.

Teenage Riot – Sonic Youth (1988, Enigma Records)

Its not just an alt rock album though.  God no.  It’s so much more than that.  At times it’s a proper hardcore punk album with songs that sneer and have ultra-quick drumming on it.  Then it will change gear and suddenly it’s a radio friendly pop album and just when you are used to that, Thurston Moore will up the feedback and open up his Big Box of My Bloody Valentine Effects Pedals and it’s a shoegaze record that features guitars that have been tortured with a rusty screwdriver. 

The Sprawl – Sonic Youth (1988, Enigma Records)

Then there are the vocals, one minute all melodic the next shouts and yelps, but it works magnificently. A perfect example of what I trying to explain can be heard on ‘Cross the Breeze’, which starts like a jangly indie pop record from the west coast of Scotland – well for the first thirty seconds at least after that it descends into frantic guitar solos that go off all over the place, drumming that sounds like a jackhammer digging up a road.  Then Kim Gordon’s vocals jump in, yelping a chorus and getting more insistent as the song goes on, and the music get gloriously chaotic all around her.

Cross the Breeze – Sonic Youth (1988, Enigma Records)

‘Hey Joni’ is another great example.  Which tricks you into thinking that this is going to be a slower more atmospheric track.  Then around 25 seconds it bursts into life and a punk rock song emerges.   Oh and around three minutes in is the greatest use of the words “Kick It” in a song ever, because it causes the band to knock it up another level of noise – yet despite all that, ‘Hey Joni’ is a wonderfully off kilter pop song.

Hey Joni – Sonic Youth (1988, Enigma Records)

For those of you who may never have spent an hour in a room with just ‘Daydream Nation’ for company, you are missing out.  It’s a total thrill, a record that redefined a scene and made a bunch of musicians sit up and take notice and most importantly it made them retune their guitars.

… Bands #3 – The Senseless Things

Homophobic Asshole – The Senseless Things (1992, Epic Records)

This is a story about a guy called Dan.  I met Dan whilst I was at college, he was in my A Level English class.  He was the most popular guy in the class.  Largely because he was pretty cool, really funny and just had this knack of being about to talk to anyone about anything, every time I saw Dan outside of college he would have a different girl on his arm, so he had the looks to match the personality. 

I used to socialise in the same pubs at Dan, a really old run down pub in the centre of Maidstone, it was frequented by the towns alternative crowd, had a landlord that turned a blind eye to people buying alcohol at 17 and had a free juke box that was filled with decent music.  Including as it happens the first album by Adam and the Ants

Catholic Day – Adam and the Ants (1979, Do It Records)

It was for a about a year, the greatest pub on the planet – before we discovered that there were better pubs within walking distance that would serve us as well.

One evening, a bunch of us were sitting at a table in the pub, there were four or five of us, including Dan who had ambled over to say hello.  We were talking about an upcoming Levellers gig and we’d all arranged to meet up in the pub before the gig.  It was a nice evening.

Belaruse – The Levellers (1993, China Records)

Which is when Mandy walked in.  Mandy was my friend’s sister and there’s loads of things you need to know about Mandy, including that she cooks a great breakfast, once got thrown off the Kilroy show for dropping the C Bomb live on TV and she worked behind the bar in another pub and was very liberal with her measures. But for the sake of this story, all you really need to know was that she used to be called Lee.

Mandy came over and sat with us – because, well she’s our mate – and the conversation continued.  Mandy was sat down next to Dan, and she introduced herself and Dan uttered these words

 “Don’t t speak to me you freak

Which is when Mandy punched him square on in the face.  Oh yeah there was another thing you needed to know about Mandy, when she was Lee, she worked on a building site heaving bricks all the over place.  She may look dainty and slight in a gold lame dress and matching size 11 shoes, but she packed a punch.  Just ask Kilroy. 

The punch sent Dan flying off his chair and on to the cold floor of the bar, which is where he remained for a good ten minutes.   Mandy meanwhile just idly continued the conversation.  In that short fifteen minute period my entire shallow perception of what constitutes being cool changed for ever, because Mandy, decking a homophobe and then casually turning round, as if she did this sort of thing every day (she probably did) and saying

 “I saw Stu from the bakers yesterday….” Like it was the most natural and obvious thing to say to a room of open mouthed half drunk teenagers, made her the coolest person on the planet right then.

Major League Music – #8 Chicago White Sox

Chicago – Sufjan Stevens

In 1917, the Chicago White Sox won their second World Series Title.  Their star player back then was a guy called Shoeless Joe Jackson.  He was called that because he once went out to bat shoeless, as he had blisters and as was the crudity of the baseball fans back then, someone heckled him and called him “A Shoeless Son of A Gun” and it stuck.  You may have heard of Shoeless Joe, as he was played in the film ‘Field of Dreams’ by Ray Liotta (R.I.P) about 70 years later or so.  Oh and continuing the ‘players named after items of clothing theme’, the head coach of the White Sox in 1917 was the amazingly named Pants Rowland.

It would be 87 years before the White Sox won the World Series again, that period is second longest period between championships in baseball history.  The longest is well over 100 years (held by the other team in Chicago, The Cubs, although they had a curse put on them, so at least they had an excuse for not winning).  In 2005, the White Sox soared to victory thrashing the Houston Astros 4 nil.  The series was famous for hosting the longest individual game in World Series history, with the Sox winning in an incredible 14th innings.

In the 1980s two major genres of music saw their growth in and around Chicago.  The first one was house music, which started when DJs like Steve ‘Silk Hurley and Frankie Knuckles started messing about with disco records to give them a deeper bassline.

Jack Your Body – Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley (1986, RCA Records)

The second genre that exploded in Chicago was industrial, when the Wax Trax! Label started putting out records by the likes KMFDM, Front 242 and most influentially Ministry.  The early Ministry records had a greater dance edge than some of their later works.

Cold Life – Ministry (1982, Wax Trax! Records)

Elsewhere Chicago has spawned a number of decent guitar bands over the years, but as we’re going to revisit Chicago when the Cubs roll into town, we will look at them then.  So instead, I’m going to talk about friend of Barak Obama, Chancellor Bennett or Chance the Rapper to his friends.

No Problem – Chance The Rapper (2016, Self Released)

This weeks new band plucked from obscurity by the method of a random Google search are apparently all about ‘channelling their inner Jesus and Mary Chain and scuzzy fuzzy drone attacks’ – but as ever, we will be the judge of that…Ladies and Gents, here’s Horsegirl.

Billy – Horsegirl (2021, Matador Records)

Next week its the turn of Baltimore.

The Never Ending Playlist – #44

Butterfly  – The Verve (1993, Hut Records)

I was at a party once where a few of us were talking about music.  We got talking about what our favourite songs were, and one of the guys, who I won’t name, because people who read this nonsense, know him quite well, and he might punch me, said that his favourite song of all time was ‘Here Comes the Hot Stepper’ by Ini Kamoze.  He was deadly serious.  I mean its alright, but I don’t think even Ini Kamoze would pick ‘Here Comes the Hot Stepper’ as his favourite song of all time, and he literally gets paid to sing it. 

I’m telling you this because I know another guy, who, again, will remain nameless, who once told me that ‘Butterfly’ by The Verve, is the greatest song ever recorded in the history of music.  Better than anything David Bowie, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones or Menswear ever wrote.  It was apparently all about the way that Richard Ashcroft lets him raw emotion pour out into the speakers at the same time that Nick McCabes guitar histrionics (actually used that word) smash through the ceiling of the sonic cathedral (yup and that).

I’m not even sure what a sonic cathedral is, but the amount of money they must spend on reinforcing their ceilings must be astronomical – I mean just stop bands playing there – problem solved.

He went further, not only is ‘Butterfly’ the GOAT of songs, but ‘A Storm in Heaven’ the album it features on, is also the best album ever recorded. Now.  I’m as open minded as the next person, but that is some statement.  I’m not that convinced that ‘A Storm in Heaven’ is even The Verve’s best album (that would be ‘A Northern Soul’).

He’s not right about ‘Butterfly’ either, but I think you all knew that – although it is an astonishing song though, and one that if I was ever compiling a Verve Top Ten, would sit comfortably near the top.  Its place earnt solely by the sheer energy unleashed by Richard Ashcroft near the end of the track when he literally screams “Butterfly” over and over again as a cacophony of noise descends all around him courtesy mainly of Nick McCabe’s guitar and a rogue saxophone. 

Oh, number one in the Verve Top Ten would of course, be this

A Man Called Sun – The Verve (1991, Hut Records)