A week of tracks from a pile of CDs that were at the front of the Cupboard – #3

Another thing that my daughter and I used to do on our daddy day care Thursday was to write down a load of things that we wanted to do on a piece of paper and then screw them all up and place them inside a bowler hat with a cat’s face printed on the side of it.

My daughter would then excitedly pick one out of the hat and that would be our adventure for the day.  We’d had lots of great days doing this, we have for instance climbed the tower of Castle Drogo, (which was fact fans, the last castle to built in England) and shouted the word “PANTS” as loud as we could from the very top of it.  Much to the amusement of the National Trust volunteers who opened the door of the tower for us.

The Tower – Wye Oak (2014, City Slang Records, Taken from ‘Shriek’)

On a sunny Easter Sunday, we climbed Haytor Rocks on Dartmoor and as a prize we ate some chocolate Easter Eggs at the top as the wind did its best to blow our coats off.  We have, at the Totnes Rare Breed Farm sat like a pair of old ladies with fluffy blankets on our laps and then had guinea pigs plonked precariously on them, which we have stroked and wanted to take home with us.  We have then eaten jam sandwiches and slightly stale biscuits in the café next door as we waited for the steam train to pull into the station that sits opposite.

Railway Jam – Saint Etienne (1993, Heavenly Records, Taken from ‘So Tough’)

Its not always been fun though.  We visited a really rubbish softplay in Dawlish once, that took my daughter about five minutes to work her way through and though the slide was good and usually landed her into a pool of balls with an excited yelp the rest of it was a bit boring.  The morning was rather spoiled when two brothers who were the only other children in the softplay area, decided to have a fight half way up the foam climbing frame resulting in the younger of the two bawling his eyes out and his mother screaming at the older one and then him crying as well.

Crying Lightning – Arctic Monkeys (2009, Domino Records, Taken from ‘Humbug’)

It was about ten minutes after we hotfooted out of that softplay café that I found the charity shop that gave us the third CD in the pile that sit at the front of cupboard. That folks is ‘Fever to Tell’ by New York art rock geniuses Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  An album that for some reason I had failed to purchase when it came out in 2003.  It is of course a work of wonder and come highly recommended.

Pin – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2003, Interscope Records)

Black Tongue – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2003, Interscope Records)

A Short Series about Shapes – #1 – Triangle

Triangle – Field Mice (1990, Sarah Records, Taken from ‘Skywriting’)

I said on Friday that I wouldn’t mention the One Word Countdown ever again.  A promise that lasted precisely 72 hours.  Sorry.  I was going through the list of songs that I voted in my Top 30 but no one else did.  One of those was ‘Triangle’ by The Field Mice, a song which is just too darn good to ignore (it is according to me, alone, the 19th best song with a One Word Title.  Ever.)  So in a petulant two fingers to the world I’ve devised an entire series to place it into and that really is the last time I will mention the One Word Countdown.  Probably.

I first heard The Field Mice on the John Peel show.  It would have been the summer of 1991 because I remember John Peel talking about them splitting up.  About six weeks later I found myself in possession of Indie Top 20 Vol. 12, a series of releases that packaged together a bunch of tracks from the Indie Charts at the time.  I had this on cassette, which was bright yellow and very low in quality.  Track eleven on that cassette was ‘Triangle’ an eight minute blast of indietronica that experiments with about ten different genres of music including acid house, and krautrock and it sounds a lot like the sort of thing New Order would have released about five years earlier.

It was quite a departure for the Field Mice because their earlier tracks took a more lo fi indie stance that was steeped in twee nostalgia with a nod towards the sort of ethereal sounds that perhaps bands like The Cocteau Twins.

Let’s Kiss and Make Up – The Field Mice (1989, Sarah Records, Taken from ‘Snowball’)

That track was of course covered a year or so later by their drinking buddies Saint Etienne.  There version is a piano led house stomper and it is almost as beautiful as the original.   The version below is the Sarah Cracknell version which is the only version I can find but I think the original single had a different singer.

Let’s Kiss and Make Up (Sarah Cracknell Version) – Saint Etienne (1990, Heavenly Records, Taken from ‘London Conversations’)

Of course New Order have a song has the word ‘triangle’ in the title.

Bizarre Love Triangle (Extended Dance Mix) – New Order (1986, Factory Records, Taken from ‘Substance’)

Which always sounds tremendous wouldn’t you say.   Easily one of New Order’s finest moments a proper head rush of synth pop, electronic hooks and another incredible drum opening, but its Bernard Sumner who makes ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ so addictive.  The way he delivers that opening line captures such as evocative image in my mind, especially the way word ‘Shot’ is almost spat out, as if right there and then, someone has hit him in the face with something fired out of a pea shooter.

Every time I think of you, I feel shot right through with a bolt of blue

Bizarre Love Triangle was covered by the Australian indie folk act Frente in 1994, and they had some relative success with it

Bizarre Love Triangle – Frente! (1994, Mushroom Records, Taken from ‘Marvin the Album’)

The Frente! version strips the song back into a semi acoustic track that sounds almost, almost as beautiful as the original, which brings us almost back to where we started because I first heard this version on an Indie Top 20 Compilation Album.

The One Word Countdown – #32

Pass me the suitcase baby….

Avenue – Saint Etienne (1992, Heavenly Records, Taken from ‘So Tough’)

Points 113

“Are we scoring the album version of ‘Avenue’ or the radio edit because they are two very different songs – my score is based solely on the album version”

Jury Member 7 has a point, the album version of ‘Avenue’ is 7 minutes in length and the radio edit is some three minutes shorter and they are quite different.  But he is also right, because the album version is the definitive version.  The ‘So Tough’ version of ‘Avenue’ is wonderfully elegant, full of sumptuous “ooohs” and regal sounding harpsichord solos, and wistfully distant sounding vocals.  It is based around several lengthy instrumental bits, all of which are wrapped around Sarah Cracknell’s wonderful vocals that nostalgically reminisce about some long lost relationship (with a male called Maurice who seemingly smells of lemons) as a chorus of “Young Heart” chimes away beautifully. 

The radio edit clocks in at just under four minutes and very much just focuses on the vocal with some of the instrumental bits hacked off and whilst its still great, you lose quite lot of ambition shown in the album version, so there is no real competition.

There was one other Saint Etienne track that was under consideration

Speedwell – Saint Etienne (1991, Heavenly Records, Taken from ‘Casino Classics’) – although the best version is on the 12” of ‘Nothing Can Stop Us

A few years after the release of ‘So Tough’, Saint Etienne released an album of remixes, called ‘Casino Classics’, that included a remix of ‘Avenue’ by a chap called Gordon King.

Avenue (Gordon King Mix) – Saint Etienne (1996, Heavenly Records, Taken from ‘Casino Classics’)

Gordon King was for those of who need to know these things used to be the vocalist in a band called World of Twist.  World of Twist were one of those bands that never quite achieved success, despite seemingly being an big influence on Oasis (who famously were going to be named after a World of Twist song ‘Sons of the Stage’ until they became Rain (and then Oasis)).  King later went on to form the excellent Earl Brutus, who again bubbled under the radar of most people and now he is in a band called Quatermass III, who are worth ten minutes of your time.

Sons of the Stage – World of Twist (1991, Circa Records, Taken from ‘Quality Street’)

Super Star – Quatermass III (can’t find the dates or label)

Bands with a city in their name #4

Hobart Paving – Saint Etienne (1993, Heavenly Records, Taken from ‘So Tough’)

It was inside a small shop on a campsite in the tourist village of Wissant, France, that a 16 year old me realised that, despite being taught the language for five years, when it came to the crunch I couldn’t actually speak French at all. Around six weeks earlier, I had taken my French GCSE exam, which folks included a bit where you had to have a conversation with the teacher, in bloody French.

The problem was that the three chaps I was with spoke even less French than I did and the shopkeeper thought we were stealing his biscuits. It turns out that French people don’t speak really slowly about driving a Citroen to La Rochelle, they talk really fast about phoning the police and point angrily at large sticks kept behind the counter when you accidentally insult their wife.

Of course it was a misunderstanding, I had already paid for the biscuits, I just didn’t know how to say that. His wife served me about ten minutes earlier, “Ton Femme, Monsieur m’a appris” I kept telling him over and over again. Apparently his wife wasn’t a teacher and I was “Une Brule”. Something which I could only be offended by a hour later when I looked it up in the French Dictionary that I had stupidly left inside the tent.

Saint Etienne are an indie dance band from Croydon, that are named after a French football team (but also a city). ‘Hobart Paving is taken from their second album the excellent ‘So Tough’. Hobart is also the capital city of Tasmania (or Tazzy, as every single Australian I have ever met calls it) so we have double city bubble this week.

‘Hobart Paving’ was a top 30 hit when it was released in 1993, it was backed with a cover of the Jigsaw classic ‘Who Do You Think You Are’. Which is also brilliant.

Who Do You Think You Are – Saint Etienne (1993, Heavenly Records, Taken from ‘So Tough’)