Nearly Perfect Albums – #50

Open Season – Sea Power

Please Stand Up – Sea Power (2005, Rough Trade Records)

When Sea Power (Ok, I’ll deal with this now, they’ve dropped the British from their name.  So I’m not using it) toured their marvellous second album ‘Open Season’ they played a gig in Exeter. That gig culminated with them throwing sticks at the audience, one of which hit me squarely on the back of the head. The band in an act of mischievousness had clambered on to each other’s shoulders and were just lobbing things at the crowd for laughs.  So, I should perhaps, in some form of solidarity to my bruised scalp, hate this record, but I can’t because it is a beautiful record.  It is the bands most accomplished and triumphant record.  But as I am here I’ll also tip my hat in the direction of their debut ‘The Decline of British Sea Power’ and their third ‘Do You Like Rock Music?’ both are also marvellous and both could if I was in a pixyish mood have appeared here.

Midway through ‘Open Season’ comes a track called ‘North Hanging Rock’ which is the absolutely definition of musical serenity.  The song is all piano and gentle sprays of feedback that are accompanied by the twittering of birds and what sounds like leaves being trodden on.  Yan’s vocals are barely more than a pleading whisper as he asks us very politely to

Drape yourself in greenery, become part of the scenery

And it’s beautiful.  I think he’s singing about death but it doesn’t really matter because it’s also part of the appeal of Sea Power, part of their uniqueness.  Birdsong may not be the most rock and roll thing in the world, but when used effectively its amazing and of course its been used by the band because they are not trying to be twee but because they are fans of nature and the countryside.

North Hanging Rock – Sea Power (2005, Rough Trade Records)

Nature and the countryside feature a lot in Sea Power’s records, this one is no different.  Giant icebergs, the Scandinavian Herring Gull, and the American Whopping Crane are amongst the things that get namechecked on ‘Open Season’.  The iceberg (more of an ice shelf really) forms the focus for the second single from the album, ‘Oh Larsen B’ and contains possibly the greatest declaration of nature love ever laid down on wax

You’re fractured and cold, but your heart is unbroken.  My favourite foremost coastal Antarctic Shelf

Oh Larsen B – Sea Power (2005, Rough Trade Records)

But its not all epic songs about icebergs and decaying nature.  There are at least three absolutely epic pop songs that have vast choruses that if I wanted to keep the geography analogy going could be described as being as deep as the Cheddar Gorge. Here’s just one of them, but the other two are ‘Be Gone’ and ‘Please Stand Up’ (which I’ve stuck up the top).

It Ended On an Oily Stage – Sea Power (2005, Rough Trade Records)

‘Open Season’ ends with a sumptuous ballad called ‘True Adventures’ is builds gently and then is slowly eaten up by waves of guitar noise.  It is a terrific way to end an album that is not just stunning, but one filled with optimism, imagination and mystery.

True Adventures – Sea Power (2005, Rough Trade Records)

Rearranging The Flowers – A Pointless Whodunnit with musical interludes and 7 chapters – #4

(Where is Angela Finch?  Come to think of it, Who is Angela Finch?)

After Mrs Checkley has spent five minutes apologising to firstly the vicar for dropping his vase on the stone floor and then to God for causing damage to his house.  She then spent a further ten minutes helping me, Mrs Figgis, the vicar and Kevin mop up the water and sweep up the broken glass. 

“I’m so sorry Vicar” Mrs Checkley said, dabbing her eyes with a lavender scented hankie that Mrs Figgis had produced from her tweed skirt. “It just slipped out of my hands”, I glanced her a look from the pew that I was sat on. She smiled a sad little smile at the vicar and as diversions go, smashing a cheap vase on the floor was a stroke of genius.

Everybodys Under Your Spell – The Duke Spirit (2011, Fiction Records, Taken from ‘Bruiser’)

“It doesn’t matter, my dear” said the stupid vicar, obviously distracted because as it had gone past three he had missed his daily lesson in Roman Wrestling with Mrs Figgis.  “It was a cheap vase and no one is hurt”.  Apart from Angela Finch I nearly mumble. 

I stood up, ready to seize the opportunity to get out of this place which seemed to be full of murderers, adulterers and war criminals that have had extensive plastic surgery.  But Mrs Figgis pipes up before I have the chance to leave.  “Geoffrey” she said. I realise she is talking to the vicar, as no one else in the room is called Geoffrey. “Ms Finch” she said looking at her watch.

Angela – Bill Callahan (2019, Drag City Records, Taken from ‘Shepherd In a Sheepskin Vest’)

Angela Finch is your classic God fearing spinster.  A seventy three year old former librarian who lives alone on the edge of village in a rambling old three bedroomed cottage with only a radio, several hundred books and four cats (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) for company.  She goes to Bridge Club on a Monday night, does flower arranging at the church on a Wednesday and the Knit and Natter club on a Thursday morning.   She likes the novels of Catherine Cookson, and is an armchair fan of West Bromwich Albion Football Club.  I only know this much about her because I fixed her fence out the back of her house last summer and she told me all this I forced down a large piece of her homemade gooseberry cake as she made parsnip soup for her tea.

Them Changes – Thundercat (2015, Brainfeeder Records, Taken from ‘The Beyond/Where Giants Roam EP’)

Apparently, she recently broke off her friendship with the retired colonel who lives next door to the vicarage because he tried to hold her hand after too many glasses of wine at the local Toby Carvery.   “People will talk, Gerald” she snapped at him.  I only know this because my father in law is the head carvery chef at the Toby Carvery and he overheard her say it on his way back from the Gents.  

I like Angela.  She makes excellent cake.

But now, Angela is missing.   Not seen since the end of Bridge Club, where she was last seen strapping a head torch to her hat and striding off into the darkness without a single clue that something wicked awaited her.

Something Wicked (Hamilton Vocal) – Sea Power (2003, Rough Trade Records, Taken from ‘The Compleat British Sea Power Vol. 1’)

I look over at Kevin who is tipping some broken glasses into my bucket and I stand up and I am just about to tell the vicar that I will go and look for her when Mrs Checkley starts to talk again.

“Oh she’s not missing, she’s gone to stay with her sister for a couple of days, she lives in Bovey Tracey, near the Cromwell Arch and the delicatessen, she told me after Bridge Club that was where she was going.  Her sister is poorly and needs looking after.  Kevin is feeding her cats for her.  Aren’t you Kevin”?

And with that I sit down back down again and try to not look too worried as Kevin nods whilst sweeping the remnants of the glass vase into my bucket.

Worst Case Scenario – Stanford Prison Experiment (1996, Word Domination Records, Taken from ‘The Gato Hunch’’)

Retrospective Musical Naval Gazing – #15 (2005)

Today should have been all about Kanye West because 2005 was the year, that he really arrived.  Yes there were a few hints at what was coming a few years earlier, but it was 2005’s ‘Late Registration’ album of which the track that stood at Number three in my run down ‘Gold Digger’ featured that catapulted him into one of the planets biggest stars.  Sadly, Kanye has turned into an antisemitic bellend of massive proportions and this is last time you will read his name on these pages.  He has joined an illustrious list.  I can only apologize for defending him in the past. I could try and link it back to some obvious mental health issues, but I’m not sure I want to.

So instead lets talk about LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire, both of whom dominated my top ten tracks for 2005.  I can’t get explain the buzz I got when I first heard ‘Daft Punk Is Playing At My House’.  It was like I’d been shocked.  I was in, yet again, a cool clothes shop in Exeter and I was looking at their retro band tshirts but yet again decided against shelling out £20 on an Allman Brothers shirt, when it came on over the speakers.  It sort of froze me to the spot, well until James Murphy hollers “Solo” and then you kind of just want to leap about, but you can’t do that in a trendy clothes shop that sells Rod Stewart Tshirts for twenty five pounds a pop. So I stood there casually pretending to look at the beanie hats even though I definitely do not want a beanie hat that has the word ‘Dickies’ emblazoned on it but I have to hear how this cowbell solo ends.

 Of course, a few weeks later the debut album dropped and the rest is pretty much history.

Daft Punk Is Playing At My House – LCD Soundsystem (2005, DFA Records, Taken from ‘LCD Soundsystem’)

It was kind of similar with the Arcade Fire and in particular the song ‘Rebellion (Lies)’.  The first time I heard that I was at the Cavern Club having just watched (British) Sea Power tear the place apart – and as it happens they were at number five on the top ten – and I don’t feature them nearly as much as I should.

Please Stand Up – Sea Power (2005, Rough Trade Records, Taken from ‘Open Season’)

Anyway, the DJ popped ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ on just after the lights came on, and again I kind of just stood there, a lone idiot on a deserted sticky dancefloor covered in plastic glasses, taking it all in, nodding along like I knew what this was and that I was already far too cool to shout “YES” at the top of my voice. But it was astonishing from the way the strings crackles into life around sixty seconds and the way the “Wah, Wah” bit joins in at around one minute 40.  Astonishing.  All of it.

Rebellion (Lies) – Arcade Fire (2005, Sony Music, Taken from ‘Funeral’)

Ironically, the record at number four in my 2005 was in stark contrast to me that night, because as I stood their clutching my British Tea Power Mug, nodding, like a lost tourist.  I definitely didn’t look good on the dancefloor.

I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor – Arctic Monkeys (2005, Domino Records, Taken from ‘Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not’)

Finally for today, some leftfield French electronica, which found itself at number seven in the top ten.  Its pretty wonderful this.

My Friend Dario – Vitalic (2005, Play It Again Sam Records, Taken from ‘Ok Cowboy’)

I’m going to come back to this series a bit later in the year, because I want to start something new from Monday. Thanks for all the nice comments I’ve had on this series so far.

100 Songs with One Word Titles (70– 66)

Did you guess right?  The two tracks from yesterday that topped two individual sets of votes were ‘Columbia’ by Oasis and ‘Atlas’ by Bicep.  Interestingly the two people who voted those two songs at the top of their respective lists were the youngest members of the musical jury.  None of the songs today troubled the tops of any individual lists but all of them did score at least one Top Fifteen placing.   Todays quest is to guess which of these scored the highest individual placing.

Let’s kick off with a bit of classic shoegaze

70. Pearl – Chapterhouse (1991, Dedicated Records, Taken from ‘Whirlpool’)

In the Guinness Dictionary of Indie when you get to ’shoegaze’ there are only seven words used to describe this particular genre.  They are “Go and Listen to ‘Pearl’ by Chapterhouse” and then there is a picture of Chapterhouse on stage at the Purple Turtle heads bowed, stage covered in effects pedal, smoke machine primed and everyone who can be seen is wearing some form of stripey jumper.  A song so good it defined an entire genre and whilst Ride may have sold more records and generally had better tunes (spoiler see tomorrow for proof), they would have killed for a song as addictive and beautiful as ‘Pearl’.

69. Lately – Sea Power (2003, Rough Trade Records, Taken from ‘The Decline of British Sea Power’)

Clocking in at nearly 14 minutes, you would expect ‘Lately’ to be the longest song in this list, but without giving too much away, it isn’t quite that.  It is wondrously epic though.  It starts slowly as a sort of love song, rising and just as it sounds like its all going to come crashing in, it collapses.  Of course it re builds and then collapses again, like a musical house of cards.  Then it finally does kick off and lyrics about Neolithic and Jurassic rock take over as it descends into chaos.  Utterly marvellous and disappointingly low.

68. Tender – Blur (1999, Food Records, Taken from ‘13’)

I saw Damon Albarn live last year in a cold old church in Totnes High Street.  He was promoting his latest solo album.  At the end of the gig he came back on to play three Blur songs, he played ‘The Universal’, ‘End of A Century’ and ‘Beetlebum’ accompanied by a string quartet and despite their stripped back quality it all felt decidedly average.  However, had Albarn played ‘Tender’ accompanied by a string quartet I would have gone away thinking ‘Gig of the Year’ easy, because ‘Tender’ is far and away the greatest thing Blur the band, or any of its members in their post Blur lives, have ever recorded.

67. Sidewalking – Jesus and Mary Chain (1988, Blanco Y Negro Records, Taken from ‘Barbed Wire Kisses’)

When the Jesus and Mary Chain first recorded ‘Sidewalking’ they were unsure it would ever be released.  It was after all a bit of a departure from their normal sound.  It dabbled in samples (famously it samples a hip hop drumbeat) and beats that was quite unexpected.  Of course Jim Reid, said that there had always been a hip hop element to his music.  Everyone else had obviously struggled to hear it over the previous five years’ worth of records.

66. Then – The Charlatans (1990, Situation Two Records, Taken from ‘Some Friendly’)

I should have been at school when I bought ‘Then’ on 12 inch.  I’d been to the dentist and my dad had bumped into a mate of his called Irish Joe (he was from Sevenoaks) – he gave me a fiver and pointed me in the direction of the bus station.  I was 15, school was about a mile walk away and the bus stop was next to the record shop and it would have been rude to not at least look inside.

Major League Music #3 -St Louis Cardinals

The Spirit of St Louis – Sea Power (2004, Toys Factory Records)

I’ve never been to St Louis, so I can’t personally vouch for this but, apparently the first thing that you do when you arrive there is look up and say, “that is a bloody big arch”.  A reference of course, to the Gateway Arch, the largest arch anywhere in the world and as it happens the largest man-made structure in the Northern Hemisphere.  It has fast become the number one reason to visit St Louis.    Saying that you would need a very good reason to go there as St Louis also has the highest murder rate in all of the USA.  Which is saying something.

One reason to go there would be to see the St Louis Cardinals, the city’s baseball team.  Which is the second most successful team in the history of Major League Baseball with 11 World Series Titles.   They are also one of the fiercest rivals of my beloved Kansas City Royals and each year they play each other six times split across the two cities in what is called the ‘Show Me Series’.  The rivalry stems from the 1985 World Series (which Kansas won in the seventh and final match).  So obviously The Cardinals are rubbish.

Last week the first of the six games took place and St Louis won 6-5.  Meaning that, as I type, the Royals have now lost four in a row.  Like I said, its going to be a long season. 

Musically speaking there is only really one place to start and that would be with St Louis’ most famous son, Chuck Berry.  If only because it makes me think of his cousin, Marvin, in the film Back to the Future, shouting down the telephone about a new sound as Marty McFly rips it up on the stage in front of his future parents.  Face facts Bill and Ted fans, that is cinemas greatest ever guitar solo.

Johnny B Goode – Chuck Berry (1958, Chess Records)

For me the best artist to have come out of St Louis in recent years is Angel Olsen.  Her third album ‘No Woman’ is a thing of absolute beauty and is something that you should all listen to at least once a week.

Shut Up Kiss Me – Angel Olsen (2016, Jagjaguwar Records)

But easily, one of the most success acts to have come out of St Louis, in, well ever really, is Akon.  His 2006 track ‘Smack That’ reached number one in ten countries including the UK where it went platinum.

Smack That – Akon featuring Eminem (2006, Konvict Records)

And here is this weeks randomly picked local band.  I’ve gone for Beau Diamond, who for the second week in a row, are a band that claim to make a kind of indie garage rock sound.   Let’s be the judge of that shall we….

Masquerade – Beau Diamond (2021, Self Released)

Next week: Detroit…

The Sunday Shuffle #7

Apologies To Insect Life – Sea Power (2003, Rough Trade Records, Taken from ‘The Decline of British Sea Power’)

The first Sunday Shuffle of 2022 is a real belter.

There are not many songs written about Fyodor Dostoyevsky, but the best of them is this punky and slightly sinister sounding single by the band we most now call Sea Power. I admit it maybe in limited company but it matters not because its terrific track.

When the band first emerged their sound was somewhere in between the pop sentiments of The Psychedelic Furs and the claustrophobically edgy rock of early Joy Division and this track is a sort of testament to that sound. ‘Apologies to Insect Life’ is full of really crunchy guitars, clever words (“Oh Fyodor you really are a most attractive man”) which are delivered in a breathlessly painful yelp and collide with the military drum roll which wraps the song up.

‘Apologies to Insect Life’ was released back in 2003 as a double A side – heres the other side.

Carrion – Sea Power (2003, Rough Trade Records, Taken from ‘The Decline of British Sea Power’)

And here is an old demo of ‘Apologies’

Post Number One

Not Phil Collins.

Hello. This is a blog about music and not, badgers. If you are looking for a blog about the removal of badgers, you are in the wrong place. You are also a bastard because badgers are brilliant. Apart from when they jump out of hedges and growl at you for waking them up, then they are vicious snarling beasties from the bowels of Hell itself. Possibly. They are still cooler than you and I though.

Anyway, welcome. Feel free to say hi in the comments below.

The plan is to try and post at least one song a day. Sometimes those songs will be part of a series, like this one for instance…

Cheer It On – Tokyo Police Club

Which is the first entry in the series called “Bands who have a city in their name”.

Sometimes the song won’t form part of any series, its just been posted because it came up randomly on my iPod. For the next week at least, until I work out how to do this properly, all posted songs will be courtesy of a random shuffle. Sometimes, they will be great, like the one below, in fact and its possible that on occasion they might be rubbish, and possibly even the actual band, Garbage.

True Adventures – Sea Power

A little word about the music. It will be available for a week or so and then the links will be removed. If you like what you hear, download the artists music, or stream it on one of those streaming services that we all use so the band get paid. Thank You.