Friday, December 04, 2015

9 to 3 to 3 to 1...

The Stranglers - Genetix
The Stranglers - Bear Cage (12" Version)
The Stranglers - Shah Shah a Go Go (12" Version)

At the time this was released, I bought it, but it kinda passed me by. By this stage (1979) No More Heroes and the Black & White albums had left me a little bit cold, and didn't excite me at all. I guess I was looking a bit more towards the post-punk side of things at the time, Adam and The Ants, Siouxsie, PiL and so on. So this was the last Stranglers album I bought upon it's release, for a few years anyway.

But as the years passed I found myself being drawn back to this album time and time again, until it not only became my favourite Stranglers album, but one of my favourite ever albums.
It's one of those, that no matter what mood I'm in, if I put it on I get lost in it and generally have to listen to it a couple of times before moving on to something else.

The Stranglers had always played with strange time signatures, but by The Raven they'd perfected it, and not to mention the strange angular guitar playing of Hugh Cornwell, on this album he'd surpassed himself. And obviously in J J Burnel on the bloody bass, they had an absolute legend, and one of the main reasons I started playing bass, although I ended up sounding like another bass legend (or at least trying to), Peter Hook. Then there's the rock solid drumming of Jet Black and the menacing figure behind the keyboards, Dave Greenfield.

There's not many people that can get away with a bass solo, and generally I scorn upon them, but Burnel's playing on this album is sublime, especially on Genetix... from the 2:45 mark where he starts his solo... well. Wonderful. And after that the rhythm changes, vocoded chorused voices come in and another solo ensues... wonderful again.

So, The Raven has ended up one of my favourite albums, which leads me nicely onto one of my favourite 12" singles, which just happens to also be by The Stranglers, and was released a few months after The Raven.
It was a double A side affair featuring an extended version of Bear Cage, which didn't appear on the album, and an extended version of Shah Shah a Go Go, a shorter version of which did appear on The Raven.

Buy - The Stranglers - The Raven
Buy - The Stranglers - The Old Testament (UA Studio Recs 77-82)(5 Discs)
Visit - The Stranglers
Follow - The Stranglers on Facebook
Follow - The Stranglers on Twitter


Thursday, September 03, 2015

Northern Stories...

Manicured Noise - Metronome

I'll start with a little back story about how I came to love this band...
Sometime in the early 80's I stumbled across an interesting looking 7" single in a local(ish) record shop in Stockport, the very sadly missed BG Records. It was by a band I don't think I'd ever heard about, but it looked interesting in it's all black sleeve, plus I liked the name, Manicured Noise, and it also came with a postcard.
So I spent my not very hard earned pocket money on it and got the bus home in eager anticipation of hearing what the hell it sounded like. (Do you remember those days you used to buy records without having heard them?)
Anyway, it was Metronome by Manicured Noise, and it was wonderful.
Unfortunately I didn't know anything else about the band and tried for a while to find out more, but never really found anything out.
Skip forward about a quarter of a century and the dawn of the internet...
It turns out that the band were actually from Stockport, bearing in mind I was 12 or 13 when I bought it and wasn't well up with local scenes or bands, bar the ones I was reading about in Sounds, NME and so on. So this came as quite a shock, but a very pleasant one, but also quite sad that for all those years I'd never known anything about this cracking band that came from a few miles down the road.

It turns out that they shared a rehearsal space with some band called Joy Division, and featured Steve Walsh on guitar and vocals. Steve was in the seminal 'Flowers of Romance', but to be fair, it'd be harder to name people who weren't in the 'Flowers of Romance'.
Anyway I digress... Here's the rest of the line-up at various times over the two years they were together:

Steve Walsh - Vox, Guitar
Jodie Taylor - Bass
Stephanie Nuttall - Drums
Peter Bannister - Clarinet, Saxophone
Jeff Noon - Guitar
Owen Gavin - Vox

A couple of notes, yes it's 'that' Jeff Noon, the renowned sci-fi writer, and Stephanie Nuttall ended up living in Argentina and in the band Sumo, who were by all accounts huge in Argentina.
How I didn't know about any of this at the time escapes me.

I later found out that Caroline True Records were releasing a CD compilation (2006) of the two singles that were released along with a David 'Kid' Jensen session for the BBC, a couple of live tracks and some unreleased tracks from a couple of studio sessions.... I bought it, I loved it.

Shoot forward to yesterday morning when the postie turned up with my latest Manicured Noise purchase, a stripped down version of the 2006 CD release, but with brand new artwork by Andrea Floris.
Plus, this is the first time most of these tracks have ever been available on vinyl, so for me, buying it was an absolute no-brainer.

The album kicks of with the track that started it all off for me all those years ago, Metronome.
To this day it still sounds edgy, sharp, angular... you know, all the words that are generally used to describe post punk. Sometimes there's reasons why the same words are used all the time, it's because they're spot on.
The vocals are upfront in the mix and sound great with that tight reverb on them, the sax is perfect and adds a vaguely latin feel to the track, the guitar is rhythmic and punchy, but for me it's the bass and drums are killer.
All in all it's a post-punk-funk classic, and I'm so happy that I now have it on non crackly vinyl again... at least for now, as I'm sure it'll get played to death.

Basically, if you like your post-punk in a funky style similar to Talking Heads, Rip Rig and Panic, Gang of Four, The Pop Group and so on, you're going to love this, I'm sure of it.
But you're going to have to move quickly as this is a very limited release of only 300 copies, and will not be re-pressed. Oh, and it also comes with instructions for an MP3 copy of the album. Bargain, so get on it.

Why weren't this band huge???

Buy - Manicured Noise - Northern Stories 1978-80 Limited to 300 copies only.
Buy - Manicured Noise - Northern Stories 1978-80 On CD.
Visit - Caroline True Records
Follow - Caroline True Records on Facebook
Follow - Caroline True Records on Twitter
Buy - Prints by Andrea Floris
Visit - Andrea Floris
Follow - Andrea Floris on Facebook


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Driving Rock...

The London Symphony Orchestra - Paint it Black

The other day I was re-arranging some vinyl, nothing as organised as finally putting it back in alphabetical order, just moving it from one place to another.
Anyway, I spotted a long forgotten album, the original London Symphony Orchestra soundtrack to Star Wars (complete with the insert and poster) that my Dad bought me back in 1977. As is usual with rooting through vinyl it brought back loads of memories of that time, and one that I hadn't thought of in probably 30 years was another London Symphony Orchestra release, the first Classic Rock compilation...

Now, I was nine years old and had discovered punk rock, so my vinyl collection was a bit erratic to say the least. ABBA, Sex Pistols, The Wombles, Buzzcocks, various Disney soundtracks, my Dad's Status Quo records I'd, erm, aquired, Blondie etc.
My Dad bought me the majority, but insisted that any punk records I wanted had to come from my pocket money, and being the 70's in the North West of England, it took quite a long time to save up for anything. Anyway, moving a little off topic here...

So that was my listening habits at home, in the car it was a different matter as it was purely lead by what tapes my Dad had bought, along with a few compilations he'd made. So it was a combination of Jazz, the Mighty Quo, The Jungle Book soundtrack, The Shadows, a bit of James Last, Sky, and what turned out to be a favourite of ours, Classic Rock (the first one released in 1977).
This was the soundtrack to a thousand car journeys on the road to Main Road to watch our beloved City play, or to away games that weren't too far to drive, on weekly visits to see family, or shopping trips to New Mills and so on.

The album had some real belters on it, Bohemian Rhapsody (cue me and my Dad doing the Wayne's World scene, decades before Wayne and his mates), Life on Mars, Whole Lotta Love, Nights in White Satin, Without You and so on. But my all time favourite from the album at the time (and to this day listening back for the first time in thirty years) was this, a truly wonderful, dark, brooding, slightly sinister, subtle then explosive version of Paint it Black.
It features instruments and sounds I'd never heard at the time, discordant, low rumbling, scratches, massive lush Henryk Gorecki(esque) swathes of strings, huge choral and brass sections... it still blows my socks off.
Play very loud.

Buy - The London Symphony Orchestra - Classic Rock [3 CD Compilation]
Visit - The London Symphony Orchestra
Visit - The London Symphony Orchestra - Classic Rock (on Wiki)
Follow - The London Symphony Orchestra - on Twitter


Monday, August 03, 2015

Videa Gam...

Videa Gam - Get to Know Me

Once in a while I do a bit of mastering for artists, mostly just to help friends or acquaintances out as it's something I love doing. Anyway in January I was sent a couple of tracks to master by a chap who runs LXXII, a wonderful new record label. (already a favourite label by The Quietus, Louder Than War and Dandelion Radio)
The tracks in question were for the debut release by the label, and was from Videa Gam (David Shane Smith from the USofA)... and I was blown away by the beautiful sounds I was hearing.

'Get to Know Me' is one of those mysterious tracks you swear you've heard before, but obviously haven't, but you can't really put your finger on what's making you feel that way, it just sounds like an old friend.

The single sadly didn't set the world on fire in the blogging or review world, but it did get a very good review on the aforementioned Louder Than War, "Videa Gam generates sound collages that offer far more than the collisions of interesting but ultimately doomed noises the term often denotes: the collage in his hands is home to an intoxicating and woozy framework of melody."
And I couldn't agree more.

A month or two back I received two very long tracks that were going to become the follow up release, I can't post them here as it's still unsure if they will be getting released or not, which is a massive shame as they are both, quite frankly, the best examples of electronic music I've heard in years. They're just staggering. And I'm not over exaggerating.
Hopefully they will see the light of day at some stage, either on LXXII or another label. They really do deserve to be heard by as many people as possible.
If not I may be forced to do a follow up post.

But in the meantime, listen to Get to Know Me, then head on over to iTunes or your favourite digital vendor and buy it... and while you're there check out the other releases on LXXII. You won't be disappointed.

Buy - Videa Gam - Get to Know Me (iTunes)
Visit - Videa Gam on Soundcloud
Visit - Videa Gam at LXXII (with an interview)
Visit - LXXII


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Our Loyalty Demands...

Cardiacs - Is This the Life
Cardiacs - Dirty Boy
Cardiacs - There's Good Cud

I resuscitated this long dead blog for a number of reasons, and one of them was to post about bands that have been important to me in my life, but for one reason or another I never got around to writing about.
Cardiacs are one of those bands.

I, like the majority of people who weren't lucky enough to be aware of them earlier, first knowingly heard my first Cardiacs song in 1988 when their track 'Is This the Life' was released on 7" and the video was being shown quite a lot on the usual shows. It sounded wonderful, so I purchased it from my favourite record shop, running home in eagerness to play it, which I duly did, at full volume, several times in a row.
This must be my new favourite band I thought, until I flipped it over and played the b-side, 'I'm Eating In Bed'.... what the fuck is this??? demented circus prog??? Nope, this isn't for me at all.
I really didn't like it, so I flipped it over again to revel in the majesty of 'Is This the Life' again, and again, and again.
Several days later I was intrigued by the b-side, was it really as weird and unlikable as I remembered? I found myself remembering the changes and mad melodies, and feeling a bit of a rush as it all of a sudden fell into place, I played it again, and again. Thus I discovered one of my favourite bands.

Over the years I tracked down earlier releases and kept up to date with everything they released as new. I was hooked good and proper. Monstrous albums, killer singles, wonderful side projects and stunning live band. Sadly I only got to see them twice, much to my regret.

In 1995, Cardiacs released what to many fans (Pondies) is considered to be their crowning glory, 'Sing to God'.
There aren't really the words to describe how utterly wonderful this album is. It's a double album full of some of the most beautiful, if yet demented, music you could ever wish to hear.
Out of an album with so many killer tracks, it's hard to focus on just the one, but for me 'Dirty Boy' is the one I tend to play at people given half a chance.
It's nearly nine minutes of complete perfection, culminating in what I consider to be probably the finest two and a half minutes that have ever been committed to vinyl... It's simply breathtaking.

Their last release (to date) was 1999's album, 'Guns'. It's a beauty of an album, filled with more of the same wonderful mix of rock, prog, demented circus music and majesty that us Pondies came to expect, no, we demanded from each and every release.
I listen to this album slightly differently to the previous albums as it's a pointer to what could have been... I say could have been, but what I really mean is I hope for.....

This is the bit I really wasn't looking forward to writing, so I'm not going to dwell on it too much.....

In June 2008 after seeing My Bloody Valentine, on his way home Tim Smith collapsed from a heart attack followed by a major stroke.
There wasn't much news for about a year until on the Alphabet Business Concern (puppet masters and shady controlists, all hail the Consultant) website they posted this...

"Tim Smith's mind had returned to full functionality and that "no part of your favourite pop star’s intellect or personality has been found to be absent whatsoever."

For a lot more information on Tim's condition, the very best place to go is the Alphabet Business Concern website and have a read of the News Archives.

The following video was shot during rehearsals for the 2007 secret Bull & Gate shows, the results of which were released as "The Special Garage Concerts: Volumes I and II". 
Warning: It features Jim Smith (Tim's brother) in his under crackers.

Several more tracks were filmed, and it's my hope that one day they'll be available on DVD...

So, it's 2015 and things have been incredibly busy over at the Alphabet Business Concern website for the last year or so, there is a whole host of new merchandise to buy, and they've been very busy in making the albums available again, either on CD or top quality 180g vinyl.
So far they've re-released 'Sing to God' and 'Guns' on vinyl, with more to follow I'm sure.
Keep an eye open on their website or Facebook page for news and info, it's happening all the time.

Buy - Everything... Your loyalty demands
Visit - Cardiacs (Alphabet Business Concern)
Further Reading - Cardiacs, an Epic Overview by Mr. Spencer 


Thursday, July 23, 2015

I Went to the Shops...

Um, I popped down the shops seven and a half years ago for a Curly Wurly, and promptly got lost.
Just doing a bit of cleaning around SVC Towers at the moment, but will be back shortly.

In the meantime, here's a track for you.

The Fall - Spoilt Victorian Child [John Peel Session Version - 03-06-1985]

It had to be really, eh?

Buy - The Fall - 50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong: 39 Golden Greats
Visit - The Fall