This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Rubyhorse July 26, 2014Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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In the mid 90′s I lived in Cork for a period. Rubyhorse were a Cork band just releasing their first album. One of my co workers knew one of them and I went to see them live a few times and bought the Album ‘A Lifetime In One Day’. The Album was good, although they were better live.”Horses” and “Touch and Go” were two particular favourites. They were big enough in Cork but hadn’t been heard of much in Dublin.
Their lead singer , David Farrell, was the ultimate showman, Cork and cocky he had an incredible stage presence. He was so confident he was almost dislikeable but worked the stage well.
In 1997 , rather than relocate to London as many Irish bands had done, they moved to Boston in the US and started again from scratch. They built up a following there got signed to a major label (Interscope) and moved to LA. They recorded an album that was never released….. and split from the label.
They toured the US for a number of years and performed on The David Letterman show and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. They split in 2004. In their time in the US they released four albums ‘Rise’, ‘Any Day Now’, ‘Goodbye To All That’ and ‘How Far Have You Come?’.
They did some renunion gigs in Cork recently.
Their Facebook Page
The first album ‘A Lifetime In One Day’ is available to Stream on Grooveshark
“Fell On Bad Days”
Ah, the Cocteau’s. What a group, and how typical of the 1980s, able to construct their own defined musical and aesthetic universe, seemingly detached from all that had come before or would come after (though, that last is perhaps arguable). They seem to me to fit into a line of groups, the Jesus and Mary Chain are another, and perhaps Echo and the Bunnymen on a good day a third, who simple were, as if they came into being perfectly formed at that one point in time. Treasure was… well… a treasure. Overplayed, surely. What album purchased before the advent of CDs, and in particular digital download, wasn’t? There was less music, or at least less obtainable music, and truth is less money and you made do with what you got, be it Easterhouse EPs or BFG singles and if they weren’t much cop, well, you probably weren’t going to admit that quite as readily then as now. Indeed there’s academic papers to be written about genre loyalty, and how it existed in such a curiously defined way back then and… like… where the hell did that go?
I never heeded it that much, and nor did any whose musical tastes and opinions I knew then and respected, or now, come to think of it. Music is music and the good stuff is everywhere and the bad stuff is everywhere too.
But there’s no question that – say 1984 or 1985, the predominance of certain forms of what we now, unfortunately, call indie but then was post-punk, was remarkable. And there was album after album just simply great music appearing in a way that wasn’t matched – for my money, until the early to mid-1990s and the rise of electronica, IDM, and perhaps tangentially drum’n’bass (though hip hop was an early precursor of this overall trend).
Which is where the Cocteau’s came in. This seamless sound, opaque vocals, chiming guitars, echoes and more echoes and all of it carried off with a sort of confidence that undercut any questions of pretension. They released three EPs in 1985, each encapsulating their approach. And what I find interesting is that I like the group a lot better now than I did then. Sure, I liked them, I got that Treasure was great and did indeed overplay it, but they were always just a bit too much, whereas now at this remove they sound genuinely remarkable – perhaps recontextualised by all those who they influenced and in turn influenced others again. That said I never stopped liking the EPs perhaps because the shorter format suited them better.
Liz Fraser’s voice was indeed beautiful, but it was a beauty rooted in the anger of punk itself and is sometimes difficult to listen to, both complementary and grating – which is as it should be. Listen to the yelps and barks she emits on Quisquose from Aikea-Guinea, or on Melonella from the Echoes in A Shallow Bay EP. And then listen to Pale Clouded White with guitars that stretch behind the choral sounds and simple vocal melodies. That too, that sense of dissonance fading into melody also came from punk. This might be goth, at a stretch, but it was goth opened up, widening to the horizon, not limited by sub-Joy Division retreads. That last may be slightly unfair, but it’s not, I’d guess entirely inaccurate.
Aikea-Guinea, the title track from the EP of the same name works perfectly. Kookaburra, if overly mannered vocally, even for a group where overly mannered vocals were all, surges on. Rococo, a neat and powerful instrumental harks back to Garlands and their own Joy Division influenced phase. The Tiny Dynamine EP contains Pink Orange Red, Cocteau Twins by numbers – that reverbed strummed beginning, and then almost shouted chorus, with a lovely guitar melody underpinning it – until one remembers that this was from … There was no by the numbers for it to be compared to. Ribbed and Veined is… chunky… high pitched guitar notes cascading downwards against an almost cinematic percussion, as if it were the soundtrack to a film. Plain Tiger has a typically convoluted vocal line, that folds in on itself and then opens out again.
And I throw in Millimillenary just ‘cos it may well be my favourite of all their songs. It was released on The Pink Opaque compilation in 1985 but had been written a number of years earlier when Simon Raymonde arrived in the group.
Special word, as with Lush some years later, has to be mentioned as regards the physicality of their EP and albums, the designed materials accompanying and framing them. Vaughan Oliver’s genuinely luscious visual and typographic solutions.
Actually all that in mind in a way, I’d argue that they went on too long. There was a sense that by the late 1980s the project was flagging, the albums becoming if not predictable somehow less transcendent. And it’s impossible to apportion blame. That just happens. Fraser has essentially retired from music, Guthrie continues, but none of his solo albums have reached the heights of these compositions (though, in all fairness, I should namecheck a fantastic album he did with Harold Budd entitled Before the Day Breaks from 2007).
Pink Orange Red (Tiny Dynamine)
Plain Tiger (Tiny Dynamine)
Melonella (Echoes in A Shallow Bay) – by the way check out the lyrics.
Pale Clouded White (Echoes in A Shallow Bay)
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From Athens , Georgia Bill Mallonee and The Vigilantes of Love were an alt country band that never gained the popularity they deserved. They broke up in 2001 and briefly reformed in 2008. Mallonee still tours as a solo artist. Alas I’ve yet to see him or the The Vigilantes of Love. His website
I’ve previously done a TWIMBLT on Buddy Miller and it was the fact that he produced the bands 1999 album “Audible Sigh” that led me to buy the album. It’s an excellent album , features the odd bit of guitar from Miller as well as backing vocals from a stellar cast of Emmy Lou Harris and Julie Miller (‘Resplendent’ below features Emmy Lou) . The album itself had supposedly four different releases (with slightly different tracks on each!) such were the bands problems with folding record companies Later on I brought a few more of their albums, with ‘Live at the 40 Watt’ being my other favourite.
Mallonee himself is an interesting character, originally a drummer he didn’t pick up a guitar until he was 32. He is also a ‘Committed Christian’ as I learnt from this interview from 2000
There is a history of the band written by Mallonee himself here.
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There was something about Heavy Metal bands and line up changes. Like most genres Guitarists, Bassists and Drummers could change on a regular basis , but many Metal bands were able to change vocalists too! Few bands from other genres changed vocalists, oddly enough the only other genre with so many vocalists changes that I can think of was Traditional Irish influenced groups like De Dannan, The Moving Hearts and even The Pogues (although the Pogues change was a bit of a disaster). Dance genres tended to have guest vocalists.
Back in my youth there was some kudos in knowing that it was an Iron Maiden song in that Daley Thompson lucozade ad, not just that but it was on their first album and that the singer was different. I had a couple of their albums and would have listened to them a lot in my teens. They also had that issue that afflicted many bands especially Metal bands. . . . What was the best line up? ( or the definitive line up) Was Bruce Dickinson better than Paul Diano?
AC/DC were another band that changed vocalist, who was better Bon Scott or Brain Johnson?. Deep Purple and Black Sabbath have had umpteen lead vocalists over the years, Ian Gillan having spells with both. Others here include Judas Priest, Van Halen (yes I know!!) and Anthrax.
With Paul Dianno
Ronnie James Dio
This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Moloko June 21, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
Moloko – half Irish, half English. Dance and pop with an undertow of electronica, and then, later, a more organic sound. Big almost orchestral flourishes and smaller instrumental details. The name, taken from nadsat slang for milk in A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, appears suggestive, but of what exactly? Perhaps that Róisín Murphy and Mark Brydon had a very particular individual and musical aesthetic.
And yet it is strange, because in a way they were, and perhaps remain, ubiquitous. Wiki notes that the single Sing it Back appears on 100 compilations. Their sound, smooth, soulful and in a sense considered, could seem almost manufactured – just another dance/pop group. But then you hear that voice – those dramatic vocal mannerisms and characters that she assumes and those arrangements which blend the electronica, dance and an eclectic range of influences, and it’s clear they’re anything but just another group.
It’s in all the small touches, as well as the big baroque ones. The synth in Dumb Inc. that appears about half way through the song is none more 1980s… why is it there? What does it signify? Is it riffing (literally) on the lyric or is its something else. It’s that sort of an addition that makes them so fascinating and that seems to power them along to produce something that is catchy and compelling. Or Murphy’s ability to run through multiple vocal characterisations in the same sentence of a lyric, being both mocking and knowing (Brydon sings occasionally, as on the album “Things To Make and Do”).
Actually, thinking about it that album, now a whole 14 years old, remains an excellent testament to their music – as are all their albums – but perhaps it is the singles that they released across the decade or so long career that are most representative of their output. And representative only in their individuality. Indigo, The Time is Now, Sing it Back, Forever More, Familiar Feeling and so on are each near enough perfect tracks. Indigo with it’s none more entertaining and strange chanted chorus, Forever More is just a great pop song (and speaking of entertaining, check out the choreography in the video), and so on.
They called it a day in 2005 or 2006 and have worked on other projects, Murphy concentrating on a solo career which appears in no way to have seen any lessening of her personal aesthetic. Oddly enough, listening to them again the thought struck that they’d be perfect for a Bond theme (note the version of Familiar Feeling below). I see Murphy hasn’t ruled out a reunion, saying… ahem… ‘never say never’. So, maybe someday.
The Time is Now
Sing it Back
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Another mostly forgotten Irish band Thee Amazing Colossal Men.
Part of their bio from LastFM site gives a background.
The original version of Thee Amazing Colossal Men was part of the 60s-inspired garage psych/punk scene of the mid-80s (along with the Golden Horde and The Gorehounds; the “Rockabilly Psychosis” compilation was very influential). They played psychedelic 60s covers and were reputedly a fantastic live band. This lineup included Dave Clifford (of Vox fanzine fame), Garret Lee on guitar, Sid Rainey (ex Sid & The Stonecrushers), on bass and Mark O’Sullivan on vocals. Their only vinyl appearance as far as I’m aware was on the “Guru Weirdbrain” sampler. The recorded several demo tapes, two in 1987 alone. The first of these contained voiceovers which Hot Press described as distracting. The second 6-song demo reviewed in November 1987 was described as being much better, with the live sound production suiting the powerful rock music on offer.
I was still in school when my friend got a copy of a Demo Tape from Thee Amazing Colossal Men. The demo was very good with ‘Loganberry Woman’ and ‘Dust’ probably the best tracks on it. When writing this and scouring youtube for clips what did I managed to track down only some tracks from that very demo. I’ve included a number of songs from it , these are the Soundcloud clips.
Of their songs “Superlove Experience” is probably the most well known of their songs.(I’ve also included the single version and the remix Superlove Deluxe which was on the 12″ of ‘Superlove experience’). Their recorded output wasn’t huge at all and their song ‘Lets Talk About Girls’ was a track on the “Guru Weirdbrain” compilation which I have at home. They were subsequently signed to Siren Records and their Album ‘Totale’ eventually came out. It was a bit of a disappointment. As is often the case it was overproduced and didn’t seem to capture their ‘live’ feel at all.
There’s a certain thrill too when following a band from the start and Thee Amazing Colossal Men were one of those for me. Aside from the demo, I saw them a number of times in McGonagles and the Baggott Inn. They featured on one of the ‘Seven Bands on the UP’ gigs which if I remember correctly were in the SFX. They were a wonderful live band.
After ‘Totale’ they had a disagreement with the record company and left Siren Records. They later reformed as ‘Compulsion’.
Sidi Bou Said are a fascinating group of women, Claire Lemmon, Gayl Harrison and Melanie Woods (and one man(?) I think, Lee Howton, at the start of their career and for their first album), who appeared and then faded away during the 1990s, informed by the Pixies, psychedelia and elements of prog rock. It would be difficult to argue that Throwing Muses were not also an influence, but there’s something all their own in the gleeful, near scatological, approach both musical and lyrical. Lyrically they were positioned in a strongly feminist discourse.
The Allmusic review of their second album Bodies is a single sentence:
Bodies shows the group as staunch environmentalists and concerned with women’s issues, while still displaying their own British wit and identity.
Okay, that sort of sums it up, but there’s a lot more to them. And even the Allmusic description is notable for what it leaves out rather than what it includes:
Brits Claire Lemmon (guitar, vocals), Gayl Harrison (bass) and Melanie Woods (drums, vocals) formed Sidi Bou Said, a band in which a British folk ideal is blended with standard alternative pop/rock. The trio has released a debut album and 1995′s Bodies.
Certainly their quiet, loud, quiet loud, dynamic owes a lot to alternative rock, but… there’s something else going on in there. Every once in a while something close to surf rock appears to wander through individual songs, or prog, or psychedelia or… And that prog influence? Big Yellow Taxidermist (unfortunately not available online) combines both the surf rock sound and prog elements. This latter was amplified, perhaps, by the fact the group became good friends with Tim Smith and the Cardiacs, and indeed he produced their second album, Bodies. It is to Smith’s credit that this manifests in a very low key fashion. The Cardiacs are one of my favourite groups – but their unique hyperactive abandon isn’t evident here – Sidi Bou Said are a much more measured outfit, for all that they swoop and soar. And so there may be elements of prog, repeated complex patterns and phrases, but these add tonality rather than swamping compositions.
Wormee, Hyde and Ode to Drink below come from Bodies, Twilight Eyes and Three Sides come from earlier.
It’s dispiriting to discover that none of their albums are currently available, either as CDs or download. As a group I think they deserve much better than that.
But, perhaps no surprise that drummer Melanie Woods who also did vocals has wound up as part of the extremely interesting psychedelic/prog Knifeworld in the late 2000s – another group coming soon to TWIMBLT.
Ode To Drink
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One of ‘groups’ I found by accident in the mid 80′s. I was very much a fan of many things released by 4AD and read a positive review of the album “It’ll end in tears”. The review lodged somewhere in my brain and some stage later I saw it in a record shop and bought it. It was one of those albums that I bought having gone into the shop to buy a record, no record in particular but a record. There were albums I’d save up for , albums I’d have on a wish list, new albums by a certain artist that I’d have to get but this was one I just bought on spec. I must have had a ‘record token’ or birthday money burning a hole in my pocket!
The album didn’t disappoint and it was a strange mix of haunting instrumentals with Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins and Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can’t Dance among others doing vocals on the other songs. It was one of the first albums I’d have listened to with headphones on just to fully appreciate it.
A few years later the second album “Filigree & Shadow” came out , it was a double album and though it was very good I wasn’t too found a number of the tracks, which of course was a curse when listening on a record player.
Then in 1991 the final album ‘Blood’ was released. Another Double Album it was very good and contained a lot more instrumental tracks than the previous two albums.
This Mortal Coil was not a band, but a unique collaboration of musicians recording in various permutations, the brainchild of 4AD kingpin Ivo Watts-Russell. The idea was to allow artists the creative freedom to record material outside of the realm of what was expected of them; it also created the opportunity for innovative cover versions of songs personal to Ivo. An example of this was the Cocteau Twins-starring version of Tim Buckley’s ‘Song to the Siren’ which became the first This Mortal Coil release in 1983. Originally intended as a B-side for the ‘Sixteen Days’ 12″, the result was so powerful that it was decided it should be the A-side of a 7″ single.
This Mortal Coil’s full-length debut, It’ll End In Tears, arrived in October 1984 and was a long-term feature at the top of the UK Indie charts. In addition to the Cocteaus, this brilliantly-woven aural tapestry featured members of 4AD artists Colourbox, Dead Can Dance, Modern English, Xmal Deutschland and The Wolfgang Press, plus ex-Magazine/Buzzcocks frontman Howard Devoto and celebrated cellist Martin McCarrick (who has worked with everyone from Marc Almond to Therapy?).
Ivo turned his attention to the follow-up record shortly after It’ll End In Tears was released. Work began at Palladium in Edinburgh, with Martin McCarrick and studio proprietor Jon Turner, and the record was finished with John Fryer at Blackwing in London. Named after a song by the ’60s band Fever Tree, Filigree And Shadow was intended from the start as a double album. As before, he drew on a large pool of musicians – Simon Raymonde made important contributions, as did members of Colourbox, Dif Juz and The Wolfgang Press – but this time the bulk of the vocalists came from outside 4AD’s orbit. The selection of cover versions included material by Tim Buckley, Gene Clark, Tom Rapp, Judy Collins and Colin Newman. Filigree And Shadow was issued in September 1986, preceded by a limited edition 10-inch single coupling striking interpretations of Van Morrison’s ‘Come Here My Love’ and Talking Heads’ ‘Drugs’.
A reflection of a turbulent period in Ivo’s life, 1990′s Blood was always intended to be the collective’s final recording. Once again, John Fryer, Jon Turner and Martin McCarrick all played significant roles in shaping the music, while the vocals came from This Mortal Coil newcomers such as Caroline Crawley, Heidi Berry, Kim Deal and Tanya Donelly. Cover versions this time out included songs by Chris Bell, Syd Barrett, Rain Parade, Rodney Crowell and Mary Margaret O’Hara, while Ivo’s own lyrics graced several of the album’s originals.
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It’s reasonable to suggest that almost anyone who has read Bedsit Disco Queen will agree that Tracey Thorn can write, and her account of her career is excellent. Curious, though. In some ways the personality of Ben Watt, her partner, remains remarkably opaque throughout. Indeed thinking back on it Lindy Morrison and Robert Forster of the Go-Betweens (or even Eric Heffer!) loom larger as personalities in the text. Perhaps that is as it should be – this is primarily her story after all – or perhaps that opacity is a testament to a certain form of reserve
Though I should add that it in no way comes across as egocentric, quite the opposite. She’s refreshingly honest about her own foibles and the high and low points of her career. And also, having read numerous music autobiographies (to my shame), it’s extremely good on the nuts and bolts of what life on the road is actually like, and in some ways the most honest account of how distorting that can be. In any event it’s a lovely book and highly recommended.
Anyhow, as is the way of these things it got me thinking about doing a Marine Girls or Everything But the Girl post in this slot. The first will have to wait, but here’s the second. I’m very partial to their later drum’n’bass stuff and the early material is good, but truth is my favourite album of theirs is Baby, the Stars Shine Bright. In a way that’s arguably their most bombastic outing, strings, big pop, and as it happens I’m not usually a huge fan of same. Sure, a bit is okay, I’ll throw on the occasional My Life Story album although usually as much for the nostalgia as the actual songs. But B,tSSB has stayed in my musical imagination for many many years after I purchased it.
I first acquired it on vinyl second hand fairly soon after it came out – I think in Freebird. It wasn’t a particular stretch for my musical collection – even at the time, the singles were appealing, though Come on Home while a lovely song was surely the very definition of overplayed. But the other songs were as good or better. Thorn has a remarkable way with her ability to craft and shape lyrics and infuse them with genuine emotion. And Watt was surely never better employed than in the months (according to her account in the book) putting together the landscape of strings that the songs were set against – indeed the thought strikes that that might well have been useful practice for the strings that accompanied later, somewhat more experimental, excursions like Walking Wounded.
And those other songs mentioned above are the ones where it really takes off. Sugar Finney – about or ‘for’ Marilyn Monroe – moves along with an elegant speed power by horn stabs and a neat vocal – as well as some wah-wah guitar (indeed speaking of guitar Watt, I’m very taken with his guitar on this album which at times achieves a near rock approach). Little Hitler is political, and not. Careless is a perfect ballad with a great swooping chorus with an entertaining nod, or more than nod, to Bacharach (who by the by must be one of the most morose composers I can think of).
I always think EBTG are a perfect example of how important ideas are in music. Famously they agonised for years about selling out and hitched their star to that concept of awkward post-punk that drove straight towards the mainstream, whatever that last may mean, while attempting to retain a sort of intellectual and ideological credibility. One thinks of Scritti Politti and so forth. Whether it worked is a different matter, but I think the idea alone empowers the songs, not in a post-modernist ‘knowing’ sense, but in making them somehow more substantial.
It’s what makes this more than an empty genre excursion, turning it into something genuinely searching, and perhaps what powers the rest of their output. It’s why their later turn to more dance-inspired work saw them leapfrog over more obvious approaches to something that little bit more demanding both of them and their listeners. And why, I think, albums like Walking Wounded worked so well, that yearning quality Thorn captures so effortlessly, those swells of sound that accentuate and amplify that emotion.
Don’t Leave Me Behind
Come on Home
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Surely this is the very definition of lost classic hiding in plain sight, a group of women who produced near enough peerless pop in the immediate post-punk period, who had a measure of success but in a curiously oblique fashion.
Dolly Mixture were founded as early as 1978 in London by Debsey Wykes, Rachel Bor and Hester Smith.Their career was an odd one, some will recall them as providing backing vocals for Captain Sensible’s ‘Wot’ and backing ‘Happy Talk’, but their career proper was remarkable, with a string of pop gems – few over three and a half minutes long. Their influences were in a way obvious, 1960s pop, punk – particularly the Undertones who they supported (and “How Come You’re Such a Hit…” is an overt nod in the direction of the latter band). “Been Teen”, has a great chorus, uniquely of its time but also classic.
The wordless vocal line at the chorus of “Everything and More” still sends a shiver up my spine, as do the ‘Hey, Hey’s’ which predate the JAMC by three years – they did love their ‘hey hey’s’ as evidenced on Day By Day! But it would be wrong to see them through the prism of later groups because their own sound, touching on post punk, new wave, that aforementioned 1960s pop works so well on its terms and theirs. It’s a summery sound, confident and self-assured, nostalgic.
They made some curious career decisions, albeit ones which sought to see them play the sort of music they wanted to play rather than having preconceived ideas of what they should play imposed upon them by others (the wiki page is very good on outlining that dynamic). Their one album proper “Demonstration Tapes” was a double with only 1,000 copies issued and in a plain white cover. Which suggests it was either a reasonable assessment of their potential sales or a determined gesture against commercialism – or maybe both. And yet they produced huge numbers of songs, and many are near enough unobtainable at this remove. Unsurprisingly they’ve been feted by Bob Stanley, and Wiki notes that Cornelius (dealt with here in TWIMBLT quite some years ago) covered them and helped release “Dreamism!”, a single by them, in 1998, and somehow that makes sense.
The part-reformed last year (part because two of the three of them turned up). That too seems to make sense.
How Come You’re Such A Hit With The Boys, Jane
Everything and More
The Same Mistake
My Rainbow Valley (Cover of Love Affair)