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Here’s an album I’ve meant to post up a piece on for years, not least because it’s one of my very favourites. Kim Deal and Tanya Donnelly of the Pixies and Throwing Muses respectively along with Josephine Wiggs of The Perfect Disaster and Britt Walford of Slint (with Steve Albini on production duties) crafted something both angular, spikey, confrontational and weirdly joyous in 1990. I love the off-hand nature of the vocals. It’s almost ‘couldn’t care less’ and yet that’s not quite it. The guitars might sound throwaway, almost slapdash, the compositions almost as if they’re patchworks of songs, with curious gaps and dislocations. But those aren’t failings. There’s a slow burning intensity to much of this album, these sometimes seemingly random elements combining to produce unforgettable pieces of music.
Now it also has a Pixies lilt to it. Doe or Oh! are perfect example, with loud, quiet, odd humming/spoken vocals set against clattery drums, and it’s brilliant. It is a bit like listening into one side of a conversation. But there’s a lot of Donnelly in there too, even if I’ve read subsequently that she would have liked more of her songs included and this pushed her towards establishing the pretty great Belly.
It’s surprisingly sparse, with the music filled out by thin percussion, skeletal guitars and bass and oddly hazy vocals (the lyrics are well worth reading if you can get hold of them – and by the by kudos for the name of the group). Impressionistic, but not disposable. “Hellbound” is an oddity, sounding initially almost too metallic or punky, as if L7 had wandered through the studio. But it works. And the guitars do ramp up again here and there, throughout the albuem. “When I Was A Painter” is a case in hand, which gets… heavy… around 2 minutes and 20 seconds. Appropriately so. “Lime House” is a song that I’ve had in my head for years now, that opening guitar line manifesting itself at oddest moments. And I could say that for almost all the tracks, they burrow into one’s consciousness and stay there.
One thing about the time it was bought was just how little information there was. No internet, no wiki, no discogs and add to that the traditionally wonderfully ungiving and uninformative 4AD record sleeves.
At the time I’d heard next to nothing from Throwing Muses, so I assumed Deal did all the vocals. When I later heard Belly it was a revelation to realise just how much of an input Donnelly had had in the material, that great rasp of her voice being a signature element.
This is another group I never listened to anything else they did (bar the excellent single Cannonball from three years later) in part for fear it would be lesser and overshadow this, in part because Donnelly and Walker had moved on and whatever else while still the Breeders it wasn’t that particular Breeders. All of which is pushing me towards giving those later albums a listen! But regardless, this, this is an absolute classic.
When I was a painter
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The first time I heard All About Eve, it was the neo-hippy Flowers in Our Hair sometime around 1987 or so. I really enjoyed the track, even if I sort of hoped it was tongue in cheek. There was something about it’s 1970s schtick which was great. Of course their affection for paisley at that particular point in time saw them sliding into the orbit of Planet Goth, something that they never quite shook, and perhaps never quite wanted to. There was the famous friendship with the Mission, the fact that main-woman Julianne Regan had been herself a member of the sometimes excellent Gene Loves Jezebel, and then the small matter that many in what was to prove a revolving line-up served time either before or after their stint with AAE with a range of other bands, guitarist Tim Brichenco went on to the so-so fourth incarnation of the Sisters of Mercy.
But really their sound was goth rock pop, with the dial set firmly towards the latter two positions.
Their first album was fine, but nothing on it was as good as Flowers In Your Hair, though the submerged gothisms made tracks like Every Angel and In The Meadow which has a great last three minutes, pretty compelling. Album number two I never liked, far too twee for my tastes – which for someone who will happily listen to The Field Mice or Fantastic Something is no small feat. Later in the day, album three it was, along came Marty Willson Piper of the Church, or late of the Church at that point. There was a shift to not so much a harder sound, but a different one with the arrival of a more overtly psychedelic element. I’m conflicted about that album, my instinctive Churchophilia crashes straight into a sense that the sound was a bit too ‘sweet’ to the detriment of the overall output.
And so we come to album number four, Ultraviolet, which with the same cast – so to speak – took a decidedly different direction. It’s not so much that any residual goth element was gone, but it had morphed into something chillier, think a less dance inflected Curve, think a less mannered Cranes, all phased guitars and cool and detached vocals.
It’s an odd mix, indeed it’s almost as if it is an attempt at shoegaze by someone who had heard it describe but never actually heard it or who decided to produce it using traditional, or mostly traditional guitar effects (various pedals, phased guitar etc) rather than more (then) contemporary means. And yet because of that traditionalism – rather than post-My Bloody Valentine sonic experimentation, it sounds distinctly different to a lot of shoegaze while sharing reference points.
And it’s oddly compelling, a sort of cross between neo-psychedelia and shoegaze – perhaps most overtly on I Don’t Know which has a fantastic combination of sounds, with the guitars leaning on the former and the vocals and overall ambience drawn from the latter. And it works. Regan’s vocals are treated and double tracked in places, giving them an icy hauteur and the lyrical concerns (mostly) appear to be more abstracted than before.
The most straightforward tracks, like Things He Told Her, move along quite speedily, descending guitar lines, melodic choruses with Regan’s voice moving from whispered to declamatory. And there in the background are neatly twisting psychedelic guitar lines and Hawkwind like synth effects just to ensure we’re in no doubt as to where this music is positioned.
It didn’t work commercially and the band subsequently split, though entertainingly I see that the copy of the album on CD can be purchased second-hand for absurdly high prices on Amazon, but it’s an interesting testament to Regan’s personality that there appears to have been no acrimony, and almost all the group remained involved in her next venture, an outfit called mice which was a little too in debt to then contemporary Britpop influences, although as ever Regan’s vocals were great. She continues to work to this day and by the by, a few years back she was involved in a benefit album for Tim Smith of the remarkable Cardiacs (and there’s a connection there because a number of ex-Cardiacs members worked with her in mice).
But I still think Ultraviolet with it’s curiously dark take on shoegaze is one of her (and AAE’s) finest moments.
Things He Told Her
Outshine the Sun
Some Finer Day
I Don’t Know (from 26 minutes in)
Flowers in Our Hair (Extended Version) (from their first album, well actually an early EP IIRC)
In The Meadow (from their first album)
This Weekend I’ll Be Mostly Listening to… Billie Ray Martin February 22, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
Techno, dance, electro-pop, ambient, avant-garde. Billie Ray Martin, English/German singer/songwriter/composer/musician has done all of these in a career that now stretches back into the 1980s. Born in Hamburg, living in London and Berlin she eventually wound up in…er… Birmingham (and not the one with Alabama in parenthesis).
I first heard her when listening to one of the excellent Trance Europe Express compilations in the mid-1990s. Her voice was this strange presence on a track she and techno/IDM outfit Spooky released together, a cover of Throbbing Gristle’s “Persuasion”, a most interesting track with lyrics well worth having a look at.
But what I didn’t realise at the time was that Martin had been in Electribe 101, late 1980s, early 1990s, house/techno/dance outfit, who saw some measure of pop success and in their own way created the template for a thousand tracks after. Listen to Inside Out (a cover of 1970s outfit Odyssey), which I think is a bit of a classic, not least for the nicely restrained keyboards during the verses, for a characteristic sample of their output.
A solo career followed soon after, there’s a sense she’s been dismissive of the Electribe 101 days, which is a pity because they did have some great moments. Deadline For My Memories, her first solo album, is a great document, but where Electribe 101 was all lush electronic instrumentation, here she pared away the sound, infusing it with more of an soul influence.
It’s been said by others that she manages to combine in one/many careers avant-garde experimentation and mainstream(ish) pop success. For example there’s her EP based on Warhol, or her revisits of Cabaret Voltaire tracks and as well frequent appearances in the dance charts. Quite a feat.
You’re Walking – Electribe 101
Inside Out – Electribe 101 (not the album track, unnecessary added percussion)
Persuasion (with Spooky)
Deadline For My Memories
Your Loving Arms
Planet of the Blue (from 4 ambient tales)
18 Carat Garbage (with Ann Peebles)
Systems of Silence
No Brakes on My Rollerskates (2003)
Sweet Suburban Disco (2011)
The Crackdown (2010)
Five Takes (A Song About Andy) 2012
This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Songs About Pets February 15, 2014Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
It has almost been a traumatic week with the death of one our goldfish………………
Over the years there were requests for pet dogs and cats from the children but not being a big fan and the fact that we both work meant that it wasn’t really practical to have a dog. Two years ago my parents in law got a dog.Both retired it was an ideal companion. Over the years they had had many dogs and cats but had been without a pet for a number of years. It was decided that as a wheeze to my children they would be told they were co owners and indeed when their grandparents are away we mind the dog and she comes and stays.
Growing up we hadn’t any pets bar a brief flirtation with some goldfish we won at a fair in Tinahealy. I’m not sure which one of my parents wasn’t a fan as my father had had umpteen dogs growing up and my mother would have had also. Indeed my grandaunt on my Mothers side trained greyhounds.Someone in the house may have been allergic to cats and dogs.
What we did have at home though was bees. We had a hive in the garden and they were fascinating creatures. Each evening my father would come in from work and go out the back , lift up the lid of the hive and have a look in to see how they were. He’d come into the kitchen and remove a few stings from his hands. One of the neighbours wasn’t a big fan of the bees. One day she called to the door giving out about being stung by one of my fathers bees. “How do you know it was one of my bees?” was the response….
There was a gang of them who kept bees. One of them a Priest, so if they saw a site they fancied, the Priest called to the house to ask. Having bees around suited farmers too. We’d often go along helping to lift hives over ditches and so on. The hives being moved with the seasons, to the heather in the Dublin Mountains, down to a spot near Rathdrum in Wicklow and one up in Leopardstown that is long covered in M50 and houses. It was quite an education between making the sections, the syrup (which you put in the hive to replace the honey so the bees can feed over the winter), extracting the honey and even learning how to take swarms. I did some Beekeeping courses too but alas when my father died I wasn’t in a position to continue with the bees.
Fast forward and constant requests from the children for a pet. In a weak moment I said ‘maybe next year’ , within an hour they had a cat named and over time there were various visits to the DSPCA in Rathfarnham to look at cats and see were there any they liked. Then came the news that one of the children was allergic to cats and that it would exacerbate his asthma….
So last Christmas my mother gave my children some money …… the idea of goldfish was aired and lo and behold next thing I was up in Maxi Zoo getting a fish tank and the children choosing a goldfish each. ‘Billy’ and ‘Ink’. Last weekend ‘Ink’ got his tail stuck in the tanks water filter. We managed to release him but part of the tail must have stayed in the filter as he wasn’t able to swim away and kept getting stuck in the filter. To filter was taken out for a few days and now…. he lies floating at the top of the tank. I’m not going to move him yet as I’m not sure what the process with a dead pet it, do we have a ‘service’ and bury him (not withstanding the amount of cats in the neighbourhood), anyway we’ll see…….
…… While searching for a suitable box to use as a goldfish coffin my daughter found some teeth that over the years she had left out for the Tooth Fairy ….. so the Tooth Fairy question was asked followed by one about the man in red ….. so the death of the goldfish has now been compounded by the truth about other mythical people
Starting off aptly with a song about a goldfish……..
This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… Wax Idols February 8, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
Post-punk. The gift that never stops giving. One would think that by now it would be played out. But not a bit of it. Each generation has its own take on it. This works to varying degrees of effectivity. A few years back we saw the likes of The Soft Moon do a pretty good job of it. Silent Servant and the late Sandwell Collective took a different route through electronica and IDM arriving at a not entirely different place. It’s testament to the fact that there was no single post-punk sound, quite the opposite, it was in truth closer to a sensibility, an approach or a dynamic.
And here’s a group I mentioned at least once last year and possibly twice, Californian outfit Wax Idols, led by Hether Fortune, and their second album Discipline + Desire. It’s cool, or more than cool. It’s positively cold. Perhaps telling that they wear their influences so clearly on their sleeves, as with “Ad Re: Ian” which deliberately references Adrian Borland and Ian Curtis. But although dark it’s not goth, at least not yet.
Heavier on the Hyena-era Siouxsie, lighter on Joy Division. Hints of the Chameleons here and there (and there’s a sort of connection, see below). Other hints, particularly in the interplay of percussion and bass, of Xmal Deutschland and perhaps even the Slits.
But somehow it’s greater than the sum of its parts (even if “The Scent of Love” tips perhaps a little close to well-trodden Cure territory).
Where it really comes to life on tracks like “Dethrone” (a song that suggests serious potential for a broader appeal), “Ad Re: Ian” and “Stare Back” where the post-punk influences cohere. Yet it sounds, in a way, more chaotic than the originals. Perhaps it is the angular choruses which sound permanently on the brink of spinning away.
Elsewhere tracks like “Stay In” and “The Scent of Love” have an undertow – the strummed guitars, the doomy bass – that is familiar and yet reworked in such a way as to sound fresh. And in the layered effects, the echoed vocals on “Stare Back” and “Sound of A Void”, the treated guitars that litter the album, there’s a sense of a group unafraid to explore the opportunities that still exist in punk, eager to embrace the challenge of holding the balance between melody and dissonance.
There’s a bit of a mythos evolving around Fortune but on the evidence here, while the extraneous stuff is interesting in part – not least her insight into Mark Burgess, her voice and the music she and the group create holds up on its own terms. Great.
When It Happens (on soundcloud)
Stare Back (Live)
Sound of a void (Live)
Sound of a void (on soundcloud)
Scent of Love
This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… just stuff I’m listening to at the moment February 1, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Here’s a bunch of tracks I’ve found myself listening to over the past month or so.
Kissing on You – Honeyblood
I already mentioned the A-side to this from Scottish outfit Honeyblood and at the time noted that the brilliant B-side wasn’t up on YouTube. Now it is. And it remains brilliant.
Kiss Tried to Kill Me – Black Spiders
English stoner rock with a sense of humour. Their second album out last year could have done with more of it.
Is This the Life? – Cardiacs
This is from as far back as 1988, the incomparable Cardiacs. This I like because it’s so unlike their usual output, bar a couple of bars towards the end, it’s like they go stadium goth/post punk for five minutes, Fields of the Nephilim jamming with U2 and the Chameleons with extra guitars from the Cult. And no harm there either. BTW, having watched it on DVD I can’t over recommend the live show it is also played during.
Molten Gold – The Chills
The Chills released one song this last year. They promise more in 2014. Thankfully the one song was a sort of classic.
Almost There – John Foxx and Belbury Poly
This is EamonnCork’s fault, since he has valiantly flown the flag for hauntology across the last year or so and here’s a sample from from Foxx and the ubiquitous Belbury Poly, prime exponents of the form. And very excellent it is too.
Andro Queen – Pixies
Perhaps their most un-Pixies track ever, and yet, and yet…
Dark Days – Public Transport
Public Transport – or rather he – is an avowed fan of Ulrich Schnauss, BOC and Aphex Twin, and here from an EP released late last year is evidence of same, but it’s combination of drones and beats and more drones and clicks.
Resonanz Therapie Musik – Pale Sketcher
This is from 2011 I think but I only heard it last month. But it’s a great slice of electronica, from a group whose output tends to the more percussive.
It’s All Lies – Hawkwind Light Orchestra
And here comes Hawkwind in yet another guise, sort of – continuing to knock them out as they tend to do.
Bound for Glory – Black Star Riders
This is Thin Lizzy without Lynott and with the addition of the spookily close to Lynott’s vocals supplied by Ricky Wainwright (born in the North… of Ireland) from late lamented (by some of us) hard rock/punkish outfit The Almighty. It’s also spookily close to Waiting for An Alibi. But not quite.
It Isn’t Love – Grant Hart
From his solo album based on the works of Milton. Yeah, that Milton.
Pegasus – GEMS
I really like this, but I think I probably shouldn’t, given that it represents that fusion of Cocteau Twins and pop that no one was asking for.
The Court of The Crimson King – King Crimson
Believe it or not never knowingly heard this song or album before last week. It’s kind of good, as is 21st Century Schizoid Man, the stuff in between on the album is interesting too. Amazing how Beatles influenced they were and how much they influenced others subsequently.
Disclosure – I Break Horses
Very much flavour of the month with their second album, you’ll see reviews (a lot of them saying it’s a bit so so, which probably isn’t unreasonable) everywhere from the SBP to the Guardian. They’re good but not quite as good as some say they are. Still a lot to like even if they haven’t quite shook off their influences, those being Schnauss, MBV, M83 and others (including a hint of New Order on this track).
This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… The Gloaming January 25, 2014Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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My brother mentioned a few weeks back that he was going to see The Gloaming in The National Concert Hall tonight. I was jealous and annoyed at myself that I’d missed that they were on. I went to see if there were tickets and alas it was sold out….. then this week a few more went on sale and I was one of the lucky ones to get tickets.
The Gloaming are Thomas Bartlett, Dennis Cahill, Martin Hayes, Iarla Ó Lionáird and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, I’ve previously done TWIMBLTs on Martin Hayes and Iarla Ó Lionáird two members of the group.
Hayes (and his regular partner Dennis Cahill) played on Ó Lionáirds ‘I Could Read The Sky’ album so the addition of Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Thomas Bartlett gives extra dimensions to the music.
I’ve included two clips from the superb Gloaming documentary that was on RTE over the Christmas, an introduction clip and a great one on how Thomas Bartlett met Martin Hayes.
‘The Sailors bonnet’ below is pure Hayes with the added style of Bartletts piano. ‘Saoirse’ is mainly Ó Lionáird and Bartlett but Hayes and Ó Raghallaigh add an almost wonderful eeriness to it. ‘Samhradh Samhradh’ sees them all involved to a large degree and its just fantastic. The other three clips are from shows taken by audience members, still good though.
Even getting this post together has raised the excitement and expectation levels and as I write…. its still undecided if its my wife or son that gets to go to the NCH with me
This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to ’1980s Rebel Soul’ January 18, 2014Posted by guestposter in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
A very welcome guest post from Sam (Come Here To Me! blog).
For the last few months I’ve really got into a sub-genre of music that has been loosely described as ‘rebel soul’. The term was used in in the title of Dexys Midnight Runners 1980 debut album ‘Searching for the Young Soul Rebels’ and the 1985 song ‘Sunday (Rebel Soul)‘ by The Faith Brothers.
Well, what is it? I’ve come up with the hopefully comprehensive title of “1980s up-tempo brass-driven left-leaning Motown-influenced soul”. Mainly a British thing, a couple of Irish bands fit well into this genre as well.
Sandwiched between the decline of Two-Tone (c. 1981/82) and the birth of the UK Acid House rave scene (c. 1988/89), this politically-charged pop music was characterised by well-dressed, energetic young bands with a brass section who tackled social issues in their lyrics. It was described by one music journalist simply as the “fusion of blue-eyed soul music and radical politics”.
Groups in this genre include incarnations of Dexy’s Midnight Runners, The Jam, The Style Council, The Redskins, The Housemartins, The Faith Brothers, The Neurotics and Fire Next Time.
In an Irish context, I think Dublin bands The Blades (1981 onwards) and The Commotion could be included in this genre as well.
Other artists who arguably dabbled with this sound include:
- The Undertones with their classic 1981 single ‘It’s Going To Happen‘. This song was written by John O’Neill in response to the Hunger Strikes and he played the song wearing a black armband the day Bobby Sands died on Top of the Tops. Related interview and footage here)
- The Teardrop Explode’s 1981 album ‘Kilimanjaro’ and songs like ‘Reward‘.
- Elvis Costello’s 1983 album ‘Punch The Clock’ and songs like ‘The Invisible Man‘.
The sound of this genre is in my opinion characterised by:
- the first incarnation of Birmingham band Dexys Midnight Runners (1979-82), particularly their first album ‘Searching for the Young Soul Rebels’ (1980) and singles like ‘Geno’ (1979) and ‘There There My Dear‘ (1980). Some people are still unaware that Dexy’s first single ‘Dance Stance‘ (aka ‘Burn It Down’) was lead singer’s Kevin Rowland’s response to the racist attitudes towards Ireland and the Irish in late Seventies Britain.
- the second incarnation of Dublin band The Blades (1981-86), their only studio album ‘The Last Man in Europe’ (1985) and singles like ‘Revelations of Heartbreak’ (1982), ‘The Last Man In Europe’ (1984) and ‘Downmarket’ (1985). Frontman Paul Cleary was an outspoken socialist who played countless benefit gigs for anti-apartheid and pro-choice campaigns. For more information on the left-wing politics of the band, check out an earlier piece of mine on the band or another article on one of Cleary’s best and most political songs ‘Dublin City Town’.
- the final incarnation of The Jam from Surrey, their sixth and final album ‘The Gift’ (1982) and songs from that album – ‘Ghosts’, ‘Precious’, and ‘Trans Global Express’.
- the career of The Redskins (1982-86) from York, their only studio album ‘Neither Washington Nor Moscow’ (1986) and singles like ‘Keep on Keepin’ On’ (1984) and ‘Bring It Down (This Insane Thing)’ (1985). Formed from the ashes of a punk band called No Swastikas, the vocialist/guitairst Chris Dean and bassist Martin Hewes were active members of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Most of their songs were political and the band played an incalculable number of benefits for striking miners, anti-apartheid groups and other progressive struggles during their short four year career.
- the career of Paul Weller’s The Style Council (1983-89) and songs like ‘Headstart For Happiness (1984), ‘Shout To The Top’ (1984) and ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down’ (1985). Weller was involved with both The Council Collective in December 1984 a band which raised funds for the striking coal miners and then in Red Wedge (1985-90) an umbrella organisation led by Weller, Billy Bragg and Jimmy Sommerville which aimed to raise awareness and funds through concerts to help prevent the Conservatives winning their third consecutive election victory at the 1987 election.
- the later part of the career of Hull’s The Housemartins (1983-88), specifically their second album ‘The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death’ (1987) and songs from that album ‘The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death’ and ‘Five Get Over Excited‘. The album title was a dig at the royal family. Lead singer Paul Heaton, who said only last year that “Every time I write a song, I approach it from a Marxist perspective”, has for over thirty years spoken out against racism, sexism and capitalism.
- the career of Dublin band The Commotion (1984-86) and songs like ‘Inspiration’ and ‘Your Love Has Changed My Mind‘. The band produced a Red and Black poster with the silhouette of Jim Larkin to advertise gigs and played a lot of benefit gigs including for Militant (pre Socialist Party) and the anti-Apartheid movement.
- the career of The Faith Brothers (1985-87) from Fulham Court, South West London and songs like ‘The Sleepwalker’, The Country of the Blind’ and ‘The Thrill Of The Kill. Fronted by songwriter Billy Franks and his lifelong friend Lee Hirons, the Faith Brothers were one of the most hotly-tipped bands of 1985.
Looking like a long-haired version of The Redskins (red harringtons and all), their brand of “blue-eyed soul attracted comparisons with The Style Council and the Spencer Davis Group while their socialist views linked them in the media with the likes of Billy Bragg and the Redskins.” They supported The Boomtown Rats on a 1985 British tour. At a gig supporting The Alarm in the TV Club, Dublin in May 1985 – Bono saw the band and was impressed to the point of asking them to open for U2 in The Milton Keynes Bowl the following month. Turning down the chance to be the “token unknown act” at Live Aid, further issues with the record company developed and they broke up in 1987 after releasing two strong albums and five singles.
In regard to their Falkands inspired anti-War ballad ‘Easter Parade‘ (1985), music journalist Tony Fletcher said the “best compliment I can pay is to suggest that you play it alongside two renowned and relevant contemporaries, ‘Shipbuilding’ by Elvis Costello and ‘Between The Wars’ by Billy Bragg, and see if you don’t agree that it deserves equal ranking.”
- the second incarnation of Harlow band The (Newtown) Neurotics and their albums ‘Repercussions’ (1986) and ‘Is Your Washroom Breeding Bolsheviks?’ (1988). Starting life out as as a punk band in the late 1970s, the band developed their songwriting well beyond punk parameters and in 1985 introduced a brass section and abbreviated their name to The Neurotics. The following year they released their single ‘Living With Unemployment‘ single, a re-working of The Members ‘Solitary Confinement’ which well deservedly made N.M.E. ‘Single Of The Week’. It contains the classic verse:
’round our way, we ain’t got a lot
And after two years on the dole, I felt I’d been left to rot
But now I’ve joined the Army and, believe it or not
I’m going to Northern Ireland and, I’m going to get shot!
Lead singer and guitarist Steve Drewett was (and is) an outspoken socialist (‘Kick Out the Tories‘, ‘Fighting Times‘ and ‘The Winds of Change‘) and today plays with an anarcho-syndicalist sticker on his guitar.
- the third album ‘Love’ (1987) from Aztec Camera from East Kilbride, Scotland and singles like ‘Somewhere in My Heart’ (1987). Lead singer Roddy Frame said in a 1984 interview “I am a born Socialist simply because I know what is right and wrong. Politics is not like supporting Celtic or Rangers. There is only ONE right side, and that is socialism.” Their third album ‘Love’ was a commercial success but divided many fans with accusations of sell out as the band moved to include “radio-friendly hooks and glossy production values”. The B-side to 1988 single ‘How Men Are’ was a simple piano and vocal version cover of The Red Flag.
- the career of Leicester band Fire Next Time (1986-88), their one album ‘North to South’ (1988) and songs ‘Saint Mary’s Steps (Up Tempo Version)’ and ‘We’ve Lost Too Much’. If you decide to only check out one band from this list, I think you should make it ‘Fire Next Time’. I came across one of their songs by accident last year on YouTube, was blown away and immediately downloaded their absolutely fantastic album ‘North to South’ (1988). Download it here, now! It reminded me of The Redskins and The Blades with a hint of The Waterboys and a big dash of Springsteen. One only had to look at their back cover of their first single to see their commitment to left-wing politics. The lead singer James Maddock and drummer Lee Humber were members of the SWP.
What interested me as much as the music when finding the band was that the fact that there was literally only a handful of references to the band anywhere online. As such, I did my best to collate all this information available and set up a Wikipedia article for the group. I also bought their LP and a couple of singles off Ebay. Their lead singer James Maddock (who wrote all their songs) later formed a band called ‘Wood’ who gained critical success with their 1999 album ‘Songs from Stamford Hill’ and has gone onto have a successful solo career since his permanent relocation to New York City in 2003. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I was able to contact James through Facebook and we were able to have a chat.
While they didn’t have brass sections, related left-wing bands from that period playing jangle pop/new wave/post punk include Gang of Four (1977-83), The Three Johns (1981-90), Latin Quarter (1983-99), Lloyd Cole and the Commotions (1984-89) and Easterhouse (1985-89).
There were also a number of non-political soul/RnB bands like The Q-Tips (1979-81), The Bureau (1981), The Blue Ox Babes (1981-88), JoBoxers (1982-85) and Big Sound Authority (1983-86).
Fitting better into the collective memory of 1980s music, sophisti-pop bands with left-wing politics include Scritti Politti (1980s), Heaven 17 (1980s), Human League (1980s), The Blow Monkeys (1981-90), The Kane Gang (1982-91), The Communards (1985-88), Deacon Blue (1985-90) and Hue and Cry (1987 onwards).
If I’ve left out any 80s Soul Rebels, please let me know!
This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… The House of Love January 11, 2014Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
Starting listening to The House of Love again recently having had a bit of a CD/Tape/Record search over The Christmas. It was the song ‘Christine’ that originally tempted me to listen to The House of Love and it was ‘Christine’ again that made me put the record on the turntable again. They had some brilliant tunes, although the quality of the later albums wasn’t as good. Like many a band, they were a band that in the late 80′s were poised to become huge….. They left Creation Records, signed a deal with Fontana records, members left, albums and singles didn’t sell as many as expected …. and they broke up.
There seems to have been a lot of bands at the time that all of a sudden became unfashionable as The Stone Roses and grunge became popular.
They reformed in 2003 and are still going.
In the late 80′s and early 90′s they were a brilliant band, saw them once in Dublin and they were fantastic. They did that awful thing of having no names on a couple of their albums, so you ended up describing the album not by name but by cover.
I later got one of Guy Chadwicks solo albums and it was a bit of a let down.
This Weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… Some albums from 2013 January 4, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
Seeing The Lumineers folk schtick while briefly tuning into, or is that turning over, to Jools Hollands curious New Year’s Hootenanny (which is perhaps given IIRC that it isn’t staged on NYE makes it surely one of the oddest constructs on television), the thought struck me ‘raze their village, salt the earth’. But let’s not focus on that ugliness, for 2013 did bring some good stuff.
Here are some albums, not the ‘best’ but ones that I think may stay with me for a long time. TOY is a late entry, it was a toss up between Kilbey and the Martin Kennedy and Kilbey joint project, Bowie’s ‘The Next Day’ was almost there. Boards of Canada’s Tomorrow’s Harvest which grew on me slowly, Nik Turner and Dawn of Midi likewise. And I could have thrown in Robyn Hitchcock’s Love From London just cause, though it could have as easily been Neon Neon or perhaps at a stretch Wolf People or Jon Hopkins.
What wouldn’t I have thrown in? VNV Nation’s latest, Primal Scream, New Order’s almost entirely irrelevant Lost Sirens. And that’s just for starters.
Again, interested to know what others thought were great albums of the year.
Wax Idols - Discipline & Desire – When It Happens
Reworking post-punk tropes for the 2010s.
The Black Dog – Tranklements – Cult Mentality
Another in a continuing sequence of albums that suggest Black Dog’s work in the 2000s and 2010s is easily the equal of that from the 1990s. This may be my most revisited album of the year.
Steve Wilson - The Raven that Refused to Sing – Luminol
Prog-rock and good with it. Shades of a lot of influences in there.
TOY – Join The Dots – Join The Dots
Just out last month, but the title track alone is a revelation. And overall the album attempts to balance equal love for krautrock and the Byrds.
Ulrich Schnauss & Mark Peters - Tomorrow is Another Day – Additional Ghosts
Better by far than Schnauss’s solo album of this same year.
Deep Purple - Now What?! – Weirdistan
Er… yes. What of it? I admit this is shameless nostalgia, not least for the sound of Don Airey’s keyboards which rework Jon Lord’s sound without being a simple emulation.
Function - Incumbation – Voiceprint
Electronica from Dave Sumner, producer, musician, member of the Sandwell Collective (which appears on/off again at regular intervals).
Heliotropes – A Constant Sea – Ribbons
Still coming back to their blend of alternative/stoner/psychedelic rock.
Steve Kilbey – The Idyllist – Zara Thustra
A man as prolific as Kilbey hardly has time to release a solo album, but somehow he does.
Monster Magnet – Last Patrol – Last Patrol
Best album in years, or at least since 2007. But with an oddly elegiac tone to it, and that’s not just due to its title.
Jupiter Lion – Silver Mouth – Silver Constellation
And it’s interesting to see yet another group, this time Spain’s Jupiter Lion, take a go at krautrock/motorik. That they succeed better than there might be any reasonable expectation of them doing is due to a lot more than sheer persistence.