This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Latin Quarter July 25, 2015Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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It’s curious, in the 1980s, that great flowering of reaction both in the UK and the US, there were no end of politically inflected pop groups and artists. It’s a near enough endless list and the curious lack of similar groups with such a significant profile during the contemporary period has often been noted.
But that’s another day’s work. Sam here in his guest post covered an enormous number of them. And mentioned by Sam was Latin Quarter. Their album, Modern Times, thirty years old this year, is for all the airiness of the compositions and a very characteristic 1980s perkiness an oddly claustrophobic experience to listen to in its entirety. It is perhaps that there is a melancholia that ultimately begins to permeate the songs – driven by the lyrics.
But where is the surprise. Founder members Mike Jones and Steve Skaith were both members of Big Flame (see here in the Left Archive). And Jones is quoted on their Wiki page as saying that ‘Modern Times’ was ‘a veritable manifesto’ of Big Flame’s views. I don’t know if this is me, but I seem to hear an odd empathy in some of the lyrics, a recognition of the fear that lies at the heart of much of reaction. But there was no compromise with that reaction.
None of this would work if the songs themselves weren’t well written melodic pop. But they are. Sometimes lugubrious, it has to be admitted, but never overly worthy. A bit of folk, some reggae, rock and pop are all part of the mix. No Ordinary Return, or Radio Africa, or America for Beginners are all catchy as hell. And I kind of like the less feted tracks like Seaport September or New Millionaires which are admirably snarky.
It’s almost entertaining how synth pop so many of them are – Toulouse – with a fantastic lead female half-spoken vocal wouldn’t be out of place on a Heaven 17 album (another group who could be remarkably political when the mood took them). There aren’t many songs I can think of that have a chorus that starts so directly as ‘You’ve had the OAS, you’ve had the CGT…’ (this by the way is criticised on the Allmusic review as positioning them too much as of their time – well, not so sure about that now). In a way it’s surprising they weren’t bigger, because one feels – particularly with a track like New Millionaires – that only a very minor tweak could see them setting the controls for the heart of the mainstream. I’m surely not the only one who can hear late period Genesis or even, at a stretch, Toto or – gulp, for this is not necessarily a good thing, Starship in there. And perhaps that smoothness is off-putting to some, though I’ve always had a liking for bands that danced up to the line of out and out commercialism without tripping across it. But Latin Quarter’s grit is in the lyrics, not in the music.
Although there are female led tracks more would be better, not least because of the brilliance of the female vocals from Yona Dunsford and Carol Douet – both lead and backing – throughout.
I never heard the other albums, in large part because like some other groups that I loved then and subsequently I was concerned that if they weren’t as good they wouldn’t measure up. They’ve released albums more recently having reformed and I’d be interested what they’re like if anyone has heard them.
America for Beginners
Radio Africa (Live on Top of the Pops)
No Rope As Long As Time
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Was listening to some Slowdive recently on Youtube and just clicked on another Slowdive song and went back to what I was doing…. I liked the music but hadn’t heard it before so checked what album it was. It wasn’t Slowdive but a band called ‘Pastel Blue’.
I noticed that it had been posted on a Youtube channel called ‘Japanese Shoegaze’. It turns out that whilst shoegazing went out of fashion in the mid 90’s here there has been a dedicated Shoegazing musical genre in Japan ever since producing loads of excellent music. From further research I gather that My Bloody Valentine are revered in Japan. Theres quite a good piece on Japanese Shoegaze and MVB here.
There was an album of MBV covers called “Yellow Loveless” featuring Japanese bands released in 2013.
Some of the youtube clips have links to download the albums in the comments. I’ve found myself listening to them over the past few weeks. Don’t understand much Japanese but the music is great.
The “Yellow Loveless” album
Greater than the sum of its parts… July 11, 2015Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
…this in the Guardian was a bit of an eye opener. it’s an excerpt from a book by Clinton Heylin on – ahem – appropriation in pop and rock. I’d no idea that Blue Monday by New Order had so many…er… inspirations.
Blue Monday famously became the biggest-selling 12in single ever after its release in 1983. What no one in New Order could agree on, though, was where it came from. According to Peter Hook, “We stole it off a Donna Summer B-side” (meaning Our Love, actually an A-side). Bernard Sumner admitted to further lifts, taking part of the arrangement from Dirty Talk by Klein + MBO, the signature synthesised bassline from Sylvester’s disco classic, You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real), and sampling the long intro from Kraftwerk’s Uranium. Keyboardist Gillian Gilbert didn’t think it ended there: “Peter Hook’s bassline was nicked from an Ennio Morricone film soundtrack.” But if Blue Monday had a starting point, it was Gerry and the Holograms by a group of the same name, an obscure Mancunian slice of electronica, released on Absurd Records in 1979 – which was actually send-up of music by arch satirist CP Lee, of Albertos Y Los Trios Paranoias, and his friend, John Scott. New Order all knew Lee, but decided the joke was on him. They were never sued.
Check out these elements and it’s clear there’s some… similarities.
Though that said it’s difficult not to feel that in total the song is itself. And it’s worth noting that it was explicitly in a style and genre where appropriation was part and parcel of the package.
But this has always interested me – the idea of lifting, appropriating and outright stealing music.
My gripe wouldn’t be the appropriation but the lack of crediting of sources. Any other examples gratefully accepted.
This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to Ex Hex July 11, 2015Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to..., Uncategorized.
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This was recommended to me with a sardonic ‘bet this’ll be your new favourite band’.
Ex Hex, newish project of Helium and Wild Flag (along with two thirds of Sleater Kinney) alumini Mary Timony and with her comrades Betsy Wright and Laura Harris contenders for coolest women in rock ever.
The music? Imagine Teenage Fanclub, Suzi Quatro, Television, the Flamin Grooves jamming together, with the Only Ones sitting in from time to time. Throw in a hint of New Wave – actually more than a hint, a touch of Roxy on the vocals here and there. And you’re almost there. Is that the Cars – or more recently Denim in the background? Could be.
Cool but not detached vocals, pulsing bass lines, punchy percussion and guitar that is rock without being metal. It’s oddly familiar to those of us who grew up listening to music in the late 70s and early 1980s. Melodic, catchy, streamlined… distinctly different from the angularity of Wild Flag but still infused with the same energy.
Stand out tracks? Well, them all as it happens, but War Paint has a brilliant throwaway riff whose essential simplicity masks its efficacy – and raises questions as to why it wasn’t written earlier. Radio On – that title alone! – is perfect, a track that Teenage Fanclub could have written but didn’t. New Kid with its referencing through the lyrics and the music of an near faux mythic hinterland of rock.
Waterfall…chugging along. Everywhere with it’s intriguing lyrics. And so it is with them all.
Needless to say they’re critically regarded but rightly so. It’s not simple reappropriation, nor is it parody. It’s just… a classic – and complete with an ‘Outro’ track… Favourite new guitar band? Yep.
How You Got that Girl (Live)
A Model of the proposed Custom House Docks site (IFSC) from a 1988 Booklet of Charles Haugheys Fianna Fail Ard Fheis speech. Thought it might be of interest. I love all the speedboats, presumably owned by the Financial Gurus who were commuting from their seaside mansions to work.
Illegal music sharing July 4, 2015Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
This is an interesting read on Slate about illegal music sharing by a writer who has written on the topic and seems to suggest that its pretty much over for it what with streaming services. Well. Now. Not so sure about that. Or indeed about the dominance of streaming… perhaps some day, but not just yet.
The only part of illegal downloading that I’ve indulged in online was deleted albums downloaded from MP3 blogs (I used torrents once and once only for an album so obscure and out of print that I doubt anyone including those whose music it was would care). Their heyday I would think was around 2009 or so. At least that was when most stuff that could be found on them was available. And it was great. Metal, goth, electronica, it was all there. Clearly in the last five or six years a lot of cease and desist letters went out because it’s nowhere near as target rich.
But I’ve a funny attitude to music sharing. I kind of like throwing a few quid the way of groups, so I still use emusic, and less frequently the Apple Store. The MP3 blogs covered the area where groups albums were no longer available legitimately and that was very handy indeed.
Nor do I buy into this:
But in 2014, I finally caved. Piracy was becoming too expensive and time-consuming—after a certain point, it was cheaper to subscribe to Spotify and Netflix. Individual ownership of “private” digital property was disappearing; in the new paradigm, digital goods were corporate property, with users paying for limited access. Using Spotify for the first time, I immediately understood that the corporations had won—its scope and convenience made torrenting music seem antique. For the first time, a legal business was offering a product that was superior to what was available underground.
I think Netflix is okay only as far as it goes. And that’s not far enough for me. Programmes drift in and out of license and therefore whole series can be pulled. Jason Snell, once of MacWorld, has argued recently along the lines that it simply isn’t mature enough a system and may not be for quite some time for consumers to place their faith, and more importantly their money, in streaming services for video because just as you’re wading through, say Battlestar Galactica and closing in on the last season the license is pulled and it vanishes. This of course will change but so far not so great.
Also, again the attraction of having something tangible, be it a DVD case with DVD enclosed, or CD, or my ‘own’ MP3s trumps a lot of considerations.
I’ve an aversion to streaming music and for much the same reason, it’s just not the same, somehow it feels like it is not in my control. And there remains another aspect. There are albums out there which the MP3 blogs had and may still have in some instances, that would never be on Spotify, would never return. Who wants this or that esoteric Irish group that made three singles and an EP and then packed it in, or a Swedish metal group that released a single album, or
As to the final paragraph or two in the article, I find the author’s approach inexplicable.
I still had my files, too—the relics of a previous era. All told, there were more than 100,000 MP3s, and it would have taken more than a year of continuous listening to hear them all. They were scattered across nine hard drives, including the original 2GB clunker I’d brought with me to college. With the cloud looming, they were worthless.
The Internet had left its adolescence. Now it was my turn. In late 2014, I loaded the drives into a plastic bag and brought them to a data destruction firm in Queens, New York. I expected to pay, but the technician there told me that, for such a small job, he’d be willing to do it for free. He led me around back to the service area, where he proceeded to destroy all nine drives with a pneumatic nail gun. With each drive, he blasted a half dozen nails into its housing, then picked it up, and shook it against his ear to listen for the telltale rattle of its shattered magnetic core. When he was done, he gathered the drives and threw them into a dumpster, on top of thousands of others.
That seems to me to be betting the farm on a lot as well as throwing them out for no particularly good reason.
A very welcome and given it’s the 4th of July appropriate guest post from YourCousin.
One can’t begrudge success. And classic country acts who have a certain cross over appeal are as legitimate as anyone else. But there comes a time when the cross over appeal becomes cooption. I would put Johnny Cash into that category. I remember where I was when both June Carter and Johnny Cash died, the exact moment and location. He is understandably a bigger than life icon, but when Jay Z and Jonny Depp, and Owen Wilson show up in the your music videos well it should give one pause (I mean he’s dead so it’s not his fault, but still). So any more when someone asks me who my favorite country musician is I always say Tom T. Hall. If they say, “who?” then I get the chance to play a song or two for and if they already know then they get extra brownie points. A songwriter whose influence was felt by other artists rather than by the public at large, I always considered him a good journeyman song writer. Someone who approaches the artistic process as a craft,
with skill and a matter of factness which some of the the more “artistically inclined” folks may not always have. For a better take I would direct folks to this article from The Guardian.
This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… The Wailers June 27, 2015Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Went to The Script last Weekend in Croke Park… The Script were good , that Pharrell Williams was woeful and the highlight of the day were The Wailers. I hadn’t realised that they were playing!
I suppose they are almost a tribute act at this stage but what a repertoire they have to choose from. Yes no Bob Marley but still a brilliant sound and great songs.
Was amused in the intro to “Get Up, Stand Up” the leader singer Dwayne “Danglin” Anglin was talking about Revolution with his arm up in the air clenched fist in a Black Power style salute…. a lot of the crowd seemed bemused at the gesture.
It’s very hard not to enjoy songs like ‘One Love’ , ‘No Woman No Cry’ and so on. They really are classics. It also left me wondering how much better it would have been to see Bob Marley and The Wailers in their prime.
The Top 30 Australian Songs 1926-2001 June 20, 2015Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
Stumbled across this online recently and not a lot to complain about here, some great groups represented in this list from 2001 of the APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association) Top 30 Australian songs released between 1926 and 2001 – though the earliest track appears to be from 1957. The Go-Betweens – natch! The Triffids, Midnight Oil, AC/DC, A certain N. Cave, the Saints and so on. But… nothing by The Church? And call me mad, Crowded House, fair enough, but nothing from their precursor Split Enz who were a likeable crew. Though watching this perhaps they took that Bowie 1980 style just a bit too seriously…
Mind you, in fairness check this out and see what names might have cropped up on that list.
This here is a better overview, I think, stretching to all of 100 Best Australian Albums, as determined by:
Toby Creswell, Craig Mathieson and John O’Donnell each have long and respected careers in the music industry.
Creswell is a journalist and music critic whose 2005 book 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time and the Artists, Stories and Secrets Behind Them is regularly used as a reference for the RocKwiz tv show.
Mathieson is also a journalist, known for his work with Rolling Stone, Juice magazine, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, as well as for his book Hi Fi Days, a biography of Silverchair, Spiderbait and You Am I.
O’Donnell started out as a freelance writer, worked as Music Editor at Rolling Stone, then went to work with record labels where he signed and developed acts including Silverchair, Something For Kate, Jebediah, Missy Higgins and Empire of the Sun.
Ah, Icehouse, I remember you well, and from the pre-Hey Little Girl days too. Got to admit to a strange liking for this track of theirs from 1982 – a bit of Bowie, bit of Roxy, something of the Stranglers mid-80s excursions, perhaps even a hint of Goth.
The Scientists, Hoodoo Guru’s…
…and more… yes, even the Models. All there…
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It had been a while since I listened to Beauty and the Beat by the Go-Go’s. At least three or four years. And before that probably a decade or so. I bought this first in Macs in the Georges Street Arcade in or around 1984 and never regretted it. But what struck me was just how good it remained.
There was, for all that it was new wave pop, a punky snarl in amongst the 1950s girl group stylings and the surf guitars – that curious mixture of looking simultaneously forward and back is very 1982, isn’t it? It’s in the metronomic beats behind some of the songs, the sheer power of the drums (most un-1950s on the backing to the chorus on How Much More), the restrained but not muted guitars, the ever so slightly off kilter and sometimes melancholic approach to the vocals and the angular arrangements.
Read any of the accounts of west coast punk and it can be surprising just how high profile and well-regarded the Go-Go’s were by the most unlikely of peers. They were part of the scene and though there was a sense amongst some that they were shifting from it there was surprisingly little rancour directed at them. Half a year in the UK in 1980 clearly altered their trajectory yet further – not least due to the success of ‘We Got the Beat’ which even in demo version became a hit there. A deal with IRS followed and with that their first album, the aforementioned Beauty and the Beat.
Allmusic suggests that this album was one of a number that brought new wave in the US to a wider audience. it’s very possible for it is quite simply full of really well arranged and composed songs. Our Lips Are Sealed is rightly a classic – and co-composed with Terry Hall – all chugging guitars, as is Tonite, This Town and We Got the Beat but there is real pleasure in the other less well known tracks.
I’ve read some note that early REM sounds not unlike this, and you know, it’s not that much of a stretch. There’s a jangling quality to the guitars and the arrangements. Both groups were expanding the space that post-punk operated in, both in an odd way reaching back to pop albeit in unexpected directions.
I remember buying Vacation, its successor, at more or less the same time and being a little disappointed. There the formula had been smoothed out, the melodies a little less distinct, and a sense that while the textural aspects were all there somehow it was a bit lacking. And yet that album too has its moments. Later there were breakups, solo careers, sort of kind of bids for stardom and so on, and a sense that they had become even more commercial. They have however reformed numerous times and are still gigging.
And this, this is a great album and its familiarity – perhaps over familiarity at certain points – is no reason to ignore that fact. Brilliantly ironic post-punk cover too.
Our Lips Are Sealed
We’ve Got the Beat
How Much More