Sometimes you think it might be a cover version but it turns out its just a song of the same name. I’ve left out ones like “The Power of Love”, “Runaway” and tried to include just the one band. An awful lot of Beatles tracks have names that have been used by other songs.
Other examples welcome….
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I’ve always figured Newcombe of Brian Jonestown Massacre – in whatever incarnation – knows pretty much what he’s doing and even when he gets it wrong he usually does it in an interesting way. And in this joint project he doesn’t get it wrong at all.
Tess Parks – supposedly a protege of Alan McGee is someone who to judge from this album entitled ‘I Declare Nothing’ has from a strong and compelling identity all her own. Hers is an idiosyncratic voice that wavers on occasion in outright growls – the Guardian suggested a mixture of Hope Sandoval and Courtney Love. Well, perhaps. And yet I kind of like it. This isn’t Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra – great though that pairing was, or Opal, but a grittier and perhaps more formidable combination.
Standout tracks are Wehmut, which lopes along lazily to a backing of entertainingly space rock squeaks and burbles until what sounds like a flute enters the picture. Cocaine Cat and Peace Defrost power along on subdued riffs somehow balancing narcolepsy with primal rock and roll. Or perhaps that is the balance and always has been, this being music to enjoy as one falls asleep, the hazy strums and woozy reverb the perfect backdrop to allow consciousness to simply drift away. Gone is, ironically perhaps with its choppy stop start guitars, almost jaunty despite the lyric – not least when Newcombe provides backing vocals. Voyage de L’ame certainly benefits from what sounds like a mellotron.
Speaking of which Newcombe is a great man for filling sonic spaces even when his overall approach seems sparse to the point of minimalism. Example A is October 2nd which has a soft one note keyboard/organ sound in the background. Meliorist is perhaps the most conventional track but none the worse for it and Friendlies has a fantastically atonal guitar line that winds through its length.
For the most part it works, though if there’s a criticism it is that the tracks tend to the mid-paced. It would be interesting to see them genuinely let rip. But there’s more than enough going on to ensure that the album holds the attention. it’s the sort of album, particularly a guitar/vocal album, that yet again proves that the form isn’t played out – at least not by those who can dig deep into it, and Parks and Newcombe can and do.
I hope we hear more from this quarter.
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There are some great bands that do various covers in different styles than the original. Laibach and Ten Masked Men are two great ones that spring to mind. There are of course tribute acts that just do covers of the band and try to look and sound as like them as possible. Within all that there is the sub genre of tribute bands that cover just the one band but in a different style. Beatallica do Beatles songs in the style of Metallica (with a slight twist of the lyrics), whilst Skadonna do Ska versions of Madonna songs.
I quite enjoy both . There must be a ton of other bands though of similar guise?
Skadonna Facebook Page
The Beatallica website
The Trigan Empire August 8, 2015Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
It’s been mentioned here before, and I’ve noted that I loved the artwork at the time – the stories, well, reading some again there was perhaps a reactionary streak – see below for more – running through them (a typical story idea was someone for criminal, power or other reasons deciding to undermine the Empire and overthrow the Emperor Trigo… leaving the royal family and assorted hangers on including Janno, Peric et al to try to thwart them – female characters were marginal). But the glimpse into another extremely futuristic world of helijets and rockets and what appeared to be fairly major international conflicts on the planet Elekton every other week was the main thing. Don Lawrence’s artwork was perhaps unsurpassed, but I have to admit Oliver Frey’s paintings ran him a very close second, or actually equal, in my mind (Frey, by the way, has had a fascinating career including being a renowned exponent of gay erotic art).
Look and Learn folded in the early 1980s, pushed aside by television, I suppose, and with it went the Trigan Empire.
Anyhow, for those as is interested you can buy this, a Lawrence page will set you back a cool couple of grand. Frey, not quite as much – trust me, it’s a steal. Gerry Woods (who had his moments, particularly on his illustrations for Speed & Power) likewise.
Here’s Lawrence (who died in 2003) at work…
He is asked about whether the way the Trigan Empire was written essentially meant that it was fascist… and he does point to some of the uniforms. And here we have a further expansion on that idea. It’s certainly true to say it was positioned very very neatly within an imperialist discourse – the clue is in the name, albeit with some nods to a sort of modernity (the main protagonist Janno, has two sidekicks, one of whom Keren is ‘the son of Chief Imbala of Daveli’ and who winds up in the Trigan air force with Janno). Not good but of its time.
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I first heard EMA (aka Erika M. Anderson) a couple of years back – the track Neuromancer as it happens. It wasn’t long before it was clear that the album from which it was drawn was going to be very well received, very well received indeed. Not entirely surprising, The Future’s Void is apparently about the internet. But if it is a concept album it’s one that doesn’t overwhelm the music or – as best as can be determined – the lyrics.
And perhaps more importantly The Future’s Void is just a great album – along with Ancient Wing’s eponymous album one of my two or three favourite albums of 2014. The opening track So Blonde is archetypal, referencing her drone rock roots, with that languorous but steely beat that arrives neatly at the near croaked chorus – a cry of dismissal and empathy. 3Jane has a simple refrain that sits across a massive but sparse sonic space of drum, bass and keyboards. Neuromancer is equally huge. When She Comes pared back, almost deceptively simple, a song that had to be written. 100 Years pared back even further. And so on, from Dead Celebrities simplicity, the reserved white noise and feedback on final track Satellites whose disjointed chorus will linger long after the track itself has ended.
I like the melodic undertow. EMA isn’t in the slightest bit reserved about playing with noise (again those drone rock roots haven’t been in any sense abandoned), but the songs are also anchored to strongly melodic elements which makes them both memorable and a pleasure to listen and relisten to. Add to that the sheer diversity – some tracks have an almost electronic edge, others reference the Velvet Underground, still others almost traditional pop. It’s this sense of a musician and writer playing with form and also doing it with great confidence.
One reviewer complained about production choices, but to me that’s a strength of this album. And its seeming diversity is what makes it so powerful a listen. EMA is willing to take an unexpected turn, to throw something that bit more difficult at the listener, and expects the listener to be able to keep up. Recommended.
When She Comes
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I recently did a ‘This Weekend’ on Japanese Shoegazing Bands. One band in particular have stood out for me and that is きのこ帝国 pronounced “Kinoko Teikoku” which I gather translates as Mushroom Kingdom. The bands website.
They have been around since 2007 and have released a number of albums and EPs. Well worth a listen.
Theres a piece on them here
Translates as ‘Sea and Bouquets’ Video with a translation of the song
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 Uncategorized, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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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)