This Weekend I’ll Mostly be Listening to… The Units March 28, 2015Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Until recently I’d never consciously heard of this crowd, a US based – also involved in performance art – early electronic/new wave group who were extant from the late 1970s until 1983. It was only reading this piece here from a 1980s magazine – on a pointless quest to find out how Japan got that sequenced synth bass sound on Quiet Life, and if anyone has any idea how it is done I’d appreciate it – that I read of them.
Wiki, as can be seen above, has some information on them and there’s bits and pieces of their output on the web. YouTube has a good selection of their songs.
First up a caveat or two. The music is often clunky as if they’re not quite sure whether to go new wave or electronic/synth pop, and the production is – at times – different. But that aside there’s some interesting sounds here, with songs that – well, mix electronic/synth pop and new wave.
What’s interesting is that it takes a different route entirely from, say, John Foxx or Gary Numan, though there is more than a hint of Ultravox. In part it is because it is more abrasive. This isn’t the steely and somewhat detached alienation JG Ballard, this is a different sort of alienation entirely, fuelled as much by punk as by 1970s electronic experimentation.
Now some of this is more than a little bit like Talking Heads – which is not necessarily a good thing in my book. But then again it’s early Talking Heads, and that’s a bit better in my book. Go has a cracking synth line. Digital Stimulation is pretty good in an early 1980s style. And then Cowboy sounds weirdly like a demo track from Boards of Canada. And that points up something very curious about the group, there’s plenty of electronic sounds here that sound, for all the dodgy production, remarkably more modern than the release date would suggest. It’s not difficult to see these reworked completely into instrumentals, or near instrumentals – and lo, well read below.
Perhaps not entirely surprisingly they broke up after a horribly misconceived foray into commercial synth pop. But there have been some interesting remixes of their material in subsequent years…
Anyone reading here who remembers them from back in the day?
High Pressure Days
Cannibals (debut single from 1979)
Go + Mission
Warm Moving Bodies
The Units – High Pressure Days (Dynamicron Remix)
This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… The Fat Lady Sings March 21, 2015Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Another Dublin band from the late 80’s and early 90’s (and who later reformed for a while around 2005) were The Fat Lady Sings. I saw them numerous times live and a while back found a recording of one of their concerts in a box of tapes in the attic.The wonderful Fanning Sessions Archive has the very same tape of a concert on their site , it really is worth a listen. Its from The Seven Bands On The Up series which was on in the SFX which I was also at.
“Be Still” and “Arclight” in particular are two of my favourite songs and even my Children like them. Singer Nick Kelly had a certain cool elegance and in the past few years I’ve run into him at formalish occasions but am still too dumbstruck to say how much I admire his music or I suppose even acknowledge that I’m a fan.
They released a good number of singles and two albums ‘Twist’ (1991) and ‘Johnson’ (1993). They broke up in 1994.
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Once there were the Field Mice, and very fine they were too, Sarah Records mainstay, feminist, thoughtful, rather sad, with hints and more than hints of New Order mixed in with their guitar pop.
And then there weren’t. But Field Mice alumni Bob Wratten and Annemari Davies regrouped as Northern Picture Library with drummer ark Dobson. NPL were a bit heavier on the electronica. And they stopped too. After which Trembling Blue Stars were unleashed upon the world with initially much the same line-up – the name copped from the Story of O, so it is said.
Now, it’s fair to say that there was never a great deal of difference in their sound. They often remind me of a Disco Inferno who instead of diving headlong into experimentation and making occasional forays into pop (of a sort) decided to keep a foot in a more melodic camp with very occasional forays into experimentation.
One notable aspect of all these groups has been the strain of melancholy that runs through them. But rarely has solitude, regret and melancholy sounded so attractive. Bob Wratten may well be a man who needs to get out more, but given what he and his comrades have produced perhaps it’s as well he doesn’t.
Beth Arzy came on board as bassist and across a number of albums provided lead vocals on an increasing number of tracks.
The “Last Holy Writer” from 2007, which while a late entrant in their canon demonstrates that a group can provide something close to a classic at any point in their career. but… if he and Arzy and the rest of the group can fashion songs so perfectly on note as these perhaps it’s as well he doesn’t. Arzy’s vocals both lead and backing are crystal clear, precise and cooly emotional.
And Wratten and Arzy clearly understand that albums like this need light and shade and speed as well as reflection. So it is that we are offered the New Order inflected pop/dance of This Once Was An Island, or the slower Darker, Colder, Slower or the bitter sweet almost Church-like jangle pop of November Starlings, and that’s just for starters. Idyllwild is kind of joyous. Mileage may vary on the, by now, characteristic dabbling in dance and techno. Personally I always liked that part of their output but others may disagree.
There’s a soft countryish tug to some of the melodies, not least the closer, A Statue to Wilde. It is heartening to see that Arzy and Wratten are back with a new outfit, Lightning in A Twilight Hour, this very month and are releasing new material under a new label.
This Once Was An Island
Darker Colder Slower
A Statue to Wilde
Left Archive: Sinn Féin Today, c.1987(?), Sinn Féin March 9, 2015Posted by WorldbyStorm in Sinn Féin, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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To download the above please click on the following link. SF TODAY
Many thanks to the person who forwarded this to the Archive.
This short three page document is typewritten. It is undated, but given mention of the ‘Hillsborough Deal’ in the text it would appear to date from the late-1980s.
It suggests that:
SF has a leading role in the struggle to establish a 32 Democratic Socialist Republic. Its role is vital to achieve that goal and therefore it is just as important as the role of the volunteers engaged in armed struggle – neither can win without the other. What is this vital role that Sinn Féin has?
And it answers that question by addressing it in the context of ‘The 6 counties’, ‘The 26 counties and ‘The 32 counties’.
Notable is how it presents itself:
By its presence on the ground and in elections SF has challenged the S.D.L.P. voice as the voice representing the wishes of the nationalist people. This is of great importance in the propaganda war – and guerrilla war is really a struggle for the hearts and minds of the people – so it is vital to speak out in sport o the armed struggle.
But it also notes:
On the international level the SF electoral victories have destroyed the British strategy of criminalisation and normalisation. The Hunger Strike made this possible but without SF electoral victories the effects of the Hunger Strikes would be quickly forgotten – think back to the emotional wave that followed Bloody Sunday and how we failed to harness it.
It also suggests that ‘SF spokespersons from the 6 counties are constantly giving interviews on TV and to magazines and papers from all over the world, explaining the situation in Ireland and exposing the lies of British and Dublin propaganda about it being a sectarian conflict.’
It also argues that that ‘a no less important result of a strong SF presence on the ground in that the isolation of the IRA is made impossible’. And it suggests that ‘the presence of SF elected representatives on the Councils in the 6 Counties has effectively ended local government because of the Loyalist reaction to them’. And it further suggests that this presence destablised the British presence and ‘produced the Hillsborough Deal… [which] is an attempt to stabilise a rapidly worsening situation by drawing in the SDLP and Dublin behind the British in looking for an internal political solution… so SF has effectively destabilised the whole thing. Of course it could only have been done in the situation created and maintained by the armed struggle’.
The brief section on the 26 counties includes the following:
The net effect is to produce a more nationalist outlook even in political parties or organisations like trade unions who might have otherwise taken a Workers Party line’.
Some intriguing thoughts too on Sinn Féin in the 32 Counties, albeit truncated due to the short space afforded them.
In some respects it is an unusual document, and it is not clear if it is intended for general distribution or some internal education function. Any assistance on its provenance would be very welcome.
This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Waulking Songs March 7, 2015Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
Last Sunday night I got into the car after seeing The Gloaming in the NCH, such was the sheer brilliance of their performance there was a debate between myself and my son if we should turn on the radio. You know when you have just been at a magical gig and you want to keep the sounds as fresh in your mind as possible… often you get into a taxi and theres some awful tripe on the radio spoiling your mood. Either way I won and we switched on RTE Radio 1. What was only only a documentary by David Attenborough about making a programme on Folk music in the 50’s for the BBC (alas it is no longer online). It was fascinating stuff as he had worked with Alan Lomax on the show. We drove home to the sounds of Ewan McColl, Margaret Barry and Waulking songs from the Outer Hebridies.
Waulking is the working of the Tweed mainly carried out by the islands women. I was captured by the rhythm of the tweed being waulked as the rhythm for the songs. They are almost universal in that you could imagine some of the songs being Native Americans or indeed any other ethnic songs. I’ve also included a number of Waulking songs being sung in an instrumental environment. The eagle eyed among you may spot Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh of The Gloaming in the second last clip here.
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Goth. Interesting, often absurd. Worse again on video. This isn’t to say I don’t have more than a passing acquaintance with its exponents. From The Bolshoi to Gene Loves Jezebel, Xymox to Lords of the New Church there’s more than a few albums in the genre that I know all too well. No recanting though. The good is good.
And this album, Floodland, the songs – as distinct from the videos, remains pretty darn good. Some will point to their first album, First and Last and Always, but at this remove that sounds tinny and underproduced. Even so, Marian (ripped off almost note for note by the Mission on Wasteland), Some Kind of Stranger and A Rock and A Hard place are classics of a kind.
The real purists though will recall earlier singles and EP collections, but they’re mostly unnecessary, barely differentiated from the sludge of post punk which Goth developed from. A thin guitar sound, layered over a pulsing bassline with equally thin vocals was what characterised them. Granted, the vocals were a bit deeper than was then currently fashionable – Bowie meets Ian Curtis and they get on just fine – but that was about it. Fast paced though. All unquestionably fast paced and with a faint electronic edge. And I admit to still enjoying Body and Soul or their version of The Stooges classic 1969.
But then all changed and utterly.
Vocalist Andrew Eldritch (natch) jettisoned guitarist Gary Marx (who went on to nearly but not quite Goth superstars Ghostdance – and released a not half bad solo album some years back consisting of tracks he wrote for Eldritch during the 1990s) and other guitarist Wayne Hussey who would found the Mission, and there was some unpleasantness over group names with, so it is said Hussey intending rather cheekily to start up a rival outfit entitled The Sisterhood, until Eldritch raced in with his own sort of kind of group which offered a sort of proto-techno, no surprise there given the line-up which included the briefly employed original drummer of Motorhead Lucas Fox and, so it is said, Alan Vega of Suicide. As a final joke – or perhaps making a virtue of necessity due to record company constraints – instead of singing himself Eldritch roped in James Ray, a man whose vocal style was – shall we say, similar. Extremely similar.
Jettisoning Marx wasn’t necessarily the greatest idea, He had his moments. Jettisoning Hussey, well now. One could complain that Eldritch unleashed Hussey onto an unsuspecting world and some measure of fleeting success – not entirely true, Hussey had been around since 1980 and played with Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls before going on to join Dead or Alive (by the by, as it happens in the days of Goth I saw the Mission twice, but that’s another story). But that would be the least of it.
That said in a display of good sense Eldritch also co-opted uber-Goth bassist Patricia Morrison of the Gun Club (later to become a member of the Damned and marry Dave Vanian) into the Sisterhood from where she joined TSOM on a full time basis (though there’s some dispute as to whether her bass parts were used in full or partially redone – all very Eldritch).
Sprinkle a scattering of mid-1980s pop production across it, somewhat similar in intent to the Psychedelic Furs Midnight to Midnight (whose John Ashton had produced an early EP) but… doomier. Throw in the odd short overwrought piano driven ballad and are we there yet?
Not quite. As a last grace note add some faux geo-political lyrics name checking the White House, the DDR and Red Square and possibly Chernobyl. What was it about? Who the fuck knew? But it sounded vast and cool and sort of clever without necessarily doing any of the heavy lifting required to actually be clever.
This was heavy rock for people who hated heavy rock. This was synth pop for people who hated synth pop. This was the Cold War as set to bass and synth and choirs and more choirs and even more choirs and transported to a stadium near you. This was…preposterous.
The singles, monstrous things really – accompanied by truly god awful videos where Eldritch, with his usual ghastly pallor only partially hidden behind 1960s aviator glasses, stick thin and angular, pirouetted (seriously) around sub-Mad Max studio sets and selected sites of interest in the former British Empire (India, Jordan, you get the picture) like some sort of demented faintly post-apocalyptic chancer channelled by way of then contemporary Berlin night clubs – were good. Actually they were great. The unleashed power of the earlier Temple of Love single, released by a previous incarnation of TSOM, reworked and ratcheted up to 10. Perhaps 11.
Two weeks back there was the New Romantic compilation, Modern Dance, in this slot, and there’s a weird similarity to my ears between Temptation by Heaven 17 and mid-period Sisters of Mercy. The massed choral vocals, the tricksy key and time changes.
But this should have come as little surprise for working in the background was one Jim Steinman whose oeuvre included the camper than camp enormity that was Meatloaf.
Naturally this is on many levels terrible stuff, one suspects barely a step away from Andrew Lloyd Webber, but entertainingly so. And… yet it’s sort of great, camp, bombastic and for the most part it is more considered than the image projected by the videos (Lucretia, My Reflection may just be the quintessential goth song, that funny mixture of post punk, taut energy and knowing narcissism). But, also in a way it’s a full stop.
Just as the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy effectively demonstrated the limits of indie (and I’ve always thought it telling that that last spark of guitar experimentation occurred during the rise of hip-hop, rap, dance and electronica in popularity, more than ready to sneak in where post punk and new wave was fading) so this represented (along with the aforementioned Midnight to Midnight from the Psychedelic Furs) the limits of the pop accessibility of this section of post-punk, at least on its own terms. If Goth got bigger it only did so by high-tailing it to other genres… most obviously metal – so a neat bit of foreshadowing by Mr. erm… Eldritch, though we’re all still living with the after-effects of that, what with nu-metal and emo having come and gone.
And little wonder too that TSOM only released one more studio album, the not entirely awful, but far from compelling, Vision Thing (the phrase a direct quote from George Bush the elder) which took much the same elements as Flood Land but this time layered them with a faux-metal sound. Problem was that for all his often-expressed love of Motorhead Eldritch apparently didn’t realise, or care, that it’s politic to throw in a few key changes, the odd hummable chorus and eschew using the same riff for the entirety of one song and then the next one. Now sure, he wanted to replicate Suicide or whoever, but truth is, it leaves the impression that for all the rhetoric he didn’t quite get metal (where by contrast the Cult – who arrived on a not dissimilar trajectory really did get it. Big time).
This was implausibly influential in a low key sort of a way. There’s a raft of groups which emulated TSOM more or less exactly. And with better or usually worse results. The Daughters of Bristol (you see what they did there?), The Merry Thoughts and on and on… It’s something of a micro-industry. And why not? What harm? But what point?
No wonder, that that was more or less it from Eldritch subsequently on the recording front (bar a nice reworking of Temple of Love with Ofra Haza c.1992). No original albums in twenty plus years, nothing but a series of live appearances with lashed together units whose impermanence of line up and lack of product points to a dynamic impermeable to ordinary musical enterprise.
Thing was after all this what more was left to be said?
Lucretia, My Reflection
And from before:
Temple of Love
Sisterhood Giving Ground
This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Pavement February 21, 2015Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
One of my favourite bands from the 90’s Pavement. I remember hearing “Slanted and Enchanted” for the first time Grungy wonderful Indie rock, The Brilliant ‘Zurich is stained’, ‘Here’ and the upbeat and catchy ‘Summer Babe’ were highlights from the album. They released a follow up album “Crooked Rain , Crooked Rain” where the sound at times was even more haphazard and slightly more Country influenced. Included here from that is “Range Life”, probably my favourite from that album.
Wowee Zowee was released a year later in 1995 , I like the album although it is probably my least favourite of their five studio albums. In 1997 they released ‘Brighten The Corners’ which was another great album “Shady Lane” is probably my favourite track from that. Their final album “Terror Twilight’ was released in 1999 and contained some gems like ‘Major Leagues’ and ‘spit on a stranger’.
Pavement ‘retired’ in 1999……… and did a reunion tour in 2010….. I’ve yet to see them live :(
This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… “Modern Dance”, a futurist/New Romantic/Synthpop compilation, 1981 February 14, 2015Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
The week that’s in it, obviously. It’s odd, I hadn’t thought of this album in years, though the death of Steve Strange of Visage brought it right back. A K-Tel compilation, probably lashed out as quickly as possible to cash in on the brief popularity of what was sometimes called ‘futurist’, better known as New Romantic, or that area of synth pop. Somehow it found its way to my house where it was played exhaustively.
I can still remember listening to individual cuts from it. John Foxx and ‘Europe After the Rain’, ‘She’s Got Claws’, ‘Quiet Life’. And the materiality of it, that great garish airbrushed cover with androgynous faces on front and back. Even the typography sticks in the memory, though I hadn’t seen it probably in a quarter century until this week.
It was a reasonably broad ranging selection of music, OMD, Japan, Human League, Heaven 17, Depeche Mode, Simple Minds, John Foxx, even a Cure track. Gary Numan had to be there, Landscape (natch!), the aforementioned Visage. A couple of jokers in the pack. The News – which I do not remember at this remove, and Fashion.
Here’s the tracklist…
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Joan of Arc
Japan – Quiet Life
The Human League – Love Action
Heaven 17 – Penthouse and Pavement
Depeche Mode – New Life
Simple Minds – Sweat in Bullet
John Foxx – Europe After the Rain
The Cure – Charlotte Sometimes
Gary Numan – She’s Got Claws
Visage – Fade to Grey
Landscape – Einstein a Go-Go
Fashion – Move On
Japan – Visions of China
The News – A World Without Love
Simple Minds – Love Song
Heaven 17 – Play to Win
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Enola Gay
The Human League – Open Your Heart
Who is not there, Spandau Ballet or Ultravox – thank God. Adam Ant – sort of kind of new romantic, Duran Duran (I have to admit to still liking their first album), A Flock of Seagulls, Soft Cell (who to my mind are quite brilliant and really should be on it). That’s about it, no? There was a bit of a plague of such groups – anyone recall Our Daughters Wedding and their ‘hit’ (and for my money only good track) Lawnchairs are Everywhere. A lot of stuff like that.
But then the album wasn’t exactly futurist or even new romantic, but really synth driven pop/rock/synthpop.
Watching some of the videos one wishes they’d just taken the budgets and drunk them, or whatever. Landscape in particular. Why? That Numan video below is problematic too. That said, some definitely benefit from Top of the Pops appearances, but then, wasn’t this in part what they were designed for?
I’m a bit puzzled because I seem to recall one of the Heaven 17 tracks being (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang with its at that point non more contemporary anti-Reagan lyrics. But according to online databases of various kinds it was Penthouse and Pavement and Play to Win. Which in a way would fit better with the aesthetic of Futurist music, which was all surface and sheen.
I think the interesting thing about this album for me is how at a time when I was listening to a lot of heavy rock and metal it was a firm favourite as were Joy Division and the first New Order album. All that crap about only sticking to one category or another never held any appeal to me, and stuff like this cemented that. I also suspect it fired, or supported more likely, a continuing love for all things electronic. In that way it was an important album, and while the record itself – remember them? – got lost along the way years it influenced the acquisition of albums by many, indeed most, of the individual groups. The one’s that really stay with me even now? Japan, of course. Numan in his weird way. Heaven 17, Simple Minds (early to mid period, still remarkably difficult in its own way), OMD, John Foxx and on a good day early to mid Human League. And relistening to Visage is oddly satisfying – despite or perhaps because of its avowed superficiality.
One thing though, it’s all so male, isn’t it? For all the fluid sexuality that some of the groups portrayed it’s a pity there weren’t more women involved. And one could argue that for all the glam and glitter it was remarkably traditional in how it applied to the women who were involved.
Interesting too the longevity of some of these tracks more broadly, and the groups too and the varying degrees of critical credibility and popularity attaching to them. Was this in a way the part of post-punk, because it was very firmly of post-punk, that had the greatest longevity more broadly – particularly when you rope in the more well known chancers, albeit in different forms? Listening to Visage and those pulsing baselines (courtesy of Barry Adamson and Dave Formula) or even Numan it’s difficult not to think that they wore reasonably well on their own terms and in respect of their explicit and implicit influence subsequently.
One last thought, 1981 is 34 years ago, the equivalent in 1981 was – gulp! – 1947.
This should have been on it, if it wasn’t:
Heaven 17 – “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang”
John Foxx – Europe After the Rain
Simple Minds – Sweat in Bullet
Human League – Love Action (Live – allegedly) on Top of the Pops
Visage – Fade to Grey
OMD – Enola Gay
Landscape – Einstein A Go A Go
Japan – Quiet Life
Gary Numan – She’s Got Claws
This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Taken February 7, 2015Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
I had thought being in a Boyband was a glamorous affair, playing support to all sorts of other Boybands , making TV appearances, mixing with the stars, bein g in Hello or VIP magazine, the gossip columns of the papers and so on…….
I picked my daughter up from her Primary School during the week…..
“How was school?”
“What you do at PE?”
“We din’t have PE, as the hall was occupied”
“What was on in the Hall?”
“A Boyband called Taken, I got two of their autographs, but not the guitarists which I really wanted!”
“Wow, were they any good.”
“They were brilliant”
“What did they play”
“Loads of songs you’d hear on the radio and one of their own”
“That’s mad, a boyband playing in the school hall during school hours!”
They had signed a flyer promoting a concert. So I had a look at the bands Facebook and Twitter and it appears that they have spent the last few months playing Primary Schools all around Dublin with many of them in Rathfarnham, Tallaght and Dundrum. In a way it’s genius as they now have name recognition from loads of girls in Dublin aged 5 to 12 (a bot bands target audience) but it must seem a long way from The Primary School to The Point Depot!
Either way if this crowd ever make it, they did it the hard way.
Anyway this is their one song… and whilst not my cup of tea, I’ve heard far worse, my daughter has been listening to it quite a bit this week.
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I’ve got to be honest, I’ve always more admired Sleater-Kinney than much liked them. And yet, on paper, I should. They have forged an enjoyably rickety approach to rock inflected by punk and new wave. They worked with the Go-Betweens in the early 2000s on their The Friends of Rachel Worth. They’ve been solidly feminist and progressive. They’ve been unbelievably busy both in music and some in television and so on. And yet, while liking everything I read about them, and everything they said, the actual music just didn’t connect – it was just that bit too abrasive to my ears.
But their latest album, released this month, while equally abrasive is making me reconsider their earlier material with fresh ears, because it is, and I don’t think it’s too early to suggest this, something of a masterwork.
It starts as it means to go on with the scattered melody and instrumentation of Price Tag – a witty but heartfelt and thoughtful reflection on contemporary capitalism. Yes, it’s that sort of an album. The song is monstrous, huge guitar sounds, driving percussion, impassioned vocals, that combine to offer a claustrophobically vision of greed and consumerism. And yet, the claustrophobia is lyrical, more than musical. And on it goes, Surface Envy, all skittering guitars – almost no medium paced or slow tracks on here. All to the good, that. Curiously disjointed arrangements, fantastic choruses, quiet moments that intersperse the oddly metallic sheets of sound. Single No Cities To Love, sounds like Television and Slits meeting Sonic Youth, and yet remains entirely their own track. Indeed it’s the ability to merge post-punk, something close to grunge and a defiantly modern sensibility that makes this such a pleasurable and challenging listen. Other highlights include the almost anthemic A New Wave, the jagged (ironically titled) No Anthems, the off kilter chugging of Gimme Love, but they’re all good.
Enjoyable, thought provoking. What more could one ask for from a group that is already two decades and more old. More than well worth a listen.
No Cities to Love
A New Wave
No Cities to Love (Live)