Thursday, 24 February 2011

Nyack: 11 Track Player etc

One of the great things about working in a record shop was the fact that you had access to bazillions of records…not all of them great, but there were gems lurking if only you knew where to look. I was the ‘indie’ guy at the store…anything that wasn’t Top 40 or Dance/Soul got passed to me to veto and sometime in 1995 ‘Savage Smile’ was wafted under my nose…and it smelled like victory. It was my single of the year by a country mile. I cannot tell you how good it is, from it’s Uber-Fuzz intro to it’s heavy-plectrum bassline to it’s candyfloss melody to it’s delicious middle eight….hey, I’m a fan.

Nyack’s profile is low. Very low. But their one and only CD, ’11 Track Player’ is just amazing. Yep, it’s shoegazey, but the songs are powerful and melodic and have a purpose and sense of direction lacking in a lot of bands in that genre. Imagine a loose-limbed Smashing Pumpkins or a cheerful My Bloody Valentine and you’re kinda in the ballpark. Nyack don’t rely on their stomp-boxes to do all the work as they’ve stuffed hooklines into the swirling, fuzzed out tunes and topped it all with some Ultra-Pop melodies and a well placed harmony or two. Maybe they were too late for a pigeonhole or too early for one, but why this band fell by the wayside is both criminal and baffling. There are always cheap copies of the album kicking around the web…the going rate on Amazon at the moment is 1p. That makes me sort of furious. If you download the album and like it, you HAVE to buy it. Dig a little deeper on the WWW and you’ll come up with a reference or two  to the first incarnation of the band - Aenone.

I’m gonna point you to the Nyack MySpace (remember MySpace...?) for biographical details and tip my hat to Wilfully Obscure for filling in the gaps in my Pre-Nyack collection. Thanks to W.O, I’ve been able to include the Aenone EP ‘Saints and Razors’ and their demos to give you a sense of where they came from. It’s all good. For the sake of completeness (we like completeness, don’t we?) I’ve included their version of Heart’s ‘Barracuda’ (from Echo Records 1996 compilation ‘Drink Me’ – also 1p on Amazon) along with the extra tracks from both their CD singles.

I have a dream. I want to be able to say how much I love Nyack to somebody without them replying ‘Who?’

Tonight, we’re gonna party like it’s 1995.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Bonzo Dog Band: Return To Jollity Farm

...a bit off topic, but hey - my blog, my rules...
What's not to love about the Bonzos? Great tunes, a sharp eye for a parody and snappy dressers to boot. My introduction to their work (apart from 'I'm the Urban Spaceman') was via Paul Burnett's 'Fun at One' spot sometime in the seventies - for younger readers or those of you not from this green and pleasant land, Paul Burnett was the lunchtime 'jock' on wunnerful Radio One. At 1.00pm he took a break from spinning Slik, Brotherhood of Man and Peters and Lee to play something funny...oh, the irony. Anyhoo, he finally got round to the 'The Canyons of Your Mind', which left me breathless with mirth. The guitar solo in particular caused me to choke on my Crispy Pancakes. I was lucky enough to see them on their post Viv reformation tour thing a few years ago and far from being the embarrassing trudge through the hits to top up the pension I'd feared it to be, it was a warm celebration of some of the greatest musical comedy of the last fifty years. Fair brought a tear to the eye it did. Neil Innes is still touring and is heartily recommended by all at BPFE towers...which is just me, really.

"Canyons Of Your Mind"

Here's a nice BBC Radio 2 doc from March 1997  - lots of insight and ace narration from Neil himself. 

If you don't like the Bonzos, you can't be my friend. 

Music returns to BPFE at the weekend....

Friday, 18 February 2011

Matthew Sweet: Supervixen

(The trials and tribulations of a Blogger Pt 42542 - this post should have been for a promo CD called 'Goodfriend' but I then found out it's available as disc 2 of the Legacy edition of 'Girlfriend' - note to self...must try harder)

Matthew Sweet needs no introduction, but he’s gonna get one anyway. He’s had quite a chequered career, released armfuls of amazing recordings, had tunes in blockbuster movies, recorded with members of The Voidoids, The Attractions and Television, Richard Carpenter and my second favourite Bangle. From being ubiquitous, he now rarely lifts his head above the parapet and releases stuff sporadically…it’s still great tho’.

Whenever I think of Sweet now, my mental image is that of Charles Foster Kane, brooding in Xanadu struggling with unknown demons …or sometimes Howard Hughes, strangely haunted by his own prodigious talent. Or he could be on the sofa, eating chili and watching sports while the residuals pay the bills. That’s probably the truth.

The InterWeb is awash with MS stuff…his every utterance is available on some shady release or other. And here’s another. This is a collection of demos for his breakthrough release 'Girlfriend' including a whole bunch of stuff that didn't quite make the cut. It's ace.

This man is capable of so much. Let’s see some more …please?

...and was he really asked to join the 90’s version of Big Star?

…and my favourite Bangle was Michael Steele, in case you were wondering.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

The Mutton Birds: Too Hard Basket + Angle Of Entry (and Marshmallow)

Crowded House have always been a bit of a guilty pleasure at BPFE towers. I like to think I’m down with ‘The Kids’ (in a dignified, forty-something kinda way). I know my ‘Avenged For My Valentine’ from my ‘My Chemical Hannah Montana’ or whoever, but I still love ‘The Crowdies’ (jeez, even their bloody nickname sounds twee). And it’s through them, I discovered the Mutton Birds, via a Neil Finn production credit.  The CD in question was ‘Nature’ - a Mutton Birds compilation drawn from their first two albums. Thanks to a worldwide record deal with Virgin, The MB’s left their native New Zealand, moved to the UK and starved for two years before splitting up. Sound familiar?

Anyhoo, I loved ‘em. Frontman Don McGlashan is an incredibly good songwriter (a kind of cheerful Mark Eitzel) and their albums are stuffed with bostin’ tunes as we say in Dudley. I urge you strongly to grab ‘Envy Of Angels’, ‘Rain, Steam And Speed’ and anything else by them. They were also terrific live – McGlashan was always great value and the band were spot on.

These two albums are limited edition fanclub dealio’s. I’ve trawled long and hard (insert smutty joke here) and can find no trace of ‘em for sale, so here they are. “Too Hard Basket” is a compilation of ‘B’ sides and non-album stuff and ‘Angle Of Entry’ is an acoustic Live CD recorded in London in July 1997. Guess what? Both are great.

So if you like intelligent pop with a whistleable tune and a well-tooled turn of phrase, press them buttons now. Satisfaction guaranteed.

( Ooohhh, before you go, I must tell you about MARSHMALLOW. They were formed by MBs Bassist Alan Gregg  - writer of a handful of ace tunes whilst in the band. They released a self titled album in 2003 and it’s as good as anything the MB’s did. I think it’s still available (try this link), so I’m not gonna post it, but here’s a video to tempt you. ‘Anytime Soon’ is a gorgeous, five star hookfest that’ll eat it’s way into your brain, move the furniture and change the settings on the radio. A warning for diabetics tho’ – some of the lyrics are a wee bit sugary, but hey – we like PowerPop don’t we? A genre not normally noted for Kafka-esque insight into the human condition…)

Marshmallow: 'Anytime Soon'

...hang on!- I need to mention a great Mutton Birds and related site - 'A Religion Of A Kind' - your one stop shop fer all yer Mutton Birds needs...

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Spinal Tap: Classic Albums

Let's go off topic for a moment, shall we...

Here's a little experiment you can do at home. Invite three or more musicians over thirty to a dinner party (after first concealing your valuables and putting a combination lock on the drinks cabinet). Get the conversation around to the movies...I guarantee that in less than five minutes, one of them will mention 'This is Spinal Tap'. The rest of the evening will consist of nothing more than endless quotes from the film, followed by drunken demands to watch it. Half way through the film, (if you're brave or daft enough to run it) the Drummer will have passed out (possibly in a pool of his own fluids), the Guitarist will be pausing the movie and saying things like 'I had one of those...nice action' and the Bassist will have left with the rest of the snacks and whatever valuables he could fill his pockets with.

Time and over-familiarity have slightly diminished the whole Spinal Tap thing, but when it first came out, it sent shock waves around musical circles. I saw it (along with three other people) at The Triangle in Birmingham on its release and it was the funniest thing I had ever seen. I can't help but giggle whenever I hear about pieces written in D minor...

Anyway, to get to the point, this is a fake 'Classic Albums' radio broadcast, featuring 'The Black Album' hosted by BBC Radio One's Richard Skinner. It's played absolutely straight and features, Derek, Nigel and David in conversation about their greatest achievements. It was issued on a promo cassette at the time of 'Break Like The Wind'. It's funny as hell. And here it is.

And don't forget...'You can't dust for vomit...'

Friday, 11 February 2011

REM: Birmingham Powerhouse, 27 10 85


I'm amazed it's taken me this long to get around to posting something by REM...

I started working for A Major Record Chain in '85, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I was a Metalhead. My first purchase (ohmygod - staff discount!) was the shaped picture disc of 'Lay it down' by Ratt. Happy days. As documented in 'Rushbo's Guide' elsewhere on this blog, I ended up in a band. And that band was all about REM. I bought 'Murmur' to get an idea of what I should be playing and from that day onwards, my taste in music changed forever. I played it constantly for about two months, only pausing to try out REM and Paisley Underground related stuff. Ratt sounded like it was from another planet after that. And it probably was.

This gig (which I missed by about a month or two, my epiphany coming in Feb '86) was at the legendary Powerhouse in Brum. How sticky were the floors? It's a pretty typical example of a mid 80s REM setlist, with a lovely, random feel to it, some oddball covers and a bit of Stipe chat. It's a decent audience recording - there are a couple of edits, but nothing too scary. I'm posting this as a tribute to the band that changed my life and one of my favourite venues...sadly missed.

The next time they played Birmingham, it was the NEC.

I heard 'Lay it down' on the radio the other day. Good tune.

Part 1

Part 2

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Green On Red: No Free Lunch (1986)

Green on Red live were a mercurial, tight-sloppy rag-bag of contradictions - the unassuming Guitar maestro rubbing shoulders with the loose cannon singer, backed by a solid (if impermanent) rhythm section. Sparks of brilliance would fly, often followed immediately by astonishing pratfalls. Just like real life. In short, they were a must-see. The studio albums were a different thing...the songs were always great, but they just lacked the 'could go either way' edge that their live performances had in spades. And this is me trying to convince you to download a studio album...what a salesman. IMHO (as the young people say) this is the most consistent and convincing of their studio albums. There isn't a duff track on it. The band were writing fantastic material and this combined with a well chosen Willie Nelson cover add to make a quiet landmark of a record. And some genius has deleted it. If I was a diligent Blogger, I'd check all the 'best ofs' to see if these tunes are available somewhere, but I'm feeling slightly jaded today, so do yer own research...what do you want from me - blood?

For your delectation laydeez and genlemen here is a rip from the original cassette release. Why cassette? Well, someone thought it would be a good idea to include a 13 minute version of 'Smokestack Lightning' as an incentive to buy the album on that format. It ain't an essential addition to the repertoire, but it's entertaining enough.

Somewhere, Dan Stuart is (hopefully) still writing kick-ass tunes, drinking a sensible amount of hard liquor and planning his return. We miss you, man....

Enjoy this.

No Free Lunch

PS...I played 'Keep On Moving' in the first gig of my first band...Hi Darrall!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

10CC Live1975 and 1976

I love 10CC. No, you don’t understand, I LOVE 10CC. They were the first band I ever saw live, ‘The Dean and I’ was one of the first pieces of Pop music I ever got excited about and when it comes to their first four albums, my critical faculties go out of the window and I just gush superlatives. I love 10CC. You need to know that.
10CC were one of the biggest selling bands of the 70s in the UK. They were responsible for a string of top 10 albums and a consistent run of innovative, dazzlingly different and beautifully performed singles. And yet, whenever one of those ‘Weren’t the 70’s great with all the Chopper bikes and Spangles and Spacehoppers and stuff’, space filling TV list shows is made, 10CC are conspicuous by their absence. If you’re lucky, you might get a be-permed Footballer confessing to enjoying ‘I’m not in love’ but that’s yer lot. Now that is what I call a bloody raw deal. I have no idea why they have been clipped from history…too normal? Not glam enough? Not controversial enough? – and before anyone says 'too clever', just think about those words…if we’re living in a society where a surplus of intelligence is considered to be a bad thing, then I’m off…

Rant over

The four albums the Godley/Crème/Gouldman/Stewart line up made are all brilliant. If you compile a list of the 50 greatest 70s albums and you miss one of them out you are wrong. Wrong. Predictably, when the original line-up split in two, the level of excellence couldn’t be maintained – Godley and Crème missed the discipline of Stewart and Gouldman and they in turn, missed the Art School inventiveness of Godley and Crème. Both halves made great music – ‘Deceptive Bends’ is better than it has a right to be and once Godley and Crème had got the unwieldy but sporadically superb ‘Consequences’ out of the way, they went on to make some fascinating recordings. (1978’s ‘L’ is a genuine lost classic).

Knebworth 1976 Poster

So what? You say. My first reply is ‘How rude!’ My second reply is ‘They were flippin’ brilliant live, too!’ But there are precious few bootlegs or genuine live recordings to back this up. On video there is a fantastic August ’74 gig filmed by the BBC, already available in Blogland. (I’ll put that up here if there’s a demand). Otherwise, we have to make do with a rather weirdly assembled ‘King Biscuit’ release – recorded in 1975 and released in ’98, this Santa Monica gig has been edited to remove any material from the album they were promoting – ‘The Original Soundtrack’. In fact, I’d had this album for about six months before I realised that this wasn’t a show from 1974. Well boys and girls, as a public service, I’ve included the full gig for you, with the post ’74 stuff back on. And guess what…it’s amazing. The most mind blowing thing is the encore – when most bands are happy just to sleepwalk through an off key version of ‘Johnny B Goode’ with one eye on their stash and the other eye on the groupies, 10CC choose to end the night with ‘Une Nuit A Paris’ – their most complex and intricate piece. Lightweights they are not. The other show I’ve included is the last performance the fantastic four (plus longstanding drummer Paul Burgess) ever did – supporting the Rolling Stones at Knebworth on August 28th 1976. The recording comes from a boxed set (now deleted, I believe) produced by promoter Freddie Bannister which included a bunch of audio recordings, some DVDs and a fascinating book about his life promoting the Knebworth Festivals and beyond. The 10CC audio is pretty rough, but it’s still essential and features the then unreleased ‘Good Morning Judge’. I’m getting misty eyed typing this….

I know this ain’t Post-Punk or Alt-Rock or even PowerPop, but people need to hear this music. This band have been shunted into a corner and marginalised and that is not right. I would agree that these recordings might not be the perfect introduction (never have a major band been so poorly served by record companies…where’s the boxed set? Where’s the rarities compilation?) – I would steer first time listeners to their best work – ‘Sheet Music’. There are more hooklines in ‘The Wall Street Shuffle’ than some bands write in a career.

I Love 10CC…and you should too.

PS - If you look to the Right at 'Rushbo's Guide', I've included my (sadly unsuccesful) proposal for a 33 1/3 book on 'Sheet Music'.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

More Bonus Todd: Somewhere/Anywhere?

Just a quickie to tide you over - Yep, as Todd’s all over the place at the moment, here’s a bit more. I don’t think it’s jumping on the bandwagon, but getting on the winning team…

Here’s a Japan only rarities compilation from 1998 – lots of lovely stuff here. It’s going for silly money on the InterWebs, but it’s my gift for you.

See you in a few days…