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...


  1. "It Happened One Night" (Jody Harris) – 3.02 Different Mix to that released with "The Heater"
  2. "The Ballad Of Kelvin" (Don McGlashan) – 4.16 "Heater" B-side - NZ Only
  3. "He Turned Around" (Don McGlashan) – 4.49 "Heater" B-side - NZ Only
  4. "Three Minutes" (Don McGlashan) – 4.11 Previously unreleased
  5. "So Long" (Alan Gregg) – 3.05 Previously unreleased
  6. "The Heater (Careful With...Version)" (Don McGlashan) – 3.34 "Anchor Me" B-side - NZ only
  7. "The Queen's English (Annus Horribilus Mix)" (Don McGlashan) –5.21 "Ngaire" B-side - NZ only
  8. "Cinema Of Unease" (Don McGlashan) – 3.09 Previously unreleased
  9. "Don't Fear The Reaper" (Donald Roeser) – 5.26 Original demo version - "She's Been Talking" B-side - NZ only
  10. "Ash Wednesday" (Don McGlashan) – 4.44 Previously unreleased
  11. "Ranchslider" (Don McGlashan) – 2.47 Previously unreleased
  12. "Answerphone" (David Long) – 3.22 Different version to that released with "Come Around" NZ Single
  13. "Face In The Paper" (Don McGlashan) – 3.51 "Come Around" B-side - UK
  14. "Inbetween Man" (Don McGlashan) – 3.33 "She's Been Talking" B-side - UK different mix to NZ "Envy Of Angels" version
  15. "Along The Boundary" (Don McGlashan) – 4.58 Different mix to UK "Come Around" B-side and NZ "Envy Of Angels" version
Recorded live and acoustic at the 12 Bar Club, London 07 07 1997

  1. "Envy of Angels" (Don McGlashan) – 6.07
  2. "Like This Train" (Don McGlashan) – 4.36
  3. "Another Morning" (Don McGlashan) – 3.28
  4. "A Thing Well Made" (Don McGlashan) – 5.56
  5. "Esther" (Alan Gregg) – 3.35
  6. "Trouble with You" (Don McGlashan) – 4.27
  7. "There's a Limit" (Alan Gregg) – 4.05
  8. "Come Around" (Alan Gregg) – 4.03
  9. "Dominion Road" (Don McGlashan) – 4.32
  10. "Anchor Me" (Don McGlashan) – 6.59
  11. "Ten Feet Tall" (Don McGlashan) – 6.18
  12. "While You Sleep" (Don McGlashan) – 4.21
  13. "White Valiant" (Don McGlashan) – 5.09
  14. "Wellington" (Alan Gregg) – 3.42


  1. LOVE THEM. Thank you.

  2. You win the prize for the quickest reply to a post EVER! Are you stalking me?

  3. 1. Found out about The Mutton Birds through the constant praise of them in Jack Rabid's enthusiastic music mag The Big Takeover.

    2. The Mutton Birds made some of the greatest recordings ever. HONESTLY, folks. Obviously there is room for taste, but their best is as good as the best of any band EVER. "A Thing Well Made" is one of them but there are at least another half dozen more.

    3. I liked several of Alan Gregg's songs, so why was I too dense to check out Marshmallow. I will now.

    4. Really great video.

    Really great site.

    Ace K.

  4. Thanks Ace!

    'A Thing Well Made' is an incredible piece of music...loads of seemingly mundane observations collected to make something compelling. Every married man has had a similar scenario unfold, I'm sure...and the payoff is sooo dark... I'm gonna play it RIGHT NOW!

  5. Don McGlashan is up there with Andy Partridge in my book of the best songwriters alive, and Alan Gregg's Marshmallow is wonderful too. Thanks for posting this!

  6. heres what don said about a thing well made from an interview i did with him for bucketful of brains

    "For 'A Thing Well Made', it was a story but it started off as much more like a manifesto. A well intentioned, but leaden idea to talk about the way women see things as against how men see things. I was going to do a two voice kind of thing. I worked at that for a while, the way women divest energy in people and the way men invest energy in things, which is kind of a main division in the world. There was this massacre in 1989 in this little town in the south, this guy killed all his neighbours. I wanted to start with the bloke who had sold him the gun. I wanted to look through his morning, make up a story about him and his missus. But in the end the man and woman aspect of it kind of fell away leaving the idea of the smallness of his life. I wanted to get the feel of the gun shop, the smell of it, the warmth of it and the sense of the fog outside. Let the music carry the feeling of dread and melancholy. It was one of those songs when you start something off and you want it to go in a certain direction. Then the band get hold of it and you just look at each other and you all know you've got something special happening here, but you don't want to say anything about it because you know you might then spoil it."

  7. Wonderful. Thanks Jay.
    McGlashan manages to convey all of that information so beautifully..."dread and melancholy" sounds about right. It's the opening lines that do it for me everytime - "She's wearing her don't talk to me face as she makes the kids lunches..." There isn't a married man alive who hasn't seen that expression...

  8. Jay, thanks for that great quote from McGlashan on A Thing Well Made. And for Rushbo, your description hits it on the head. The opening verses are stunning the precise perfect details, and when the band starts cranking in and the repetition of "Thing Well Made" as it builds. My god! And of course I'm omitting that stunning horn that keeps coming in.

    The first time it came up on the CD I was playing in my car I honestly nearly drove off the road. It was so powerful.

    Ace K.

  9. Thank you, I have all their stuff but didn't know this live thingy existed. I was lucky enough to see them in Sydney :-)