Tuesday 23 August 2011

Friday 19 August 2011

Divine Comedy: 'Everybody Knows (Except You)' EP

Returning to my theme of a post or two ago, here’s a little quickie to tide you over…

I like it when two cool things combine to make something really cool. Here’s something I found a car boot sale by accident. It’s an EP by the ace Divine Comedy, the lead track of which is ‘Everyone Knows’. So far so good. The bonus tracks are straight out of the lazy mans guide to marketing – slap some live stuff on to pad it out. Except the padding is great and features three tunes – all different and all great. The first (and this is where we came in) is an orchestral version of the American Music club gem ‘Johnny Mathis’ Feet’, the should-have-been massive hit from their ‘Mercury’ album. The next is ‘Your Daddy’s Car’ a lovely Neil Hannon penned gem with the best use of an Oboe in Pop outside of Roxy Music. The last track is ‘Europe by Train’ which sounds like the opening music to some long forgotten Continental documentary series. It’s lovely. I’ll even throw in the lead track, which (strictly speaking) is very much available, but it adds a little context.

(Divine Comedy: 'Everybody Knows (Except You)' )

Consider this a sorbet to clear the palate before the next course, you gourmands….

Monday 8 August 2011

Mark Eitzel: The Hideout Inn, Chicago, USA, December 6th 2002

Eitzel performing in Chicago, 2002

I’m a bit calmer now I’ve had my American Music Club inspired rant…

This is what I intended to post before I got all righteous. It’s a great live recording from the Hideout Inn, Chicago on December 6th 2002. It’s a superior audience recording, I think. Check out that setlist kids…AMC gems rub up against tasty morsels from his criminally underrated solo repertoire. When I downloaded this a few years back, I expected it to be a solo gig, but he’s accompanied by a small, sympathetic band. The material does benefit from that, too.

I really love his voice. He ain’t Pavarotti or Celine Dion…his voice can fail, go off pitch or crack mid song. On ‘Western Sky’ from the ‘Songs of Love’ live CD (fortunately still available. Buy it immediately), he chokes back tears whilst singing. In other words, his voice is real. Not pitch perfect or classically trained, but real. A voice which conveys emotions perfectly. I could not give a shit if he misses a note or two, it’s the delivery that matters and when Eitzel sings about being at the end of his tether, or full of longing or regret, you believe him. What’s the alternative? Some hermetically sealed, autotuned, ProTooled, over rehearsed, bland, multi octaved, over-melismatic ‘performance’ where empty words, written without passion, clang against generic, laboratory tested Muzak? Not for me, thanks. I’ll take the middle aged, balding guy with the weird guitar who’s lived every note of his music.

Now I’m all worked up again.

('Jenny' Live in 2007)

Chicago 2002

Thursday 4 August 2011

American Music Club: 'California' and 'United Kingdom'

Right. Explain this to me. Why, in the name of all that is holy, are ‘California’ and ‘United Kingdom’ by American Music Club not available on CD? Let me get this straight…I can walk into one of the four Record Shops still open in the UK and buy the entire James Blunt* back catalogue, but two of the finest records of the 80s languish in some kind of vinyl purgatory? You have GOT to be kidding….

Well, here’s the thing. Keen students of BPFE will notice the link to AMCs mainman Mark Eitzel’s blog over on the right hand side of the page. I was delighted to see he was writing and added him to the blogroll without really paying too much attention to the content of his posts. A few days ago I read them.

Bloody hell.

If you thought his lyrics were good (which of course, they are) then his prose is absolutely stellar. He writes about often inconsequential things, but with such an eye for detail and with such eloquence that he draws you in so deeply, you’ll struggle to re-surface. You probably won’t want to either.  But the saddest thing is that (as he details in one of his posts) he has to write and record to keep food on the table. Now of course, the vast percentage of writers and musicians have to do that, but none of them are as good as Mark Eitzel. Go on, name three writers that can construct a complete world and fill it full of emotion in three minutes or less, that still HAVE to work to live? You can’t can you?

It’s a dark place that Eitzel inhabits. Love is unrequited, damaging or in the past in most of his work. People mention Bukowski a lot in connection with him – a lazy comparison but still valid. The worldview is similar and the cinematographer’s eye is common to both, but ol’ Chuck couldn’t come up with heartbreaking melodies over beautiful, idiosyncratic music.

Whenever I hear AMC, something weird happens to me…after a while, all I can think about is Eitzel, alone, in a bedsit (above a bar, natch) drunk on really cheap scotch. And my overpowering desire is to take him to a nice, sunlit park and buy him a really big sandwich. I really need to change my therapist….

(A live version of 'Here they Come Down ' from 'United Kingdom')

But back to the music…it comes as no surprise that I am not the first person to fawn over him as he won The Rolling Stone songwriter of the year award for 1991. That is what they call damming by faint praise. I’d really urge you to listen to his music if you haven’t already and buy whatever’s available. It’s pretty much all essential and needs re-issuing. Rykodisc where are you? ‘California’ is an amazing piece of work and ‘United Kingdom’ aint too far behind. Satisfaction is guaranteed. I was going to put up an Eitzel solo gig, but when I saw how little AMC stuff was around, I thought I’d better do the decent thing and post this stuff. The ME live show will be up in a week or two, so don’t fret.

I could gush embarrassingly for hours, so I’ll stop now. Suffice to say Mark Eitzel is one of America’s foremost writers of Popular Music and the purse keepers of the Music Industry are doing him a terrible disservice.

(There is a superb Eitzel/AMC book available: Wish the World Away: Mark Eitzel & the American Music Club by Sean Body. It’s highly recommended)

(* I have nothing against James Blunt and have no opinion either way on his music, he was just an easy target. Sorry James...)

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Noseflutes: Zib Zob And His Kib Kob

Well, my erratic posting and esoteric choices mean my stats (every Blogger is obsessed with their stats, right?) are in the dirt, so the gloves are off. I could either come back with my previously unreleased Beatles footage where they jam with Hendrix and Dylan on an embryonic version of ‘Stairway To Heaven’, or I could give you ‘Zib Zob And His Kib Kob’ by The Noseflutes. Right you are then…

Here’s a bit of context as I know you BPFErs love a back-story. Back when I used to work in A Very Big Record Shop, one of my colleagues was a charming guy called Chris Long. He was (and probably still is) six feet plus, skinny as a rake and topped with an alarming head of wiry curls. These curls were often shaped into a mullet for formal occasions. It turned out that, by twilight, he was a member of Birmingham’s foremost Captain Beefheart meets The Fall (with Mark E Smith in a good mood) with a healthy dash of early XTC and a teensy bit of Prog rock styled combo, the Noseflutes. To further endear him to me, he played banjo, violin and ‘keyboard’. The keyboard in question was the kind of thing which is now available in Toys R us for about a fiver. And the icing on the cake was his nomme du guerre: Legs Akimbo. Whattaguy.

I made my live debut supporting the ‘Flutes. My terrified three piece JangleJingle combo made curious bedfellows with the Avant-Pop overlords in all their glory. We got away with it (just), but I was totally smitten by the headliners. They were often lumped in with a load of ‘quirky’ British bands who stretched student humour to breaking points – weedy songs badly played, making a virtue out of their incompetence but with no original ideas to counterbalance the cack-handed strummage. The Noseflutes could play. Occasionally, a Disco beat would pop its head over the parapet, then you’d hear twelve bars of Yes, then the frontman would whip out a sax and we’d get ‘Sportsnight With Ornette Coleman’ for a minute or two. They were brill. And people used to dance to them…really.

John Peel loved ‘em and they did four fantastic sessions for him. To celebrate the fact that they were on national radio, they would adopt bizarre pseudonyms for these appearances and it was worth staying up just to hear the lovely rounded tones of the late JP announce the names of: Sven Vortex, The Hog, Peter Heater, Shrobengo Tullonge His Levitating Masterfullness, Vic Pelthrust and Ralph Dangerfish among others. (Side note – Chris once adopted the name of a colleague of ours who was in hospital when a session was broadcast. John Peel dutifully announced the band line-up, our bed-ridden colleague screamed, thus waking the entire ward and bringing several alarmed nurses to her bedside. True story).

They made three great albums, but ‘Zib Zob…’ is the great-er. Sadly none are available which is a fugging disgrace, so I feel I need to bring this to your attention as a public service. The band have semi-reformed and are recording/gigging under the names The Crimplene Explosion and The Clicking Stick. Lovely. Here’s a link to Legs Akimbo’s MySpace Site here. Great tunes abound.

So, you came to this Blog looking for Tommy Keene demos and left with The Noseflutes. That my friend, is a damn good deal.

('No Plans' from 'ZZOHKK')

('Mellow Throated' - not from 'Zib Zob...' but the only promo video they ever made!)

Zib Zob and his Kib Kob

Monday 1 August 2011

Who needs to think when your feet just go...?

Blogs are pretty self indulgent at the best of times aren’t they? ‘Everybody listen to me while I talk about my favourite things…you’ve probably not heard of them because I am so cool and you are just a subterranean worm with no musical knowledge whatsoever and one day I’ll write for Rolling Stone…and maybe get a date for the prom’…or something.

Anyhoo, I’ve deviated so far from my initial aim of providing interesting Alt Rock, PowerPop and Paisley Underground stuff, this post should shock no-one, but I really want to share something with you…or should I say ‘Y’all’ in honour of Chris Frantz? Award yourself a pat on the back if you got the song from the lyric atop this post. Yep it’s ‘Genius Of Love’ by the frankly marvellous, oh-my-God-are-they-still-going?-tastic Tom Tom Club. They are still gigging and I saw them in Birmingham last Tuesday night. They were stunning. Great playing, cool songs, great rapport with the audience and loads of cheesy grins. In spite of the fact that there was between 150-200 people present at a venue that can hold 5 times that amount (people of Birmingham, where the hell were you???) the band really seemed to enjoy playing and were genuinely grateful for the reaction they received from the small but uber-partisan crowd. And their DJ was called Kid Ginseng, who I was convinced was being announced as Kid JENSEN. That made me laugh quite a lot. (Foreign readers may wish to refer to Wikipedia for clarification…)

There were lots of really great moments, including when the still lovely Tina Weymouth’s bass amp died – rather than get involved a stroppy superstar sulk, the band had a quick question and answer session with the crowd where they showed impressive local knowledge. I like that in a band. Everyone left feeling uplifted and smiling. Now, I don’t want to badmouth a band, especially one whose records I really love, but the opposite was true of a Fleet Foxes show I attended recently. The playing was great and the harmonies stellar, but there was no interaction or engagement with the audience and they all to a man looked as if they’d rather be anywhere but on stage. I appreciate their music may not lend itself to a Styx-esque stage performance, but jeez guys, make a goshdarn effort!

Well anyway, just to remind you how great they are, here’s ‘Genius Of Love’ from their awesome debut album...yes yes y'all!