Thursday, 30 December 2010

Best of 2010

The blog may have been quiet but as its the end of year it is time to roll out my top 3 albums of the year.
I am listening to a lot of music of late but its been difficult getting the time to write about it all, end of year and a moments reflection on what has made up the best album means that I need to find the time.
This time last year it was all about Hockey, NOFX and Mumford and Sons. They were floating my boat. The three albums that I thought were the best of the year, you are going to have to be lenient here, they were all released towards the end of 2009 if this were The Grammy’s we wouldn’t have a problem, it isn’t though so we may have.

OK on to the music. The third best album of the year for me was the Mercury prize winning debut by The XX. I think my wife heard a track and knew it was up my street, like Glasvegas and current squeeze, Mona they have a specific sound that seems to be swimming away from whatever the current crop of indie sounds like. The XX’s album doesn’t have big production, or massively clear vocals, but it supplied clarity from the start.
I loved The XX and when I went from car commute to train commute and heard it for the first time on my iPod I bombarded my wife with texts telling her that THIS was the future of pop music. She had heard it all before and reminded me of my past crimes.
Crimes schmimes. This album is an essential album from this year, perfect songwriting, lovely sparse production that makes you at times have to crane an ear to pick up just what the singer is saying and it won the Mercury Music prize, and anything is better than Paul fucking Weller.

Crystalised by The XX

My second favourite album of the year was also nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, and this was also released towards the end of 2009, Biffy Clyro’s fifth studio album, Only Revolutions.
As I write this a Biffy Clyro song sits at number one in the singles chart, their original is at number 25, they are headlining a major festival next year and in Only Revolutions they have a platinum selling album. 2010, well it has been a good year for Biffy Clyro and the overnight success has only took 10 years.
So Only Revolutions, a magnificent polished album that moved away, for me at least, from the confused sound of Puzzle, to return more towards the sound they produced on Vertigo of Bliss, but a more professional developed and finer version.
Many of Horror, the song X factor winner Matt Cardle is cuurently sitting pretty with is one of many stand out tracks on this album and if tomorrows pop idols were looking to cover any of them they could take their pick of the exquisite God and Satan, Mountains or Bubbles.
So many stand out tracks on this album and any song could be a single. We had the pleasure of seeing them twice this year at an enormous festival and a tiny club and both times it was fantastic and to hear the songs that make up this album was a joy and a pleasure.

God and Satan by Biffy Clyro

My favourite album of the year though is the fantastic Revolution by Miranda Lambert. Its an album that just keeps getting played and played. I have to say pretty much solidly for the past 6 months I have listened to nothing but mainstream country music. Brad Paisley without a doubt has been my favourite artist of this year, the album though goes to Miranda.
This isn’t some obscure album though, this is a huge selling album in the states and every track tells you why, clever, funny, beautiful, some tugging at the heartstrings, some kicking you in the balls. Miranda Lambert isn’t Taylor Swift, she is Taylor Swifts crazy aunt.
The stand out track for me on the album is the US country number 1, The House That Built Me. A stunning stunning single, and with Dead Flowers, Airstream Song and Virginia Bluebell she continues in a similar vein musically if not lyrically.

The House That Built Me by Miranda Lambert

Miranda Lambert gets down and dirty when she needs to on songs like Somewhere Trouble Don't Go, but she is a girl that likes to keep the mood light, from Only Prettier, to the cover of Time to Get a Gun.
Lambert is the main songwriter but she gets a little help on this album from Blake Shelton her fiancĂ©, Julie Miller, Ashley Monroe and Natalie Hemby. The most surprising addition to the album and least country song on this album is her version of John Prine’s That's the Way That The World Goes 'Round. A song that Lambert definitely makes her own.
All in all, easily my favourite album of the year and one that you really need to hear.

Thats The Way The World Goes Round by Miranda Lambert

Friday, 17 December 2010

The Creepshow Live at Moho Live, Manchester

Kev it seems lords it up with the Chilean glitterati at Massive Attack gigs, over priced, it certainly seems by all accounts. Me, I have been to very few gigs this year, Leeds Festival, Biffy Clyro in Vegas and Neil Diamond. Last week saw an additional band added to that very small list and that was Canadian Psychobilly band The Creepshow and the Manchester date on their current European tour.
I haven’t been to Manchester to see a band since around 2000 and that band was Hefner. I heard gunshot that night, so ten years between gigs would be about right. In the meantime Manchester made itself easy on the eye, put in trams and made me feel that it was safe to walk the street without someone looking like a member of N-Dubz trying to mug me.
Our hotel was conveniently next door to the venue therefore limiting the chances of mugging even more.
So we took the short walk to Moho Live, a smallish venue near Afflecks Palace, small but really quite nice, not the cavernous room we last saw The Creepshow at The Asylum in Birmingham. Link to that review is over on the right there. Moho Live is more in keeping as a venue for the type of bands that play there.
The bar was a little pricey, not the average wage costing that Kev had at “Trip hop pioneers Massive Attack”, more that average wage of a paperboy. £6 a double tequila and coke. I tried singles and it was then that I realised that the measures my good lady wife serve at home are more generous than the 1 6th of a gill served in Manchester. Enough drink talk though.
When we walked in a three piece band were playing, Hyperjax. Vocalist/guitarist, vocalist/upright bass and a drummer. Playing punk infused rockabilly, erring at times towards very very early Billy Childish. They were it has to be said, excellent. They were energetic, raw and I suspect, if I knew what it meant, visceral. They were marvellous, a good mixture of original material and I think the odd cover. Their biography tells me that they have been doing this some time and in all likelihood I think we will be returning to Manchester in the New Year to see them supporting European Psychobilly band, Mad Sin. I liked Hyperjax a lot and their place on this bill was definitely welcome.
That brings me neatly to second support band, the London band Buster Shuffle. Buster Shuffle were only on this bill by virtue of them having a stand up bass. Their cockernee knees up love a duck chas n dave madness sound was extremely grating. They sound like a band that would be first on in a tent at Glastonbury and was as far removed from the other bands on this bill as you could get. Just thinking back to their set makes me swear massively. Jamie Cullum seemed like Black Flag in comparison.
We had to consume a lot more tequila to get over the shock of that performance. One T-shirt purchase later and finding a vantage point for the sub 5ft members of the party, The Creepshow came on and (excuse the expression) ripped Moho Live a new arsehole.
The Creepshow have just recently released their third album, They All Fall Down on Hellcat records, the follow up to Run For Your Life and Sell Your Soul. The latter album has had a more punk leaning but still maintains its Psychobilly roots.
Their set was raced through at pace drawing from all three albums but definitely highlighting the new fantastic material, notable favourite for me is Hellbound. Certainly a contender for a single. But the breadth of material from Rue Morgue Radio, to Hellbound, Cherry Hill, Zombies Ate Her Brain, You'll Come Crawlin and all points inbetween.
Vocal duties on the whole carried out by the petite Sarah Blackwood but ably assisted by Sickboy and The Reverend McGinty.
A really excellent night on the whole playing to an audience made up of punks, psychobilly and rockabilly people and everyone was into The Creepshow, a far cry from the Birmingham gig.
Towards the end Reverend McGinty made a comment about the Birmingham gig and we spoke about it at the end of the night, we both agreed Birmingham’s The Asylum is a shit venue, but Moho Live is definitely worth a visit to the north.
As for The Creepshow, excellent, really excellent.

Cherry Hill by The Creepshow

Friday, 19 November 2010

Massive Attack, Santiago, Chile, November 18th 2010

For the first time in a long time I actually got to see some live music yesterday. A couple of free tickets saw me trundle along to a large concrete shed that calls itself Espacio Riesco. It’s one of those inhuman structures favoured the world over by artists too big for a city centre theatre abut not big enough for a stadium. It suited the headline band for cold detachment, but more of that later.

After donkeys years of gig going in the UK I am well used to overpaying for a drink at a venue, but 2000 pesos for a tin of beer? Even at the annual fondas (celebrating Chilean independence in a field with several thousand other people) they only have enough nerve to charge you 1000 pesos. I guess this should be understandable as ticket prices for this gig were far and away above the pockets of an average Chilean worker. I suppose you might argue that the working class in the UK might also not be attending such events, but the class divide in Chile rules supreme.

Our freebie ticket should have cost us 26.400 pesos (£34.50). For this we were fenced off halfway back. In order to secure an anywhere near decent view of proceedings it would have cost us 36.000 pesos (£50). To put this into perspective, the minimum wage is 172.000 pesos. The moneyed folk who coughed up £76 got to sit up on a scaffolding platform on what looked like seating borrowed from an airport departure gate. They had their own bar and didn’t have to wait to pay for overpriced beverages.

The relatively large space reserved for the mixing desks and fat blokes in combat shorts employed to twiddle knobs in the dark, was placed squarely in the middle of the cheap seats. This meant that when this area filled with hangers-on prior to Massive Attack taking the stage, a large majority of those behind now couldn’t see a thing. Calls for these people (who had the benefit of standing on flight cases) to move to the side or sit down were ignored.

Martina Topley Bird was first up (she has the same haircut as Arsenal defensive midfielder Alexandre Song). Initially I worried for her, wondering how a half empty concrete box full of disinterested, posh, Massive Attack fans might take to her quirkiness. I needn’t have worried. Despite a slow start she soon won the audience over, particularly with her use of the KT Tunstall schtick of singing a bit then looping it back to be used as backing vocals. She has a fine, sometimes childlike voice, and although the songs sometimes don’t immediately grab you, her voice certainly does. She made a brave stab at introducing songs in Spanish and the crowd loved her all the more for it. In fact, the crowd was so appreciative at some points during the evening that I did begin to wonder if they had ever heard music before. “What is this noise you make by pushing air out of your open mouth while simultaneously striking that stringed object?”

Topley Bird finished her set with a howl of feedback, which was quickly turned down by one of the view-obscuring knob-twiddlers, lest it cause one of the wealthy punters on the orange chairs to choke on their 800 pesos mouthful of cerveza.

Thievery Corporation were up next. They initially struck me as having Jeff Lynne and Frank Zappa as their horn section. The bass player looked like he wouldn’t be out of place in a metal band and the guitarist/sitar player was a chubby little fella in combats. Behind them were two others on a raised platform (it’s the kind of band that need those blokes at the back with headphones who sometimes raise their hands in the air), a percussionist and a variety of singers. It was all a bit Transglobal Underground for me, and although they did seem to play a longer set than Springsteen on Red Bull (available for about 4 quid on the night), which really sagged in the middle, they did have some great moments. A double act of rastas (wearing hats that I haven’t seen since It Aint Alf Hot Mum) prowled the stage relentlessly, although the highlight for me was the performance of a tall, thin lady who came on intermittently and sang in what sounded like Portuguese, although could have been something else. With the Metallica reject pounding away on the bass, and the chubby fella chink chink ing the reggie riffs, she sashayed around in a giant hat that looked like it had been designed for a plant to grow up.

Finally, and after a brief interlude where a couple of posh kids threatened to slit the throat of a 4 ft security guard (presumably with a razor sharp platinum card), Massive Attack took the stage. I had been primed for a tremendous entrance, but they just ambled on. There was a bit of dry ice, although not even enough to fill the back of a transit van. I can say this from experience, having once filled a transit van with dry ice. As a backdrop they had an electronic board that was not unlike something you might have seen on an Open University TV program on computers in about 1982, presented by someone who looked like the bass player out of Thievery Corporation. The crowd lapped up whatever it was they played first, Horace Andy came on for the second, and by the third we had made our way to the exit. The babysitter knocks off at 1am you see.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Birmingham, so much to answer for.

Kev tasked me with writing something about music from Birmingham. I however wanted to shoe horn the phrase "celebrity lezzas" into this post to capitalise on popbitchs claims and drive traffic here, lets hope this cynical stab works, back to the blog... Since my last post and now I have been to Leeds Festival (attempted to write something approaching a review, it was too big a task so in a nutshell, The Walkmen, The King Blues, NOFX and Biffy Clyro were all fantastic, The Drums, not so). I also have been to Las Vegas and celebrated my 40th birthday, seeing Biffy Clyro in a small club whilst I was there. None of these however are related in the slightest to Birmingham.

Birmingham and it surrounds famously spawned the likes of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Slade. Slade weren’t though. Slade were Black Country and in Noddy’s case, Walsall. Zeppelin were in a loose way and Sabbath definitely were, but lets not be picky here. Lets not linger on the most famous sons, lets move away from Aston and West Brom and dip our toe into the murky waters of Birmingham Canal, like a Cliff Richard driven speedboat from Take Me High.

Cliff paid homage to God’s City in his 1973 film Take Me High, his last film and as I write Sir Cliff celebrates his 70th birthday. In Take Me High like the dead horse he has been flogging since Daddy’s Home so he sells the locals the Brum burger. Alliteration it seems were key or it may have been a totally different story and ended up being a Lincoln Burger. Take Me High is a pretty good film if my memory serves me well. I think Channel 4 were doing one of those seasons where rock stars give that acting lark a stab and therefore trotted out the excellent That’ll Be The Day, Slade In Flame and Take Me High. I suspect this all predated Spice World.

Take Me High

Cliff aside the city that gave us Fuzzbox also gave us The Nightingales, Robert Lloyd lead singer and constant of The Nightengales is a Cannock lad, but lets not let geography get in the way after all if that was the case we may have to stop PWEI, The Wonderstuff and Neds Atomic Dustbin being claimed as sons of the second city.
Robert Lloyd from the ashes of The Nightingales formed the utterly fantastic but massively overlooked New Four Seasons, I briefly loved this band as a spotty teen. John Peel played a track that I recorded late one night and I think I wore that tape out. At the time I hadn’t heard or heard of The Nightingales and I didn’t really care. Andy Lloyd of that self same band, Wikipedia tells me he is a member of Birmingham mainstays, Little Red Schoolhouse. Little Red Schoolhouse I can pin down as a band that have been going at least 20 years, if Wikipedia is to be believed as I saw them once in the Sir Colin Campbell pub in Coventry, supporting a Telford based band. Little Red Schoolhouse were I am sure excellent, banks mild has clouded my memory of their performance and the name of the Telford band that supported them. I think it was the band that later became PTR. Halcyon days.

Something Nice by Robert Lloyd and The New Four Seasons

Another son of Birmingham and a band that had a lasting impression on me was the band Mighty Mighty. I bought their album, Sharks at the back end of the 80’s. (I have a memory of being in Birmingham Virgin Megastore queing up to buy Sharks and seeing Miles Hunt in front of me clutching a copy of eight legged groove machine on the day of its release. This may not actually have happened). The purchase of Sharks and importantly an address to write to Mighty Mighty on the back meant I had a clear opportunity within the price of a cheap day return to stalk a band. I need to make this clear, I didn’t. Moseley wasn’t on a train route. Sharks though contained so many great great songs, Law, Maisonnette and the superb, Biddy Baxter. You really should listen to the latter (not that it can be found on Youtube). You really should listen to Law as well, its what the term, “stomping bassline” was created for.

Law by Mighty Mighty

Lawrence, (slaps head remembering the name of the Telford band who supported Little Red Schoolhouse) Lawrence who was Felt, who was Denim, who was Go Kart Mozart was from Birmingham and now it seems, again according to Wikipedia, resides in a place I pass by twice a day, Water Orton. Go Kart Mozart release records on Lawrences own label, West Midlands Records. The sound of young Brum. (I added that). Felt, Lawrences first notable incarnation were signed to Creation and first came to my attention from the super cheap Creation compilation and soundtrack for the live shows, Doing It For The Kids. I own 2 copies of this 1988 album, both jump in different places. Felt perform in my opinion their best track in Ballad Of The Band. An excellent track it is too, Lawrence didn’t really better it.

Ballad Of The Band by Felt

Materially speaking Lawrence went on to form Denim after Felt’s dissolution. Denim had more of a glam rock edge, but a lot of bands were doing that then. Their impact on me was a single single. My loss is Water Ortons gain.

Middle Of The Road by Denim

Finally we can’t leave Birmingham without mentioning one of the citys best sons, not Musical Youth, Duran Duran, the Moody Blues or wizard, not The Twang, The Editors, The Streets or Ocean Colour Scene. Dexy’s are the best export the city has produced and undo all that UB40, the aforementioned OCS and The Twang have subjected me to.

Dexy’s Midnight Runners formed within the B postcode and the mish mash of sounds that make up their albums reflected their home city. I dont care much for Come On Eileen, not to say it isn’t one of the greatest pop songs ever written. My favourite is a twelve minute soul screamer found on Don’t Stand Me Down. This Is What She’s Like is as paranoid as it gets. Rowland is a very honest man to allow this to go on any album and at over 12 minutes, you may tire a little. You shouldn’t though as it takes you places that a full LP will take you, like NOFX’s Decline, its more a sum of its parts. Dexy’s finest hour not bettered in my opinion until the reformation song and anger inducing track, Manhood. I think I once had a brief conversation with my co-blogger about this track once and he swore.

Disappointingly not the full version.

This is What She’s Like by Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

Manhood by Dexy’s Midnight Runners

Birmingham, the home of Napalm Death, the home of The Beat, but also thankfully the home of Novak. Novak really deserve their own article.

Rapunzel by Novak

Thursday, 30 September 2010

AC/DC - The Covers

This actually started out as a post on Mark Kozelek and The Red House Painters but, after hearing his version of AC/DC's If You Want Blood it just blossomed into a whole piece on covers. Having squirmed my way through too many bad rock versions, pub bands and fuzzy upper-lipped teens on out of tune guitars on YouTube, I decided to introduce the winners in each of my self-imposed categories. So, the categories for AC/DC covers are
  • The Quality Cover
  • The Bemusing Why-Did-They-Do-It Children's Cover
  • The That's Not Bad but I Wouldn't Admit it Cover
  • The Bluegrass Cover
  • The Elvis Cover
  • The Toe-Curling, Butt -Tightening, Embarrassed to Even Watch, Dad-at-a-Disco Cover
  • Those Crazy Foreigners Cover
The Quality Cover is the one mentioned in the opening sentence, Mark Kozelek.

On to The Bemusing Why-Did-They-Do-It Children's Cover by The Wiggles (who probably get more airtime in our house than AC/DC themselves).

The That's Not Bad but I Wouldn't Admit it Cover. Keep your eye out for the decent fiddle player also on backing vocals.

They are probably too obvious to even include here but I couldn't really fail to mention the kings of the bluegrass metal covers circuit - Hayseed Dixie, not only a tremendous play on words, but also a tremendous play on words. That makes them clear winners in The Bluegrass Cover category.

On we rock to The Elvis Cover, a personal favourite.

I feel like our reader (not a typo) deserves an explanation here. It's not often that a music video can induce in the viewer a feeling of wanting the world to open up and swallow them. This video makes you feel like a rubber-necker straining to see the accident. It arouses the feelings you have when faced with the spectacle of something so horrible that you are gripped by some unexplained fascination, unable to avert your horrified gaze - it's the Toe-Curling, Butt -Tightening, Embarrassed to Even Watch, Dad-at-a-Disco Cover, so without further ado, ladies and gents, here's Sealion Dion for your ultimate pleasure.

So, to wrap up we've got the Those Crazy Foreigners Cover, which, even though they might be crazy and they are definitely foreigners, is a lovely bit of film. Judging from another clip on TouYoub they might be called Vopli Vidopliassova.

1987 - A Year in Music

It seems like my choices for the best of 1987 are split fairly evenly between the things I was actually listening to at the time, and that year's offerings I would come to discover later in life. Two 'later' discoveries, Tom Waits and Los Lobos, are still around. Los Lobos particularly have had a long and varied career, and continue to put out good records. Tom Waits, an acquired taste, tends to bounce from borderline genius to borderline unlistenable. Scratch that, just unlistenable.

Echo and the Bunnymen were one of those mainstream 'alternative' bands I was so keen to like in the late to mid 80's. They didn't really float my boat in the way that The Cult did, but they scratched a certain itch. 'Love Removal Machine' on the other hand, blew my head off. I bought it on a Saturday afternoon in Birmingham and couldn't wait to get home and play it. It doesn't seem to have completely stood the test of time with my taste buds that well, if that makes sense, but hats off to even calling a song Love Removal Machine. It was quite so apparent to me at the time quite how much Ian Asbury wanted to be Jim Morrison.

The final track, listed on YouTube as 'Bono-Sweet Fire of Love', is actually from the first Robbie Robertson (of The Band) solo album, notable for the appearance of Peter Gabriel, Garth Hudson and Rick Danko, Maria McKee and others. Daniel Lanois was the dots that joined it all together. The album spawned the hit 'Somewhere Down the Crazy River'.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Dead Funny Men with Beards

When reviewing the Archie Bronson Outfit for The Times Peter Paphides described the sound they produce as 'driving blues rock played with punk abandon by men with beards'. You can't really question the punk abandon or the beards, although the blues rock is open to debate. I don't know why I like it but I do.

In the comments on Youtube below this video (where they get compared to Talking Heads), which admittedly isn't a great place to look for incisive critique, someone said

"Interpretative gymnastics and swamp flavoured indie: together at last"

......which is as good a reason as any for liking them.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Yan, Tyan, Tethera, Methera - The Bad Shepherds

It must be rather annoying for him to be repeatedly refered to as Comedian Adrian Edmondson (my friend Steve is similarly aggrieved by his beloved team being refered to as Roy Keane's Ipswich) particularly now that he has branched out into music and somehow managed to fuse two of his great loves - punk and new wave music with 'traditional' instruments, and put together The Bad Shepherds. The story goes that, after a good session in the pub Mr. Edmondson wandered into an instrument shop, and pissed, bought a mandolin. Nort long after he found himself playing London Calling on it, and the idea of 'punk songs with a celtic feel' was born. The name of the album is 'Yan, Tyan, Tethera, Methera', which, to quote the Shepherds' website

'One, Two, Three, Four' in an ancient Cumbrian dialect used almost exclusively by shepherds. Had the Ramones been Cumbrian shepherds, it's what they would have shouted as the intro to every song...' inspired choice for an album title, I think you'd agree.

They have an interesting backstory and a decent album name, but is it any good? Judge for yourself.
I Fought the Law

I wasn't entirely convinced by that, although when I listened to the album on the way to work this morning I was impressed. The arrangements are excellent, and there wasn't a single time I thought that the meeting of the styles jarred at all. In fact, they seem to actively compliment each other. The blend of traditional songs with Edmondson's favourite punk pop classics work a treat. A good example of this would be the Humours of Tullah/Teenage Kicks/Whisky in the Jar/The Merry Blacksmith combo.

Teenage Kicks

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Glen Hansard, The Frames, Once, Marketa Irglova and The Swell Season

It seems odd that Ireland's Glen Hansard has only popped up once on the blog. For someone who has ploughed his own honest furrow since about 1991, with the spectacularly underrated The Frames, and more recently with the Once soundtrack and The Swell Season, I'm not sure he gets the praise that 20 years of decent/excellent/outstanding music should merit. From the streets of Dublin, busking, to supporting Dylan, here is Glen Hansard, who I think seems like a very genuine bloke who you might have a pint with, interviewed in 2007.

Outspan Foster is a name that probably haunts Hansard as it is the name of the character he played in the 1991 Commitments film. He has said many times that he regrets taking the part, although with an oscar in his pocket from his song Falling Slowly in 2008 his regrets may have eased somewhat.

The Frames first album Another Love Song came out in '91 and, I must admit, it passed me by. I honestly think the songs are swamped on it, although Masquerade, one of the two singles taken from it, is probably my favourite.

It took the band till '95 to put out another album, the excellent Fitzcarraldo, named after the Werner Herzog film of the same name (there were singles and an EP inbetween). The album, in my view, contains two songs that are so good, that if Hansard had never done anything else ever again then he could have dined out on the quality of Revelate and Red Chord for the rest of his days. The best version of Red Chord I've ever heard is an acoustic version from a radio show, which I used to have on cassette, which somehow got lost in the multiple moves back and forward between England and Chile over the last few years. To my complete joy, someone put it on YouTube, and I was the 457th person to watch it.

On the same above mentioned radio show there was a great version of the Candi Staton discotastic classic Young Hearts Run Free, and as it happens, The Swell Season have recorded it and it's available as a free download from Levi's (don't ask me why Levi's). Click here for more information.
Revelate has been featured on the blog already (click here for the post Albums of the Noughties)

On we go to Dance the Devil from 1999 and this time I'm going with Pavement Tune, the live version of which I once saw sounds completely different.

Again, on this album, there is a song worthy of any other, Star Star.

On to 2001 and the album voted Best Irish Album Released between 1999 and 2009 by the CLUAS website (lending an ear to the Irish music scene) - For the Birds. Things seemed to fall into place for this album. It's an album of maturity, confidence and quality songs. As the CLUAS reviewer puts it "a record whose bones were honest". Steve Albini produced part of it. Pitchfork called the album "a unique and enjoyable album". The stand out songs for me are Lay Me Down and What Happens When the Heart Just Stops, which the Swell Season (Hansard's latest incarnation with Marketa Irglova) revisited later.

A year later, 2002, saw The Frames follow up For the Birds with their first live album, Breadcrumb Trail, notable for the inclusion of a certain Marketa Irglova. The album was recorded in the Czech Republic and came out on the bands own label. Allmusic gave it 4 out of 5 stars.
Another live album, Set List follwed in 2002, a much stronger set, recorded over four nights in Dublin in front of an adoring crowd. Hansard has some good chat between the songs and, in true Frames fashion, one song may well include bits of other songs you might recognise. Listen out for a bit of Bob Marley or Johnny Cash during this album.
Here are two knocked into one from Set List.

Burn the Maps came out on the excellent anti label (Mavis Staples, Neko Case, Tom Waits) in 2004 and gave the band their first number one album in Ireland. Yet again, although not to my surprise, they conjured up a good album that included a top drawer song in the shape of the bitter, twisted, angry Fake.

Read an interview with Glen Hansard from 2005 by clicking here.

It's from this point on that it all gets a bit confusing, a bit Hollywood, and pretty damn successful. In 2006 Hansard appeared in the indie film Once, written and directed by John Carney, one time bass player with The Frames during the early 90's. The film, shot for about $160.000 tells the story of a thirty-something Dublin busker, played by Glen Hansard. Most of the music was written by Hansard and Irglova, with some of it having already featured in different versions on The Frames The Cost album as well as the debut cd by Hansard and Irglova as The Swell Season.

In an interview with Pitchfork in 2008 Hansard said this
"We put this record out first as the Swell Season because honestly we didn't think John's film would get released. Honestly. We weren't depending on any company to back us. We made the thing for nothing. It didn't look great or sound great, and the film hasn't changed. It still doesn't look great or sound great! [laughs] Obviously, what we've learned and are beginning to accept is that it has something. A lot of people have gone to see it, and talked about it, which is wonderful. But when John originally suggested we put it out as the Once soundtrack, I was like, dude, the film's not even going to come out! I'm just putting these songs out because I don't want them lying around. We put out The Swell Season, and The Swell Season sold 300 copies. I couldn't believe it. In Ireland, even the Frames records sell ten, 15,000 copies. Which is a respectable number of records for a band doing it themselves. We were very happy with that. But I couldn't believe that this record I put out with Mar, that I was really proud of, only sold 300. Then six months or a year later it gets re-released as the Once record. Four days ago I just heard that it went gold over here. That's half a million fucking records! That's insane! That is fucking insane. And all we did was change the cover [laughs].

By 2007 the film had been accepted into the Sundance film festival (after initially being rejected), and the original plan of just showing it around Ireland, with a few songs after the movie, had to be re-thought. The song Falling Slowly began to get attention and was nominated for an Academy Award (that's an Oscar, dummy) for Best Original Song. Here they are performing it on David Letterman.

So, off they went to the Oscars in 2008 and only went and won it. Here's a bit on the film.

Irglova was famously drowned out by the orchestra just as she leant forward to say her thank yous after being presented with an Oscar. Following the break she was asked by John Stewart to come back out on stage for her moment of glory. Click here to see what happened.

Much was made of the chemistry between the two in the movie. Given the fact that Hansard said this "I had been falling in love with her for a long time, but I kept telling myself she's just a kid" it wasn't a surprise it came through on film.

Following the release of the Once soundtrack The Swell Season have gone from strength to strength, touring to great reviews, backed up by Frames musicians in the band.

Post Hollywood and with 20 years of The Frames under his belt here's a nice vid to finish with, Hansard and Irglova interviewed while on their US tour, 2009.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Without Chew

There's an excellent article by the consistently good Alexis Petridis in The Guardian today, discussing the new album by Hurts. After reading that they like to sing 'Without chew ....' along with these words

'Their videos resemble a Guinness World Records attempt to cram as many Thatcher-era visual cliches into three minutes of film as possible: you watch the trenchcoat-clad figures trudging through snowy Mitteleuropean cities and women in black cocktail dresses and fascinators throwing meaningful shapes by swimming pools, and you are gripped by the certainty that Max Headroom is about to appear and start walking like an Egyptian'

I was intrigued and wanted to find out more. Why would anybody in their right mind want to replicate the sound of Climie Fisher, Go West or Johnny Hates Jazz? Their website opens with a photo so styled, so consciously self-aware, that the more I looked at it the more I was convinced that only seconds later they would both burst into guffaws and say something like 'Oh I'm bostin for a piss, me'. It does, in fact, look like a pisstake, or perhaps a perfume advert parody from a sketch show. Either that or the Marks & Spencer advert for suits worn by England players during the World Cup in South Africa.

England Substitutes


Could they be any more 'synth-pop duo'?

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Jole Blon

Although Jole Blon sounds like an expensive (probably overpriced) new signing by a Premiership football team (probably Spurs) - Jole Blon Sent Off on Debut - for example, it's actually a song. Gold Star Records of Houston, Texas, launched many careers, among them Freddy Fender, George Jones and Lightnin Hopkins. Gold Star's first big hit was Jole Blon, by Harry Choates way back in 1946. Up popped Jole Blon in my inbox today with a link to a real oddity - Waylon Jennings, Buddy Holly and King Curtis together in 1958. It's an 'unclassifiable' (as mail sender Tom put it), genre-hopping song.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

White Lies vs Alan Bennett

I'm not really sure what I man when I say that Harry McVeigh of White Lies has an 80's voice. I mean he doesn't sound anything like John Farnham or either of Mel or Kim. Is it an easy comparison to make if I mention Joy Division? They claim to be more influenced by Talking Heads, although that influence is hardly evident. Maybe they will go on to make awful Brazilian compilations. Other influences include Secret Machines, who, surely, are the closest to Led Zep Bonhamesque battering you are likely to find. Peter finds White Lies 'a bit too polished' and I know what he means, although they have a nice turn of phrase at times. That makes them sound like Alan Bennett, which I am sure is not the effect they were looking for. I can imagine Alan saying 'He said my heart is faint, and left him crying next to the chapel steps, oh and these biscuits are a bit dry'.

The Best Score Writers in the Industry

In the ongoing series of guest posts, here is one from one of the guys over at My Dog Ate My Blog.

Often, the praise for a great film goes directly to the director. If you think of the classics, though, most have something in common: great, iconic music. The score of a film can create suspense, drama, or be just plain catchy. Here are ten of the top film score writers whose music you definitely know, even if you don't know their name.
1. John Williams: Williams has scored some of the most iconic American films, such as Jaws, Home Alone, E.T., and The Star Wars Saga.
  • Why he's great: Whether or not you realize it, Williams compositions are most likely lodged into your pop culture subconscious.
  • Have a listen: Star Wars Medley

2. Bernard Hermann: Hermann is known for teaming up with Alfred Hitchcock to score his most suspenseful films, including Psycho, Vertigo, and North by Northwest.
  • Why he's great: Hermann's creativity transformed and modernized music for thrillers and suspenseful movies.
  • Have a listen: Psycho theme

3. Max Steiner: Called "the father of film music," Steiner was one of the first to compose music for motion pictures His list of films reads as a list of American classics: Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, and Little Women are some of his best known.
  • Why he's great: When Steiner first arrived in America in 1914, he had only a few dollars to his name. He worked as a musician for 15 years before scoring films.
  • Have a listen: Gone With the Wind- "Tara's Theme"

4. Elmer Bernstein: Bernstein rose to fame by scoring classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Ten Commandments, and The Man with the Golden Arm. Later on, he took a chance by scoring National Lampoon's Animal House, which sparked a second wave of his career scoring comedies.
  • Why he's great: Bernstein was not afraid of attempting all types of film, and thus, we have some of the best comedy scores in history, including Ghostbusters and Airplane!
  • Have a listen: Airplane! Medley

5. Jerry Goldsmith: Goldsmith composed for many films, but most were action filled: Rambo:First Blood, Chinatown, and Basic Instinct are some of his most notable scores.
  • Why he's great: Goldsmith experimented with lots of strange instruments not usually found in film scores, like schofar, pizzicati, and steel drums.
  • Have a listen: Star Trek: The Motion Picture theme

6. Henry Mancini: After his first year at Julliard, Mancini was drafted into the army to serve in WWII. After he was discharged, he went on to score many memorable TV shows and movies, like Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Pink Panther, and The Party.
  • Why he's great: Mancini found time to do a little bit of everything; he recorded his own albums (over 90 of them!), voice acted, and even made an appearance on Frasier.
  • Have a listen: The Pink Panther theme

7. Lalo Schifrin: This Argentine composer has written the music for many classic action films. Cool Hand Luke and Enter the Dragon are among his most famous, and he scored the music for the long running Mission: Impossible TV series.
  • Why he's great: Schifrin founded his own record label, Aleph Records, and his work has been sampled on famous hip-hop records.
  • Have a listen: Mission:Impossible theme

8. James Horner: If you want drama, you want James Horner's scores. You can hear his intensity in Braveheart, Apollo 13, The Perfect Storm, and Avatar.

9. John Barry: This English composer's family was in the film business, sparking his interest in movies. He went on to write the soundtracks for eleven James Bond flicks.
  • Why he's great: Barry might be great, but he's also failed: he took a chance and wrote the music for two Broadway disasters, The Little Prince and the Aviator and Lolita, My Love.
  • Have a listen: Dr. No

10. Maurice Jarre: Jarre's scores are modern classics. He won three academy awards for Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago, and A Passage to India.

Joy Henry is a guest blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog 

Friday, 20 August 2010

John Wayne

I have had a long conversation with a friend today on the subject of film stars of old and how they don’t make them like they used to. No Jimmy Stewart's, no Yul Bryner's, no Garbo, no Betty Davies and no Errol Flynn. How John Wayne and his films possibly couldn’t be made in this day and age. The Quiet Man, easily one of the greatest films ever made, would not have got past the script stage I will wager.
What does this have to do with music Peter? I am coming to that. John Wayne, that glorious all American god of epic proportions, thats who I am celebrating today in song, verse and lyric.

John Wayne was born with a girls name, like Sue I guess you learn to either fight or get beaten. John Wayne oozed masculinity and maybe that's why. I don't know. Seemingly he also had very VERY Conservative politics. Unapologetic concerning his views on race and homosexuals, today he would be laughed at. As he said in She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, "Don't apologize—it's a sign of weakness."

John Wayne died in 1979 and his death at least in our household was every bit as important as John Lennon or Marty Robbins and time and again I find myself going back to True Grit or The Cowboys.

In 1982, Hardcore Punk band MDC released their debut album, Millions of Dead Cops, on it was the track John Wayne Was A Nazi.

John Wayne Was A Nazi by MDC

Its not an opinion they were alone in sharing and this release had some influence on Mike Burkett of NOFX and the song and the band get a mention on their song 13 Stitches from War On Errorism.

“The next time I went to the whiskey,
It was DOA with millions of Dead Cops.
The latter band played faster than I could believe,
But the Songs sounded the same and kinda sucked.
'Cept John Wayne was a nazi,
And Joey Shithead was a drunk.
Then John Macias beat some hippie to a pulp,
Cuz Having long hair was a mistake.”
- 13 Stitches by NOFX

13 Stitches by NOFX

1982 at least in song was the year that John Wayne was getting name checked as Haysi Fantayzee released their debut single “John Wayne is Big Leggy.” Naivety saw me thinking this was a rude song but no, again its a critique of Waynes apparent racism. 1982 and the kids are pissed off. Maybe True Grit was repeated a little too often.

John Wayne Is Big Leggy by Haysi Fantayzee

"Any man who'd make an X-rated movie ought to have to take his daughter to see it." John Wayne.

In 1973 The Duke released an album in the shadow of Watergate entitled, America, Why I Love Her. Its an odd spoken word album, but hell you have to love the mans unbridled patriotism. As someone that loves Johnny Cash’s Ragged Old Flag, its another at times that sounds like “Barts People” but as it’s John Wayne, criticise it? The hell I will.

America, Why I Love Her by John Wayne.

Billy Idol celebrated Marion Morrison in his song John Wayne and stepped back from the name calling, Billy wanted to feel like John Wayne, cos John Wayne was brave. Psst Billy, he was playing a character.

John Wayne by Billy Idol

Celebrated in song, loved and hated in equal measures John Wayne was a childhood icon as important as Evel Knievel or The animal Kwackers. The only difference with that is The Animal Kwackers never said;

“I believe in white supremacy until blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don't believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.... The academic community has developed certain tests that determine whether the blacks are sufficiently equipped scholastically.... I don't feel guilty about the fact that five or ten generations ago these people were slaves. Now I'm not condoning slavery. It's just a fact of life, like the kid who gets infantile paralysis and can't play football like the rest of us.”

Sometimes John Wayne was a bit of an idiot.