Thursday, 15 April 2010

U Turns

This sent in by our sometimes electro-pop correspondent (he lives in a shoe you know) Neil K

It’s big to admit your wrong, particularly after being so vocally anti something that it’s seen as a real back down. It’s happened to me on a few occasions musically, where early output from a band makes me take an instant (often illogical) dislike of them, and laugh loudly in the face of anyone that claims to like them. What? You’re that naïve you buy THAT!? … Sometimes it’s not so much the music but the personalities, or maybe inappropriate levels of press adulation or success, or because I’ve been told I’d like them because they’re like band “x” that I’ve been know to champion. Anyway, however it starts - 99.9% of the time it remains that way – but sometimes – just sometimes - something happens (usually hearing a particular song or a full album) where said band get rewarded with a reappraisal – or maybe they just raise their game and they really were crap. Either way, something happens where I see them in a different light and I think “you know what, on their day, they’re actually pretty damn good, and the world is a better place for their noise after all…”.

So, what examples of this phenomenon can I recall?

Feeder – What? The band that did that annoying Buck Rogers (“it’s got a cd player –player – player” indeed) that the Radio overplayed – and still plays now? The joke Welsh rockers with the Japanese Adam Clayton? This was until I heard a work colleagues (you remember ‘Pete’ don’t you Kevin T? – came in Our Price and stood there staring at you?) copy of Echo Park – and in particular the glorious “Turn”. That song got stuck on repeat play for many a day after that. Since then, I’ve discovered other highlights such as Tender, Feeling A Moment, Purple and the gloriously souring Silent Cry. A band that can rock but also do subtle and heartfelt. One of those bands where you look at the lyrics and think it’s a bit clichéd – but when your hear the delivery by Grant – you feel it. They really do regret and loss incredibly eloquently. One band I’m still hoping to get chance to see live one day.

Green Day – What? Those cartoon punks? Fronted by the Cliff Richard of Punk? Following the Punk A-Z handbook. Piercings? Check. Bright hair? Check. Throwing TVs out of Window? Check. Rich boys acting poor? You betcha. Sooooo rock ‘n’ roll… Until I heard “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”- the ultimate ode to taking comfort in solitude. Perfect meld of melancholy and melody. One of those moments where the words and music and mood and image just works together to produce something stellar. Holiday was alright too, and American Idiot was just the right side of a joke song. That said, the 20th Century bollocks CD (do you mean 21st Century? - Kevin T) was a big let down and they’re close to going back in my bad books.

The Smashing Pumpkins – What? Baldy screacher looking like someone from the Adams Family? “Tonight…” Who’s dragging their nails down a black bored?! Arrggghh!?!?!??! Be quiet – let me just listen to the music. Until I heard Ava Adore CD – where thankfully Billy Corgan's singing is generally more restrained and thus more bearable. I still can only take one album at a time before my ears start bleeding, but I can recognise the beauty in the melodies and hear the words without the barbed wire delivery. He also wrote Hole's only good song (and I thus hold him responsible for keeping the despicable Courtney Love in the public eye for so long). Songwriter for hire however is probably a good direction for him to take - let a singer sing it.

Beastie BoysFight For Your Right To Party indeed. You may have gathered - joke songs I don’t like. Punk I wasn’t keen on at that time. I wanted my pop stars to leave me in awe, not make me think I could do what they did but better. I thought and hoped these guys would disappear within 15 minutes. They didn’t. They actually developed their sound and went on to produce gems such as Sabotage and Intergalactic Planetary. And they’re still going – so much for 15 minutes.

I’m still waiting for the Billy Brag reassessment mind you, I’m beginning to think it will never happen...
Anyone out there with similar cases?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Random Play

This sent in by Jack T.

Ain’t Random Play Great.

In on my own, whack the ‘puter onto iTunes, random play. Here are the first five out. You gotta like something!

1. Aretha Franklin. ‘Think’.
Y’all know that scene from the ‘Blues Brothers’. ‘Four Fried Chickens and a Coke for Jake and Elwoods ‘ Dry White Toast.’ If you have never seen it, here is a clip. Listen for ‘Duck’ Dunns’ base line.

2. Ringo Starr. ‘I Wanna Be Santa Claus’
Not quite sure how this got into my iTunes library. You can find it on YouTube but this is funnier.

3. Marc Cohn. ‘Miles Away’
Love it in spite of the occasional change of octave. Hell, if Johnny Cash can get away with that who am I to complain?

4. The Chieftains and the Chinese Ensemble. ‘Full of Joy’
I can’t find the version I have which actually has a Chinese Ensemble on stage and live with an introduction in Chinese. Either the audience were all Chinese speakers or they had an applause prompt for the introduction. Any Chinese speakers out there know the live version and can chip in with a translation?
Here’s another version.

5. Bonnie Raitt. ‘Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About’
Another of Kevin Ts introductions. Top of his favourites list is Bonnie Raitt with John Prine singing ‘Angel From Montgomery’ which is great. This one is good as well. The chorus brings me out in goosepimples.

False Perceptions

This sent in by our non-electro pop correspondent - Neil K

Just to play up to the label of Mr Electro Pop - I admit I bought my first Strangelove CD 50% for the bands name - which is a Depeche Mode single (the other 50% having heard Time For The Rest Of Your Life on Mark Goodiers’ radio show in the mid ‘90s while at my digs at Stafford Uni). You will no doubt be pleased to hear that this one features no electro or pop. Just Radio 1 friendly blasphemy. Guitars. And some brooding teenage angst.

I owned all three albums from this Bristol based band (who were championed by Suede having supported Bret and co); the first two are highly recommended – the second, Love And Other Demons in particular is very strong. Anyway, my mind was drawn back to seeing this band in a small venue in Stoke (curiously I recall only one of the two people I went with). Anyway, the general gist of this posting is how your self made perceptions can be so way off the mark (yes, this means you Mr T with your “Mr Electro Pop” labelling!). My only knowledge of Strangelove at the time had been from playing their first two albums – and seeing some moody black and white photos in NME. I don’t believe I’d seen a video of them (until today) – viva la You Tube. Having three guitarists (not including bass) meant the album is very layered and textured, with lots of intertwining guitar lines, that take a few listens with headphones to make them all out. The first two albums also had more downbeat songs than up tempo attempts at singles, with lush strings on a couple (such as the glorious Sway).

Back to my point. All of this evidence led me to believe that the lead singer, Patrick Duff, would be a shy, poetic type – probably hiding behind the microphone with the occasional whispered “thank you” when the lager started to kick in and his confidence levels were up. What I wasn’t expecting, was a gothic Johnny Rotten on speed – said Mr Duff jumping on tables, spitting, generally being aggressive and insulting the audience. The rest of the band were more like I was expecting from an indie rock outfit circa 1995, so I guess it’s fair to say that the singer certainly made for a memorable evening as it was this that led me to write about them. When they split up not long after, two of the guys joined the equally good Witness. I had my own theories that the band must have been so irritated by sharing a tour bus with the lunatic Duff that they could take no more. Maybe. Maybe not. Thinking about it - the fact that Witness played on Jools Hollands show probably makes it more likely the latter – they obviously didn’t mind sharing the stage with annoying pr*cks (click here for a revealing Guardian piece on the troubled Duff).
Anyway, here are the band in their prime with the video for “Time For The Rest Of Your Life” – a video where it seems they dragged 7 people off the street – gave them a camcorder and told them to film them in the dark.

And I’ve just found what Patrick looks like now (just checking he was still alive) – and it appears he is (just) – although it looks like he may be living rough. Perhaps in a tent. On a recently vacated Wolverhampton roundabout. Buy this mans new CD – I’ve not heard it so can’t vouch for it’s quality – but it looks like he needs the pennies and he has “form” as 1/6 of a great band.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Missing Piece

This sent in by our Electro Pop correspondent - Neil K

I'm pretty damn sure that Depeche Mode do nothing positive for Kevin, and I suspect, having read Petes' entertaining driving alphabet reviews, that they wont be appearing in the soon to be started 'D's'. With the call for outsiders to contribute, what an opportune moment then for plugging the UKs most successful group (in terms of consecutive top 40 singles ever - or something like that).

For me, the Depeche Mode pinnacle was the double whammy of Violator (their biggest commercial success) followed perversely by Songs of Faith and Devotion, where they reinvented their sound. The Yin and Yang of the band. The clean, processed electro pop edges of Violator. The one with Brit Awards single of the year, Enjoy The Silence and Personal Jesus. Followed four event filled (i.e. drug/overdose filled in the case of singer Dave Gahan) years later with the dirtier, more organic follow up, Songs of Faith and Devotion. The one with songs you probably can't remember - I Feel You - Walking In My Shoes. For those who know very little of the band history - this is the one where singer Dave ditched the short spikey hair cut, opting for long grunge style.

So, aside from getting dm on the Blog index - what led to making this my first posting topic (and last - unless you are ready for why Duran Duran are a really underrated band?)...? Well...I made my once every few month visit to last week (which used to be hourly visit - how times have changed!) and I had a lot of feelings Flood (Depeche Mode producer of two aforementioned albums pun intended) through me. The thing all fans had dreamed but never thought would happen had happened, albeit briefly, and it had totally gone under my radar for two months. Alan Wilder, the producer/musician ex member who shaped the DM sound and then left shortly after SoFaD some 15 years ago, citing that he was doing all the work for no recognition, had rejoined the band on stage for a special performance.

Oh. My. God.

The classic line up had reunited, played "Somebody" (double A-side with the fantastic Blasphemous Rumours), hugged each other, before Alan walked off stage to the same rapturous screams and applause his shocking arrival had brought. This is almost like John and George suddenly returning to Earth for a final Beatles shot. OK, that's pushing it, maybe more like the Gallagher brothers kissing and making up in fifteen years time. Why wasn't this bigger news? made no mention (not that they ever cared about dm other than making fun of Martins dress sense). The 10 o-clock news made no mention - must have been a news heavy day. Probably Madonna was in Malawi. they're at least talking, Alan no doubt got a live appearance buzz he's not had for years (his Recoil solo project has not played live (until later this month)...and not sold in perhaps...the four of them will return to the studio to produce masterpiece #3? If so, would it be what Godfather 3 was to 1 and 2? 15 years too late and with nothing new to say, a pale echo of past greatness? Or would it finally bring back that missing puzzle piece that has been lacking in the bands output since his departure?