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.