A semi-regular series in which a misanthropic music blogger gets drunk and plays lots of records, at least some of which may be new to the odd reader or two. And because the sun is up, the sky is blue, it’s beautiful and so are you, there’s also words, as well as a lashed together Spotify playlist (click here), should you be hosting a children’s party and require some sounds; the little ones will thank you for it.
Wild Billy Childish and The Musicians of the British Empire / ‘He’s Making A Tape’
This isn’t just vim and vigour, but an insight into lost love, lost art. I still like to think that kids are busy in their bedrooms making mix tapes for each other. C60, C90, hand-drawn inserts for the cassette case. They’re not; they’re playing video games on their phones, streaming piffle on their phones, and filling up hard drives with hardcore pornography, yet this harking for a more innocent age isn’t simply passive nostalgia. For a tape compiled especially for you is a gaze into someone’s soul.
Harmonia / ‘Dino’
Not obscure, if you know your Krautrock (which you certainly should). One part Neu! to two parts Cluster, debut album – 1974’s Musik von Harmonia – ripples with fluid textures. An immediacy that’s both delicate in tone and playful in how it frames elements of sculpture. ‘Dino’ is a track that suggests motion – the Kosmische vibe generally does – but I can’t think of too many other examples in which the execution is so graceful.
Brian Eno / ‘Wire Shock’
Depending just how much free time you have on your hands, you could attempt to map out Eno’s musical family tree, Harmonia being but one link in what would be a very considerable chain indeed (Eno joning the band for third album Tracks and Traces).
‘Wire Shock’ is from the 1992 album Nerve Net; a dark, eclectic affair that feels like a soundtrack to a David Lynch movie. A track to throw adjective at, in the vague hope that at least some of them stick; dark funk undermined by abrasive cadences in a manner that’s a little reminiscent of Bowie or Peter Gabriel or Trent Reznor, but somehow far more detailed (and dare I say it, interesting) than all of that.
Barry Adamson / ‘Set the Controls for the Heart of the Pelvis’
Gabriel’s ‘Games Without Frontiers’ would have slotted in here snugly, except I can’t believe that’s never played on the wireless. And whilst there are many a cover version, each appears to share the DNA of fifth-rate gloom metal. So instead, another dark and brooding album, this time from the former Magazine / Bad Seeds multi-instrumentalist Barry Adamson, who’s carved a career creating crafty and erudite soundscapes, on occasion for films, and at other times for full length discs that I really can’t recommend enough.
1996’s Oedipus Schmoedipus shares the eclectic Lynchian undertones of Nerve Net, but applies them in playful configurations, and whilst ‘Set the Controls for the Heart of the Pelvis’ is both a terrible pun and a god-awful title, it’s more than compensated by the track’s route through glee. Curvaceous, exotic, and yes, that is Jarvis Cocker running his tongue around his lips as he approaches the microphone.
Earl Brutus / ‘The SAS and the Glam that Goes With It’
Silly, noisy, and all the better for it. You read a great deal about intelligent, worthy records, when so much that underpins pop is the antithesis of that. Pop is about the joy of the present moment – a facet Earl Brutus (as well as sister acts World of Twist and the Pre New) understood well. This is all primary colours and too much make-up, and half-way through, it lets a fire extinguisher off.
Sleep Party People / ‘A Stranger Among Us’
That sub-title – the tracks they don’t play on the radio – is of course a blatant breach of trade description legislation – you really don’t need to point out the flaw in my logic. What I probably mean is something along the lines of “the tracks they don’t play on the radio very often”, considering that I first heard this on Tom Ravencroft’s 6Music show. Or was it Gideon Coe’s? No matter; Denmark’s Sleep Party People have been quietly whirring away since 2008, sculpting tracks of hazy, layered beauty, ‘A Stranger Among Us’ being a stand-out track from last year’s Floating LP. Well worth investigating.
The North Sea Scrolls / ‘Witches In The Water’
An odd trio, known on civvy street as Luke Haines, Cathal Coughlan (formerly of Microdisney and The Fatima Mansions) and music hack Andrew Meuller, The North Sea Scrolls was originally a meditation upon the odd, hidden history of the British Isles, performed at the Edinburgh Fringe. Transplanted to disc, there’s a wealth of themes and fancy to get your teeth into. A most conniving proposition, Haines and Coughlan taking turns to weave their fabrications as if rhythmic gymnasts (although the prospect of Haines in a leotard is rather off-putting).
‘Witches In The Water’ is a Coughlan track. Obtuse, dramatic (at times, wilfully melodramatic), the narrative spins, then takes an unexpected left turn that shouldn’t work but plainly does. This, ladies and gents, is songcraft.
The Kills / ‘I Call It Art’
From the 2006 compilation LP Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited, in which a number of Serge classics are taken apart and put back together, with English lyrics and titles for the non-polymath market. As with all tribute albums, this is a hit and miss affair; the world has never needed Placebo (of all bands) reinterpreting ‘Ballade de Melody Nelson’ or The Rakes performing ‘Le Poinçonneur Des Lilas’ (or ‘Just A Man With A Job’ as it’s titled here).
However, there’s something to The Kills’ louche timbres that suits this repositioning of what most of us know as ‘La Chanson De Slogan’. I find this duo difficult to warm to, the sincerity gulf behind their catwalk grunge suggesting tourism, but here, Mosshart and Hince channel a stripped back, ill-lit feel in which the drama wears its mascara down its cheeks.
John Moore and the Expressway / ‘Undergound’
Occupying the space between leaving The Jesus and Mary Chain and teaming up with Luke Haines (yes, him again) to form Black Box Recorder, The Expressway were a strange beast. The album – Expressway Rising – carries a high-octane, American rock feel that’s completely at odds with Moore’s very Englishness; these days, he stays at home with his ventriloquist dolls, writes books and watches cricket – an admirable achievement that doesn’t segue with sounding like you should be fourth on the bill at a Cult gig circa 1988. Still, I like this – opener ‘Underground’ in particular – and as these are my rules, refunds are regrettably unavailable.
Arab Strap / ‘Fucking Little Bastards’
From the 2003 album Monday at the Hug and Pint, ‘Fucking Little Bastards’ – for some strange reason I can’t quite put my finger on – certainly doesn’t receive radio airplay. Which is a pity; it’s Aidan Moffat at his most sneering, all morose confrontation, Malcolm Middleton’s fretwork akin to being hit on the head by a concrete bollard. Even the violin manages to sound piqued, which is quite an achievement in song. One of LGM’s very favourite Arab Strap tracks – especially for the concussed outro.
(And for anyone reading this outside of Scotland, yes Moffat does drop the C-bomb in this, but it’s okay – up here, it’s a term of endearment).
Go-Kart Mozart / ‘Listening To Marmalade’
Ah, the effervescent Lawrence, very much post-Felt and post-Denim, but still with that starry-eyed Glam Rock affectation about his person.
One of pop’s true mavericks, the Birmingham-centric, nostalgia-driven novelty behind his three Go-Kart Mozart albums can grow a little thin at times (even if the band were named after a lyric from Springsteen’s ‘Blinded By The Light’; a fact that impressed me upon first discovery). ‘Listening To Marmalade’ however is pure pop sparkle, the references to one of the ’60’s dodgier acts by way of framing narrative (Marmalade’s big hit being a dreadful cover of ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’) all snap and crackle.
Pram / ‘Dorothy’
A track from the wonderful debut album The Stars Are So Big, The Earth Is So Small… Stay As You Are, ‘Dorothy’ is so off-centre it evades easy description. “Tamazepam Jefferson Airplane” is something I’ve written in the past about this track, but there’s more to it than that. A haunting sense of dread, like something going morbidly wrong at the fairground. “Bye-bye children, mother’s gone to heaven” sings Rosie Cuckston in the chorus as if she really couldn’t give a fuck about anything… at which point the listener blanches.
Tiny Tim / ‘Ever Since You Told Me (I’m A Nut)’
From the 1968 debut LP God Bless Tiny Tim – an absolute treat, should you be into sonic textures we could easily file under kinky and off-the-wall. I love the bass line to this; it acts as counterbalance to the vocal, elevating the timbre way beyond simple novelty. I love how the intro slaps the listener around the face with all those birds; how the coy yet quirky strings are introduced in the chorus. Its pace and vaudevillian contours. Its nod to psychedelia, and a fiddle solo that sounds as if the studio was awash with dodgy moonshine during recording. Yes – that’s it; this track sounds drunk – which is possibly the reason why I love it so.