Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Big Country - Steeltown

Unfashionable it may be in the midst of this blog primarily about obscure post punk, but I simply must bow my hat in print to this phenomenal and may I say it: perfect album. Yes, yes I had this LP long ago when it had first come out in 1984. But I hadn’t heard it in as many years until very recently and was just blindsided – by the sound, the passion, the fire of punk rock draped in a new, unique, and ultimately ancient Scottish colour – Steve Lillywhite producing, of course. The same man who made U2’s “War” as absolutely sonically amazing as it was when it came out. Not to mention that he produced another one of my favourite records – Simple Minds’ “Sparkle In The Rain”!

But we’re not giving enough credit to the Big Country band members. Truly I can see each of them separately contributing so much to the overall sound. I tend to notice each of them playing individually in ways I don’t normally do with bands. They truly are/were 4 gifted individuals. Also there are actually times when the guitars sound like the Cocteau Twins (Robin Guthrie) – like the beginning of the title track. And I must say that each and every bonus track on the CD (b-sides of singles) is freaking fantastic.

I won’t pretend to be someone who feels really able to write about music. Music is a gut thing for me that just doesn’t always translate into words. I’m not embarassed about that, it’s just a different thing to what most music journalists are into. I’ve never read anything about music that sounds as good as music does, or that pleased me as much as music does. Words are artificial to me in the face of music. But for the sake of sharing music, I try to communicate what music does to me in words. The fact that some people find that easy or can write long incisive essays about it baffles me, but this album is so great I wish I felt able to do that.

Next up will be another old 4AD 7”. This one weirder than the other two.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Greek Post Punk

I just wanted to pause here and give a shout-out to the Greek Post Punk blog you see in my links on the lower right of this page. Everything I've heard so far is telling me Greece had way more than their fair share of good post-punk bands, and if you're curious I encourage you to check out the very nearly solid "Return of The Creeps" compilation mentioned on the right side of that blog. It consists of songs by bands on Creep Records. The only problem is the songs aren't tagged so that you know what the bands are, only the song titles. I had to look that up online and write it down and then tag the files appropriately myself. I'll attempt to save you some trouble by posting the tracklisting. I tried to upload the whole thing to this blog, but some of the titles are in Greek and my computer didn't want to send them to a compressed folder because of that. And then I realized how disrespectful and inaccurate it would be of me to rename them by saying "greek word..." etc. Argh. So I really feel I can't win. I'm going to try my best to list them as they appear when you first download them from the other blog, though I found once I retagged them, my ipod took them in as though they were in a different order than what you see here.

Art of Parties - Central Room
The Reporters - Computer World
Yell-O-Yell - Crow's Complaint
Headleaders - Her Ways Are Cold
Villa 21 - I See No!
The Reporters - I Wanna Know
Headleaders - I'm Living Like A Fool
Yell-O-Yell - Imitation Of The Real
Art Of Parties - Last Time
Villa 21 - Move
Villa 21 - My Last Chance
Yell-O-Yell - Shoot The Truth
Headleaders - Voices
next track is by Metro Decay, song title in Greek translates as sortof like "KEIMHAIA" when I download it
next track is by Clown, song title in Greek translates as sortof like "KAOOYN" when I download it
next track is also by Clown, song title in Greek translates as sortof like "AEYKA KEAAIA" when I download it
last track is by Metro Decay, song title in Greek translates as sortof like EKIEK when I download it

If you have any troubles, hopefully this site will be helpful.

Also that band Hands of Cain on the front page of that blog drove me out of my mind the other night, listening to their tracks on myspace. I was so horrified to learn they had never managed to release any records! I would pay big money to have a CD of their stuff, but luckily I learned through some Greek guy I met who had nothing to do with the blog that soon Hands of Cain will indeed have a CD out!! :)

I realize this stuff might not appeal to everyone, but damnit I love my arty and/or goth post punk.

Good Old Fashioned 4AD Records Part 2: My Captains

My Captains - 7" EP, 1981

If the word "goth" scares you and you don't care for gloom and doom in your music, you'd do well to pass this one by, though I can kindof see a little bit of Killing Joke in here sometimes, too. As I recall, it took me a few plays to warm up to this one, but once I did, I really liked it, and I still do! I've always felt the production on this was rather unique. The guitars and drums sound chunky and thick for lack of better words. But I'm not sure if this is necessarily a bad thing or whether it just adds to the whole "end-of-the-world" feeling of the music. I wasn't able to find any information about the band members except that apparently one of them was previously in a band called Trance that appeared on the third disc of Chuck Warner's Messthetics series. Trance's track on that, "Time Devours" from 1980, doesn't sound anything like My Captains whatsoever.

Good Old Fashioned 4AD Records Part 1: Shox

Shox - No Turning Back/Lying Here 7", 1980

I'm very pleased to share a couple of early 4AD records I have had for many years. I have a strong emotional attachment to these records because I was such an avid collector of them as a teenager and they weren't easy to find! To be accurate, this particular one wasn't actually on 4AD records, it was on Axis, which became 4AD. It's fair to call it synthpop. Not mind-blowing perhaps, but not bad either. The 4AD website tells me it was compared to early Human League in NME, and I'd say that's about right. This was the only Shox release. I've managed to find out that Jacqui Brookes & John Pethers went on to form an act called Siam who released three major label singles in 1981. By 1983 she was in a duo called Intro with Jimme O'Neill who had previously been in Fingerprintz. Intro released two singles. Then she made a solo album entitled "Sob Stories" in 1984. Here is a video for a single from that album entitled "Lost Without Your Love". The bass on the song sounds rather similar to Mick Karn from Japan, but discogs.com says it was Pino Palladino and Karn's website doesn't mention anything about it. It's not clear what happened to her after that album and I can't find any information at all about the third member of Shox, Mike Atkinson.

The Fates - "Furia" LP, 1985

This is former Fall member Una Baines' band. It's like 60's folk with flutes and a bit of poetry and a lot of lyrics about witches. Did someone say the word "hippie"? :) Anyway this was co-produced by Tony Friel, another former member of the Fall, and it appears Martin Bramah (ex-Fall and from Blue Orchids) played guitar a couple of tracks. I'm not crazy about this record but, well...see what you think.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bimble's 7" Skullduggery Part 6: Fashion (Music)

Fashion - Steady Eddie Steady/Killing Time 7", 1978

Those well versed in early 80's new wave (and I suspect it helps if you're from the UK or Europe) will recall a band entitled Fashion who had great album covers and hair but crap records. But did you know that before they became crap they were called Fashion (Music) and had a completely different singer with a low voice who was very tall (check the sleeve - that guy is tall)? This is one of the best 7" singles I own and the highlight of this band. "Steady Eddie Steady" is a very catchy tune, and "Killing Time" is a delicious treat of dubby reggae, equally as catchy as the A-side.

Bimble's 7" Skullduggery Part 5: Electric Guitars

Electric Guitars - Work/Don't Wake The Baby 7", 1981

Electric Guitars were one of the numerous interesting bands to come out of Bristol back in the post-punk days. They are sortof quirky new wave, but don't expect synthesizers. To my ears, they were an especially talented bunch, though their quality too declined by '83 or so. You can read more about the Bristol scene and order a compilation of Bristol post-punk bands entitled Western Stars here.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Units - Digital Stimulation (+1)

The Units - Digital Stimulation LP (1980) + "Work" from their 1979 EP

These folks were from San Francisco and just happened to be uncommonly good with synthesizers. Truly this is synthpunk, not synthpop. No guitars, just synths with both drum machines and regular drums. They had a really good drummer, too. They manage to make their synths sound aggressive and menacing in a rock and roll sense at times, and yet the tempo is usually upbeat. There are male and female vocals singing the same notes and words, robotically. They give you the impression they are just feeding you a catchy happy tune, when in fact they are just playing with you and being weird & arty. Also: their synths sound surprisingly undated to these ears. I encourage anyone who hears this to let me know what they think by commenting on my blog. Thank you!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

New Mix and A Snapshot of my Current Musical Happenings

Here's a new mix I made:

Kraftwerk - Techno Pop (demo)
Kim Carnes - Draw Of The Cards (extended)
Kim Carnes - Bette Davis Eyes
Killing Joke - A New Day (Dub)
Freur - Doot Doot (extended)
SPK - See Saw
Arthur Russell - Lucky Cloud (Return)
Blue Oyster Cult - I Love The Night (this song is gorgeous, throw your prejudices away)
Convent - Counting The Stars
Death In June - Europa Gates of Heaven
Liz Fraser & Jeff Buckley - All Flowers In Time
Peter Gabriel - Wallflower
Peter Gabriel - That Voice Again
Red Beat - The Wheel (Peel Session)
John Cale - Rose Garden Funeral of Sores

I have been checking out some newer bands lately. I'm actually very pleasantly surprised with the Foals. I thought they would be too much like Franz Ferdinand, but instead they've got a lot more going for them. These New Puritans is another new band I tried like that. I bought their album but I don't think they're as good as Foals. I think TNP want to be Wire or something, but they try too hard. I tried The Chromatics and liked that quite a bit, nice dark 80's sound. But I don't like the Running Up That Hill Cover. She sounds as lethargic as a heroin addict on that and considering how much passion and vocal projection Kate Bush puts into the original it's no competition. I tried another new band called Invisible Conga People. That sounded really cool, very hypnotic. Like you wouldn't necessarily know it was on but you don't want to turn it off, either. Hercules & Love Affair is another new thing. I had high hopes for that and I love the traditional disco sound of it but I don't like the vocals very much. Sometimes it sounds like Boy George, though and I don't mind those parts.

I'm currently investigating Laura Nyro, early Wire Train and 70's Split Enz. I've also been on a Big Country trip this weekend, about the first half of their best of.

My absolute favourite things in the world right now though are the post punk band Nocturnal Projections from NZ that really sound like early Joy Division (Warsaw) at times and an LP by the Noyes Brothers from 1980 on Object records that I was delighted to find available on Mutant Sounds' blog. It's Steve Solamar from Spherical Objects with Steve Miro. The coolest thing about it is a third of the tracks are sung by Solamar, a third by another man I assume is Miro and the other third is sung by an unidentified woman. But all of it is so good. I was surprised because I thought it would just be a bunch of electronic noodling. Object Music discography. I am planning to put up some Spherical Objects eventually. I have the Manchester Collection comp too.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bimble's 7" Skullduggery Part 4: The Weeds

The Weeds - "China Doll"/"Crazy Face" 1986

Anyone familiar with the lineup of The Fall circa 86-97 will recognize the man in the foreground of the above photo: Simon Wolstencroft, one of the many former drummers of the Fall. This record appeared in 1986, the same year he joined the The Fall. It's on Marc Riley's In Tape label. It's definitely got the Riley/Fall sound. I don't know if they released any more records. I never heard of or saw any others, though they did appear on the In Tape label compilation from 1987 entitled Just A Mish Mash. Unfortunately, the sleeve doesn't say who the other members of the band were.

Here's an interesting wikipedia page about Mr. Wolstencroft.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bimble's 7" Skullduggery Part 3: Artery

Artery - Unbalanced/The Slide 7" with bonus live EP (1980)

Artery were from Sheffield (like my beloved Cabaret Voltaire). This was the first release I heard from them, a strange double 7" single from 1980, half studio, half live. And it remained my favourite of their career. This was only their second release, but their first single was more purely punk and too boring for my tastes and their later stuff seemed dull and tame by comparison. Here was the record that finds a band not afraid to challenge the status quo, do something a bit odd and different. I'm amused to see a man called Steve Hopkins producing it at Graveyard Studio in Manchester. Could this be the same Steve Hopkins who played keyboards so beautifully with Martin Hannett in John Cooper Clarke's backing band? I'll daresay it is, unless someone comes along to prove me wrong.

It's also worth mentioning that Simon Hinkler, member of Artery went on to be in early Pulp and The Mission. Not that I'll claim to be a big fan of either. Early Pulp Peel Session stuff is great, though, I will vouch for that much.

Anyway, Artery can be seen performing live in the documentary about Sheffield post punk that came out a few years ago entitled "Made In Sheffield".

Apparently Artery have reformed as of last year.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Bimble's 7" Skullduggery Part 2: The Insex

This one is from 1979. I don't think this band had any more records. They were very rudimentary goth, very spare. Think Modern English's "Mesh & Lace" album with an inferior vocalist. Still I rather like this single, either despite - or because of - its avant-garde amateurishness. It appeared on the Dining Out label which I became a bit of a collector about and I will be posting more records from that label later.

The Insex - Inner Sanction/Fractured Vision 7"

Bimble's 7" Skullduggery Part 1: The Tea Set

I really don't know much about this band. I do know they were featured on the Messthetics #2 compilation at www.hyped2death.com and the liner notes for that say they were from St. Albans in southern England. I do know they were once featured on a various artists cassette release from 1981 alongside a certain Mr. Clive Piggot (sic) and those who know who Clive Pig is are very dear to my heart.

This is a good pop single. It's from 1981. Enjoy!

The Tea Set 7" single "South Pacific"/"The Preacher"