Monday, 26 June 2017
The Charlatans have just put this up online, a remix of the title track from their new album by Chris and Cosey. A lovely, summery, 80s sounding, Balearic version.
Opportunity Three was a different, remixed version of Opportunity (off debut album Some Friendly). It was mixed by Flood, originally released as the B-side to the 1991 Over Rising single and then saw the light of day again on Melting Pot, their first Best Of back in 1998. Opportunity Three is a delicious seven minute plus slice of 1990, equal parts 60s psychedelia and late 80s dance infused rock, led by some very loose drumming. The band (bass, guitar, Hammond) all swirl around, tripping out while Tim sings some sweet nonsense.
Sunday, 25 June 2017
Back in 1991 this Various Artists compilation was stuck on my turntable for what seemed like months. The acid jazz scene had been born and in the USA jazz flavoured hip hop was briefly the cutting edge, partly led by Spike Lee's Mo' Better Blues film in 1990. This all fed into the emerging trip hop scene too I think. The Rebirth Of Cool was a fourteen track compilation opened by Gang Starr's Jazz Thing, with a swinging beat and pulsing bassline from DJ Premier and Guru's effortless rhymes recounting the history of jazz and its place importance now/then.
There are many fine moments among the rest of the songs and artists- X Clan's Raise The Flag, MC Mello, Dream Warriors, Stetsasonic's brilliant Talkin' All That Jazz, Galliano and Young Disciples from London's Acid Jazz label and Young MC. Between 1991 and 1998 4th And Broadway put out a further seven volumes and it lost its way a bit. I bailed out after Volume 2 but this one, the first, was a definite winner.
Saturday, 24 June 2017
The moment where the girl in the white dress appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, at Glastonbury back in 2013 is one of the greatest TV gig moments I've seen. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds had launched into a ten minute version of sex and murder fest Stagger Lee (sample line- 'just count the holes in his motherfucking head'). The band with beards, suit jackets and Chelsea boots, had locked into a killer groove. Nick, black trousers, mostly black floral shirt, blacker than black hair, had gone down to the barrier and was giving it the full foot-on-the-fence-while-growling-into-the-mic Nick Cave thing. At seven minutes forty six seconds she rises up from the throng, like a Victorian ghost, all in white, arm stretched out, full eye contact. Nick is singing about the devil and Stagger Lee is about to be taken down. Four holes in his motherfucking head. The bassline is thunderous, he is shrieking, the pair are still maintaining eye contact. The strange to-and-fro dance continues, sexual tension rising among thousands of people in broad daylight. Spontaneous gig theatre.
There are some Nick Cave songs which are as good as anything written and recorded in the 21st century (and 20th for that matter). This one from 2008 is a lyrical tour de force, laugh out loud funny and serious as fuck, Nick on his knees railing against his god, author and creator, howling for answers. There's a bizarre cast of characters, from the 'myxomatoid kids' in the first verse to a death in the second, causing him to shake his ' fists at the punishing rain'. This is one great line after another set against The Bad Seeds driving feedback and pummelling drums, occasionally breaking down into nothing but the noise of overloaded FX pedals and Nick looking for scissors.
'Everything is messed up around here
Everything is banal and jejeune
There's a planetary conspiracy
Against the likes of you and me
In this idiot constituency of the moon'
When he goes guruing down the street young people want answers. Nick doesn't have them. he feels like a vacuum cleaner, a complete sucker. There are slavering dogs and enormous encyclopaedic brains, third world poverty and a whole list of world issues to be answered for. Later on Doug turns up tapping at the window and offering a book of Holocaust poetry complete with pictures. There is a line about Nick down in his bolthole appalled at the publishing of 'another volume of unreconstructed rubbish'. Bukowski gets put down, the jerk. Prolix. Prolix. More scissors. Seriously, stunning stuff. Who else can do words this good?
We Call Upon The Author
Friday, 23 June 2017
I spent Wednesday evening watching the Pet Shop Boys playing in the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool. The Empress Ballroom, known to fans of The Stone Roses as being the gig that sealed their ascent in the summer of 1989, is a beautiful late 19th century venue holding 3000 people, pretty intimate for an act who often play arenas. The show had everything you'd want and expect from a Pet Shop Boys performance- lights, projections, images, lasers, daft headgear, costume changes and more great tunes than you can shake a stick at. It opened with Neil and Chris appearing by rotating into view on two giant white circles. They stepped down, daft headgear intact, and got right on it in front of a crowd who were very much up for it. As a pair they've made songs that are informed by forty years of club culture and fifty years of pop culture and for a while were very near the centre of UK music. The projections for second song Opportunities have smiley faces swapping with dollar signs, a nice visual ironic nod to Thatcher's enterprise culture. From there on in it's recent songs like The Pop Kids and Love Is A Bourgeois Construct spliced with highlights from their back catalogue. A few songs in the giant white discs are dismantled, the screen falls down and a trio of musicians join Neil and Chris, two percussionist and a keyboardist/violinist, the extra drums beefing up the rack of synths and laptops local lad Chris Lowe is playing. Somewhere around halfway in, the temperature in the room rising and some of the crowd now shirtless, they drop in a beautifully chilled Love Comes Quickly, a pop song as good as any written in the 1980s.
Neil Tennant is a superb lyricist, a writer who frequently finds the sweet spot between the uniquely personal and brilliantly universal, and his distinctive voice has survived the years. In the second half of the set they show their strengths to full effect with a run of West End Girls, Home And Dry and It's A Sin, lasers beaming, hats and jackets changed, building up to the finale, now with giant coloured balls suspended above the stage- a reworked, upgraded version of Left To My Own Devices and then a singalong Go West, a song of community and brotherhood. The encore has a perfectly pitched and played Domino Dancing, the moment house music explicitly influenced their sound, followed by Always On My Mind. It's the hits. Pile 'em high, give 'em what they want. I could gripe that there's no Being Boring, no So Hard, no Rent but it'd be churlish. It's quite a show they put on, songs that last with choruses that stick (for decades), performed with knowing theatrics, with a nod and a wink but with feeling too. A class act.
Thursday, 22 June 2017
'...but then again who does?'
Sean Young's Polaroids she took during the filming of Bladerunner are really something else.
And here's even more Bladerunner. You may have heard there's a new film imminent, Bladerunner 2049. Spain's disco/house producer Vicmoren has a free download of his theme to the new film on Soundcloud. Vangelis evidently referred to, this is ten minutes of minimal soundtrack electronica well spent.
Wednesday, 21 June 2017
Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Back in 1989 808 State released Ninety, one of the first UK house albums. Ninety is chock full of summer of '89 acid house filtered through a group of four men all trying to get all their ideas onto every song- crashing drums, vocal samples, mad and delirious synth lines, songs with mulitple melody parts playing at the same time, sirens, everything. I had it on cassette and remember well driving to Glastonbury in June 1990 , arriving at the site with Ninety on the car stereo. We pulled up, opened the car doors to get out, Cobra Bora thumping away. A hippy crawled out of the hedge right in front us, said hello, asked us if we wanted to buy 'anything' and then shambled off.