Monday 31 December 2018

Happy New Year

Between 1995 and 2001, before he began trading under his given name, Alasdair Roberts issued a series of recordings as Appendix Out. From the third Appendix Out LP 'The Night is Advancing', 'Year Waxing, Year Waning' strikes an appropriately ominous tone for the chaotic times in which we find ourselves.

Happy new year everyone. See you on the other side.

Appendix Out - Year Waxing, Year Waning

Monday 24 December 2018

Christmas Time Is Here

Howdy partners! It's the Walthamstow Kid here, calling in from Christmas 1963 to wish you and yours a happy, peaceful festive period.

Meanwhile in 2018, this is the current Christmas No.1 at Swede Towers.

(Monday Long Song will return in the New Year)

Thursday 20 December 2018

A Dozen From 2018

For a number of reasons, my head hasn't really been in the blogging game for some time now. Having said that, over at Before the Streets Were Aired (my other place), I'm just about to sail through the 1100 consecutive daily posts mark - where did that time go? Meanwhile, here on the good ship Unthought of Though Somehow, I'm doing my best to keep the blighter afloat by joining in with the weekly Monday Long Song fun, at the very least. Where to from here? I couldn't really say right at the moment.

I can say that it's been a very good year for music though. At the end of both 2016 and 2017 I bemoaned the fact that I'd spent the previous 12 months listening to more old music than new, but I'm pleased to report that that particular trend has reversed in 2018 and I ended up with a long-list of around 40 albums to choose from for selection in this year's round-up. Tomorrow I might pull a slightly different handful of records from the shelves, but for now, for today, (in alphabetical order) here are twelve of the many LPs that rocked my world in 2018. I've included a few tunes at the end, but click on the individual links to learn/hear more.

AMOR - Sinking Into a Miracle The first of two Richard Youngs related releases on this list, both issued within the past month. The Glasgow collective follow their incendiary pair of 2017 12" singles with a stonking debut LP. Mutant disco anyone?

The Coke Dares - Fake Lake 35 superbly crafted songs, bursting with more ideas than many bands can boast in the course of an entire career.

Hen Ogledd - Mogic Experimental, sonically diverse, genre defying.

Kikagaku Moyo - Masana Temples  A melodic, wonky, woozy, groove fest from start to finish.

Kiki Pau - Hiisi  From melancholic pastoral loveliness to full-on poly-rhythmic wigouts and beyond, interspersed with occasional soothing birdsong interludes - what's not to love?

Kungens Män - Fuzz på Svenska  Dark, intense and, let's be honest, pretty darned noisy. Sweden's finest.

Massage - Oh Boy Do you, like me, love bands like The Feelies, The Go-Betweens & The Clean and music released on labels like Sarah Records and Flying Nun? Of course you do, in which case you'll probably love 'Oh Boy' too.

Minami Deutsch - With Dim Light  Early 1970s German inspired tuneage from Japan.

Brigid Mae Power - The Two Worlds A remarkable album that creates and inhabits its own universe. Gothic, hymn-like, confessional and fairly harrowing in places.

Regal Worm - Pig Views 21st Century prog. I've probably said enough.

Alasdair Roberts - What News Another year, another remarkable Alasdair Roberts LP. His first of solely traditional songs since 2010.

Richard Youngs - Memory Ain't No Decay Only issued last week, the 5th of Richard's eight 2018 releases I've picked up this year - and it's very possibly the best of the lot. I've already pre-ordered his next LP, due in January.

Monday 17 December 2018

Monday Long Song

Since 1990 Richard Youngs has amassed a back-catalogue stretching to well beyond 150 titles. There have been at least seven new releases this year alone, eight if you include 'Sinking Into a Miracle', the barnstorming debut LP by Youngs fronted Glasgow collective AMOR - and I've already pre-ordered another new solo album scheduled for January 2019. Depending on where you choose to dip your toe, you'll find that Richard's work might touch on spoken word, acoustic avant-folk, mutant disco, musique concrète or all out sonic dissonance. Here, embracing the second of those loosely defined musical stylings, is the achingly raw 'Soon It Will Be Fire', from his 1998 album 'Sapphie'.

Richard Youngs - Soon It Will Be Fire

Monday 10 December 2018

Monday Long Song

Following the success of their second LP 'Next...' in 1973, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band entered the studio to record their third album with the legendary Shel Talmy sitting in the producer's chair. In spite of Talmy's spectacular track record in the 1960s with the likes of The Who and The Kinks, SAHB weren't happy with the results, scrapping the recordings and sacking Talmy from the project. After reuniting with their longtime producer David Batchelor, SAHB re-recorded most of the material, issuing it as 'The Impossible Dream' in 1974. The Shel Talmy sessions remained buried in the archives until the release of 'Hot City (The 1974 Unreleased Album)' in 2009. I'd owned 'The Impossible Dream' for 35 years by the time 'Hot City' appeared on the scene, so I'm obviously biased, but for me the majority of the Talmy recordings pale beside their officially issued counterparts, though there are a number of interesting compare and contrast moments. 'Last Train', for example, features a somewhat more aggressive vocal from Alex, a slightly different musical arrangement and is two minutes longer than what would ultimately become 'Anthem', the closing track on 'The Impossible Dream'.

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - Last Train 

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - Anthem

Thursday 6 December 2018

No-one Gets a Retraction

2018 has been a pitiful year for me in terms of live gigs - I barely scraped into double figures. A pathetic effort, easily my worst annual total since the mid-1970s. Fortunately I already have tickets for five 2019 concerts in my back pocket (two of which I'm ridiculously excited about) - a good start, let's hope it will continue.

My last gig of 2018 was the final stop on Brix Smith and the Extricated's 'Breaking State' tour. With two strong albums of original material under their collective belts, these days the band concentrate on their own songs, featuring just four from The Fall's back catalogue in their set - 'Totally Wired', Dead Beat Descendant', 'Feeling Numb' and a superb 'Glam Racket'. If I had one quibble, it would've been nice to have heard Brix's voice a smidge higher in the mix, but that really is me being very picky. They were absolutely terrific - seeing Brix and the Hanley brothers in full flight once again was a joy to behold.

Brix and the Extricated - Dog Face (Lost in Gdansk)

Monday 3 December 2018

Monday Long Song

My penultimate concert of 2018 was a date on the 50th Anniversary tour of the legendary Soft Machine - this in spite of the band having actually formed 52 years ago. Robert Wyatt, Daevid Allen and Kevin Ayers passed from the ranks fairly early on and the last original member (Mike Ratledge) left as long ago as 1976. The current line-up consists of bassist Roy Babbington who played with the band from 1971-76 before returning in 2008, guitarist John Etheridge who has been there since 1975, the frail but phenomenal John Marshall, currently in his 46th year behind the drum kit and 'new' boy Theo Travis who has been contributing a bewildering variety of instrumentation since 2006.

'Out-Bloody-Rageous' is a Mike Ratledge composition from the band's 'Third' LP, issued in 1970. The current line-up revisited the tune on-stage the other night and in truncated form on their latest album 'Hidden Details', but here, featuring a line-up of Hugh Hopper, Elton Dean, Robert Wyatt and Ratledge, is the 48 year old 19 minute original in all its glory.

Soft Machine - Out-Bloody-Rageous

Monday 26 November 2018

Monday Long Song

Robert Calvert died in 1998 following a heart attack, at a mere 43 years of age. While he was with us however, he was prolific, producing a novel, several plays, two collections of poetry, a bunch of solo records and of course contributing to a series of great albums with Hawkwind. 'Spirit of the Age' opened the band's 1977 LP 'Quark, Strangeness and Charm' and back then the song clocked in at nearly 7½ minutes, but in 2009 a deluxe double CD version of the album was issued on the Atomhenge label, with the inclusion of an additional 13 alternative and unreleased tracks. One of those extras is the full unedited version of 'Spirit of the Age'.

Hawkwind - Spirit of the Age (Unedited Version)

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Changing Costumes in Your Room

Island Records tried hard, so very hard, to get Warm Jets away. Throughout 1997/98 each successive single came in a multitude of 'collectable' formats and the band seemed to be constantly on the road - a never-ending promotional tour that took them everywhere from headline slots in small clubs to supporting major acts in vast arenas. I caught Warm Jets several times in that 24 month period and the highlight of the show was always 'Never Never'. Issued, re-issued, re-promoted, pointlessly re-recorded and re-issued again, the single finally scraped into the Top 40, but ultimately, following the release of their sole album 'Future Signs', the band were dropped by Island and broke up soon after.

Warm Jets - Never Never

Monday 19 November 2018

Monday Long Song / Red Gold & Green #29

The first Factory Records 12" single to find its way into my collection was Fac 11, the powerful 'English Black Boys' by Manchester reggae band X-O-Dus. It took the legendary Dennis 'Blackbeard' Bovell (who wrote and produced 'Silly Games' for Janet Kay, a hit at the time) a full six months to complete a satisfactory mix of the track, but the result was worth every second of his efforts.

X-O-Dus split in 1981 and 'English Black Boys' was not only their sole release on Factory, it was actually the band's only release of any kind until a compilation of unissued recordings appeared on the LTM label in 2012.

X-O-Dus - English Black Boys

Monday 12 November 2018

Monday Long Song

'Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance', a 1982 American experimental film directed by Godfrey Reggio, examines mankind's relationship with technology. The film contains no dialogue, characters or narrative structure, relying instead on stunning time-lapse imagery and the equally stunning music of Philip Glass to set the scenes. 'The Grid' is a real highlight of the piece, visually and musically. The world wakes, gradually picks up speed and ultimately hurtles into overdrive.

Philip Glass Ensemble - The Grid

Monday 5 November 2018

Monday Long Song

Kiki Pau's fourth album 'Hiisi', the Finnish quartet's first full length outing since 'Pines' in 2013, was released earlier this month on the always trustworthy Beyond Beyond is Beyond record label. The 'Pines' LP is generally acknowledged as being the band's masterpiece, though for me this latest effort raises the bar even higher. From melancholic pastoral loveliness to full-on polyrhythmic wigouts and beyond, interspersed with occasional soothing birdsong interludes - what's not to love?

Kiki Pau - Hiisi (Part 2)

Check out and/or order the whole darned LP here)

Thursday 1 November 2018

Let's Make This The Big One

In the summer of 1980, following the release of their third LP 'Way & Bar', John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett headed out on 'The Tent Tour'. The gimmick was that admittance to the gigs was by the purchase of the album's second single, 'DK 50/80', only. So, with no actual door money coming in, John & Wild Willy pitched a tent in a campsite near each evening's venue and spent the night under canvas, before moving on to the next town the following morning.

A couple of weeks into the tour, they arrived in my hometown and before that evening's gig at a local nightclub, they spent a good deal of the afternoon meeting and greeting fans, signing albums and generally hanging out, in the local record shop. I'd been working at that record shop for just a few months by then and it was my very first experience of an 'in-store', as these events were invariably christened by record company types.

Otway and Barrett had one of their many parting of the ways at the end of the tour (perhaps not so surprising considering the hardships they no doubt had to endure given the unconventional accommodation involved), but together behind the counter that day, they entertained all and sundry like the seasoned double act they undoubtedly were - Barrett the slightly grumpy straight man to the gangly, flailing blur of movement that was Otway.

As the afternoon drifted on, their road manager tapped his watch to indicate that it was time for the duo to head off for a soundcheck. Customers were satisfied and all our stock had been signed, but we asked for something a little more personal to keep at the shop as a memento of their visit. Otway scratched his head and excused himself to use the toilet, grabbing a magic marker on the way. No sooner had he returned than the pair were whisked away leaving us to clear up the debris left behind.

(Otway & Barrett only had one real chart hit, 'Really Free' in 1977, appearing endearingly and chaotically on both TOTP and the OGWT at around the same time. The b-side was the epic, fan favourite, 'Beware of the Flowers ('Cos I'm Sure They're Gonna Get You, Yeah!)', which contained a much-loved and oft-quoted spoken intro from our hero, Mr Otway.)

A short while after the duo had left the shop, I had occasion to visit the loo myself and discovered Otway's parting shot. On the inside of the toilet door, in huge magic marker print he'd transcribed that spoken intro. So if you happened to find yourself seated and, erm, concentrating on the business at hand, you couldn't help but read, 'OK, LET'S MAKE THIS THE BIG ONE, FOR OTWAY'!

Otway & Barrett - Beware of the Flowers ('Cos I'm Sure They're Gonna Get You, Yeah!)

Otway & Barrett - DK 50/80

Monday 29 October 2018

Monday Long Song

Panda Bear released 'Person Pitch', his fourth solo LP, during the two year gap between Animal Collective's 6th and 7th records, 'Feels' and 'Strawberry Jam'. An extraordinary piece of work it is too. Samples, loops, found sounds and layers upon layers of vocals combine to produce the kind of noise Brian Wilson might've concocted had the technology been available to him in 1966. This was my most played album of 2007 by a considerable margin.

Panda Bear - Bros

Thursday 25 October 2018

I'm Lost and I Need to be Found

With the return of original drummer Mike Felumlee, the classic line-up of Smoking Popes have issued 'Into the Agony', their first full length LP of new music since 1997's 'Destination Failure'. In the interim there has been a clutch of albums featuring a rotating series of occupants of the drum stool, but from what I've heard of the new record, it's like the last 21 years never happened. Ever wondered what The Ramones might've sounded like if they'd been fronted by prime period Morrissey? Smoking Popes provide the answer. Here's their fantastic 1995 single, 'Need You Around' and from the new LP, 'Amanda My Love'.

Smoking Popes - Need You Around

Smoking Popes - Amanda My Love

Monday 22 October 2018

Monday Long Song

And so we turn to prog - an almost inevitable consequence of hosting a long song series, at least in my world. Van Der Graaf Generator's catalogue offers an embarrassment of riches when it comes to lengthy, intricate pieces. 'Lost' from 1970's 'H to He, Who Am the Only One' is a particular favourite. Lyrically, it's a fairly straightforward ode to a love affair gone wrong, albeit embellished by the odd unexpected time signature and instrumental wig-out.

'...without your hand in mine I am dead, 
reality is unreal and games I've tried just aren't the same, 
without your smile there's nowhere to hide, 
and deep inside I know I've never cried as I'm about to...' 

Think yourselves lucky that on this occasion I didn't dig out the half hour masterpiece that is Emerson Lake & Palmer's 'Karn Evil 9'. It could still happen.

Van Der Graaf Generator - Lost

Thursday 18 October 2018

Masana Temples

From the melodic end of the contemporary psychedelia spectrum, Kikagaku Moyo return with their 4th full length album 'Masana Temples'. As I mentioned at the time (here), the Japanese five piece were initially brought to my attention via a passing comment over at TheRobster's place in 2016 and their brilliant 'House in the Tall Grass' LP quickly ended up among my favourites of that year. From the Stereolab-like vibes of 'Majupose' to the melancholic freak-out that is 'Dripping Sun', I've a strong hunch that 'Masana Temples' will occupy a similarly lofty position in my affections come December.

Monday 15 October 2018

Monday Long Song

'Jean' was assembled for an Alan Lomax tribute event in 2015 by Steven Collins, working as The Owl Service. The Jean in question is Jean Ritchie, an American folk music singer, songwriter, and Appalachian dulcimer player, who was recorded extensively by Lomax for the Library of Congress in 1949 and 1950. It's her sampled voice that you'll hear entering proceedings at the three minute mark, singing a simple phrase that loops, ebbs and flows to great effect for the remainder of the piece. It's a thing of beauty.

The Owl Service - Jean

Tuesday 9 October 2018

Disappear Into the Compost

By the time Siouxsie & the Banshees' 'Join Hands' tour rolled into Ipswich on October 9th 1979 (39 years ago today), two of their number, Kenny Morris and John McKay, had already jumped ship, walking out on the band in Scotland a couple of weeks previously. Budgie from The Slits was quickly drafted in to fill the drum stool while The Cure's Robert Smith suddenly found himself doing a double shift every evening, first fronting support band The Cure, then handling guitar duties for the Banshees. Unsurprisingly, given the volatile circumstances, the band were on explosive form in Ipswich, so much so that two nights later I took myself off to Chelmsford to witness it all over again. Emotions in the Banshees camp were obviously still running high the following month, when they taped a couple of blistering performances for the BBCTV programme Something Else.

In March 1980 Siouxsie & the Banshees released their first post-Morris & McKay single, 'Happy House', for which Budgie retained his position behind the kit and the band welcomed the remarkably talented John McGeoch on guitar. Tucked away on the b-side of the 45, 'Drop Dead/Celebration' opened with the line 'I Hate You I Hate You I Hate You I Hate You...' The bile and viciousness didn't stop there. '...I'm so ashamed to be connected with your name, you're so lame...' and ' should be pushed down, down into the ground amongst the worms, and other spineless things...' Who could the song possibly have been aimed at?

Siouxsie & the Banshees - Drop Dead/Celebration

Monday 8 October 2018

Monday Long Song - Zugspitze

Swedish five piece Zugspitze formed in 2014, playing regularly, recording sporadically and finally, in May of this year, releasing their debut album 'Kalejdofoni'. The LP is in a hand-numbered limited edition of 300. On the actual day of release, the band played a launch concert for 'Kalejdofoni' in their home town of Växjö - immediately after which they split up. More detailed information on Zugspitze is tricky to come by, a situation not helped by the fact that the group share their name with the highest mountain in Germany, which kinda dominates the Google hits. Their record label's website doesn't help, containing no mention of the band whatsoever. So, for the moment at least, all we have is the music.

Zugspitze - Not the Bakerloo Line

Monday 1 October 2018

Monday Long Song

A couple of ongoing family issues have been occupying my mind of late, leaving me with little head-space or enthusiasm for online matters. During one of my brief dips into the blogosphere however, I was pleased to note Drew's return to active service and look forward to properly catching up with his (and everyone else's) posts one of these days. I was particularly interested to see that he's kicked off a new series, Monday's Long Song, and that I may have inadvertently played a small part in planting the seed of the idea for it. This week Swiss Adam has joined in the fun. Given that my own last post (nearly two weeks back) contained a 24 minute epic, you could be forgiven for thinking that I unknowingly jumped the gun, but, in reality, over the last few days there has been only one long song on my mind and turntable.

Wednesday 19 September 2018

In Another Life

Do you have a spare 24-odd minutes to listen to a new song? No, I wasn't sure that I had either. Sandro Perri's latest album 'In Another Life' popped into my field of view just over a week ago (and was released last Friday). The name rang bells. Mrs S and I picked up a couple of his albums somewhere around 2007, one of which, 'Tiny Mirrors', became a particular favourite in the house for a while. As is the way of these things, Sandro took quite a while to follow up 'Tiny Mirrors' and he fell off my radar, so when I happened to read about the new album I was curious to find out what he's up to these days. It was with some surprise that I noted the extreme length of the title track and intended to check just a few minutes of it, before flicking on through the rest of the LP. 24 minutes later I was still there, absorbed.

Nothing dramatic happens in 'In Another Life'. Sandro delivers verse after verse over a gently noodling guitar and tinkling electronic backdrop and even as it finally crumbles and fades, I still feel good to go for another 20 minutes. One reviewer likened the song to '...a zen blues...' A good description.

Wednesday 12 September 2018

Joey Ramone - A New York Moment

Over at The (New) Vinyl Villan, the Imaginary Compilation Album series continues to go from strength to strength. A couple of days ago, our mutual friend Dirk kept the bar way up high with a terrific Ramones ICA. Dirk concluded his ICA with the entertaining tale of how he narrowly missed meeting Joey Ramone in 1991. Nine years later I had my own near miss with the great man.

On the afternoon of April 15th 2000, the last day of my 39th year, walking alone through the East Village in Manhattan, I crossed 3rd Avenue on 9th Street and noticed a small kerfuffle in a doorway to my right. There, towering above a throng of a dozen chattering fans, was Joey Ramone, signing autographs, talking to everyone at once, but clearly trying to edge inside the building. I fumbled in my backpack for some paper and a pen and waited patiently at the edge of the group. Joey remained unstintingly polite, in spite of the barrage of questions and bits of paper being thrust at him to sign, but gradually, and before it came to my turn, he eased himself into the foyer of the building and, with a wave through the glass door, he was gone.

So I didn't quite get to meet Joey that day, but it was a memorable New York Moment for me all the same. A moment that came spinning back 12 months later, when I opened a newspaper on the morning of my 41st birthday to find that Joey had passed away the previous afternoon, exactly one year after my close encounter with him. The extent of his illness hadn't been widely publicised, his death was a terrible shock and, 17 years on, we miss him still.

The Ramones - Swallow My Pride

Monday 10 September 2018

Marisa Anderson

Marisa Anderson onstage at the Colchester Arts Centre

My days of making regular 100+ mile round trips for gigs are largely a thing of the past. If a band isn't playing fairly locally, or at least somewhere near a convenient place where I can get my head down for the night, I tend to pass. There are exceptions though and one evening early last week I made the hour and a half drive to see Marisa Anderson play at the Colchester Arts Centre.

Anderson's timeless music draws from Gospel, Delta blues, rustic American country, Saharan drones and even, in the case of her interpretation of 'The Daemon Lover', the British folk tradition. She finished her main set with a mesmerising reading of 'Sant Feliu de Guíxols', my favourite tune from her latest LP 'Cloud Corner'. It remained firmly lodged in my noggin for the entire hour and a half drive home.

Thursday 6 September 2018

If You're Alone and You Got the Shakes

Iggy Pop's always fascinating 6Music show finds him in grizzled elder statesman mode, a long way from my original introduction to the man and his music via the Iggy & the Stooges LP 'Raw Power'. In 1973 I dug deep into pocket money reserves to a secure copy of the album without having heard a note, based entirely on the Bowie connection and discovered that although I didn't know what the hell this music was, the dense onslaught of sound was utterly thrilling. At the same time, every article I read and photo I saw of the band frankly terrified me. I was 13 years old at the time and would subsequently meander through the highways and byways of Glam, Heavy Rock, Metal and Prog before reacquainting myself with exactly this kind of glorious racket towards the end of the 1970s. 

Iggy & the Stooges - Raw Power

Head over to The (New) Vinyl Villan and enjoy Swiss Adam's excellent Iggy Pop ICA.

Tuesday 4 September 2018

This One's For Dirk

Whilst loitering around in the comments section over at Brian's place last week, I happened to drop Swedish garage legends The Nomads into the conversation, specifically their incendiary rendition of the classic Standells tune, 'Sometimes the Good Guys Don't Wear White'. A little later, Dirk put out the call for someone to post it - so here you go Dirk! I've got the song on the terrific 1984 LP 'Outburst', where it rubs shoulders with equally rockin' covers of songs by The Kinks, Alex Chilton, The Third Bardo and Sleepy John Estes, not to mention a clutch of stompin' originals. Hold tight!

The Nomads - Sometimes the Good Guys Don't Wear White

The Nomads - I'm 5 Years Ahead of My Time

Tuesday 28 August 2018

Red Gold & Green #28 - Mikey Dread at the Controls

There we were, Dad and I, wandering around a school fete in Leytonstone forty nine years ago, when I spotted the Hackney Speedway stall tucked away in the corner of the playground. It was a tanner a go to sit on a bike and pretend for a moment to be a speedway rider. I joined the queue and waited my turn. A few minutes later as I sat in the saddle, oblivious to the hubbub around me, twisting the throttle and dreaming my dreams, a shutter clicked and, before I knew it, I was on the front page of the local newspaper. What can I say? It was a slow news week.

'African Anthem (The Mikey Dread Show Dubwise)' is an album I'd happily recommend to anyone with even a passing interest in reggae. The LP does what it says on the tin, it being a joyous studio recreation of Mikey's famous Jamaican Broadcasting Company radio show of the late 1970s, complete with a selection of his own unique madcap jingles. The music was written, arranged and produced by Mikey and features a veritable who's who of 70s reggae among the cast of players - Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, Ansel Collins, King Tubby, Augustus Pablo and Vin Gordon all contribute. 'African Anthem' was released in 1979 and has undergone several reissues in the years since, the latest of which apparently adds another half a dozen tunes to the original, virtually perfect, ten track running order.

Dread at the Controls - Headline News

Friday 24 August 2018

One Year Ago

A year ago tomorrow, I finally got off my arse. After 30 years at the coalface of customer service, 28 of those in some form of management position, I walked away in 2011 and spent the next 6 years clicking about online, trying unsuccessfully to make a living. The break was only ever meant to be a stopgap to allow me to get over Mum's death and de-stress, but time drifted by. Last Summer, I bagged a temporary position at our local supermarket. Four 4 hour shifts per week, just about enough to cover the monthly bills. My first day was August 25th. The job is very straightforward and was immediately enjoyable. I replenish stock, handle reductions & waste and generally assist customers. Within weeks my hours were substantially increased and my contact was amended to a permanent position. Now I not only cover bills, but also chip away at a few debts and can afford the odd treat - usually in the form of music or artisan coffee. Crucially, I have no responsibilities. I go in, work bloody hard for 8 or 9 hours, then go home. It's bliss. My boss's boss approached me a couple of months ago to commend my work ethic and gauge my long term ambitions within the company. 'I'm 58' I replied. 'I'm working with nice people and doing a job I genuinely enjoy. At this point in my life, what more is there?'

'The Future Past' by Fanatism is one of my more recent treats. The Stooges meet Ennio Morricone while listening to Sweden. It's the debut LP from a band that includes members of Kungens Män and Automatism, other firm favourites of this parish. Dig in and enjoy.

Wednesday 22 August 2018

Short Passing Game

It's when listening to records like 'Short Passing Game' by Davy Kehoe that I'm almost glad I don't run a record shop anymore. I mean, what section would I put the damn thing in? For starters, Kehoe's label, Wah Wah Wino, marketed the release as a 12" EP, this in spite of the fact that it contains six tracks and clocks in with a whopping 40 minutes playing time. Then there's the thorny question of genre. Musically 'Short Passing Game' veers from strict motorik inspired beats to sloshing experimental waves of sound, from funk to punk, from jazzy splurges to unsettling dubby explorations. I picked up a copy in the middle of last year based on one ecstatic review having not heard a single note and I've never regretted my hasty purchase. I bought it online of course. I wouldn't know where to begin to look for it in a record shop.

Davy Kehoe - Storm Desmond

Monday 20 August 2018


It's late Sunday evening. We've just arrived home, I'm impossibly tired and typing this in an effort to stay upright until a somewhat respectable hour. My return to work is less than 48 hours away following a break that didn't go according to plan at all, though was pretty darned hectic nonetheless. I had very little opportunity to check out record shops while on my travels and Lord knows I'm no Charity Chic when it comes to rooting out the bargains, but I was quietly ecstatic to unearth a physical copy of 'Bränna Tid' (translates as 'Burn Time') by Sweden's finest, Kungens Män. It's a limited edition CD-R (one of only 60 copies made!) released in early 2017 by the band as a stop gap between their 'Stockholm Maraton' and 'Dag & Nat' albums. 40 minutes of music across three extended psych-tastic workouts. When I saw it tucked in the middle of the reductions bin of a Bethnal Green second hand store last week, I had to stifle a squeal of delight. £2.99? Take my money!

The wall of space-rock noise that constitutes 'Third War Three' appears to be the overall fan favourite from this release, but me, I'm just obsessed with the 14½ minutes of melodic meanderings that is 'K-rauta'.

Kungens Män - K-rauta

Thursday 9 August 2018

Busy Land

Gregorio Vardanega’s Disc and Spherical Construction, Kettle's Yard, Cambridge.

Many thanks to everyone who left birthday greetings for Mrs S last week. We had a fine old time in Cambridge, in spite of the draining 30+° heat. Memo to self though - next time spend a little more money and get a hotel with air-conditioning. As it was, it felt a bit like trying to sleep in a cardboard box stored inside a greenhouse. This week we're back in full-on work mode, then on Saturday I'll be up at the crack of dawn to travel down to London for a precious few days catch-up with the visiting American contingent of the family. Unfortunately Mrs S can't join me on this jaunt as she'll be busy prepping for a forthcoming four day artistic endeavour which commences next Thursday, I'll be returning from London on Wednesday to accompany and assist her. Long story short, my profile round these parts will be even lower than usual for the next couple of weeks. I'll try to schedule another interim post if I get a moment, but if it all goes a bit quiet for a while, you'll know why.

Here's The Soundtrack of Our Lives in 2012 with a corking approximation of the kind of noise Pete, Roger, John & Keith were making circa 1966. 

The Soundtrack of Our Lives - Busy Land

Thursday 2 August 2018

I've Got to Say This, I Hope You Don't Mind

Today is a milestone birthday for Mrs S. She sees it as a very big milestone, though of course from my aged perspective it's just a modest marker in her journey through life. Mrs S is in the middle of a busy series of art related projects at the moment and I've been putting in long hours at work for some months, but to celebrate the occasion, we've taken a brief hiatus from our respective hectic schedules and, as you read this, are in Cambridge, doing cultural stuff and hopefully recharging the batteries.

Here's a song from one of Cambridge's finest sons. For Mrs S, now and always.

Syd Barrett - Two of a Kind

Monday 30 July 2018

I Suppose the Tedium Must Drive You Mad

The Distractions came together in 1975, though it would be a further 4 years before the band committed any music to vinyl with the 'You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That' EP on Manchester indie label TJM Records. Side 1 track 1 of that release was the original version of 'It Doesn't Bother Me', a good song in search of a little extra oomph. Things get a bit hazy at this point as The Distractions simultaneously signed to Factory for a one-off single and also to Island Records for a more conventional and comprehensive deal. In the event Island was first out of the traps with a re-recorded, re-arranged stab at 'It Doesn't Bother Me' produced by Jon Astley. This time around the song ticked all the boxes - it's powerpop perfection. 

The Distractions - It Doesn't Bother Me (1978) 

The Distractions - It Doesn't Bother Me (1979)

Thursday 26 July 2018

Hark the Herald Angels Sing

In 1977, for 'Life After Life, Alternative TV's second single on Deptford Fun City Records, the band drafted in a young Jools Holland to provide stabbing soulful counterpoints to the song's reggae soundscape. Mark Perry & co were on an early career roll with the debut 7" 'How Much Longer' preceding it and 'Love Lies Limp', 'Action Time Vision' & 'Life' all following within the next 12 months - classic singles one and all.

Alternative TV - Life After Life 

Alternative TV - Life After Dub

Monday 23 July 2018

I Can't Complain We Went Down the Drain

There's a new multi-disc PIL retrospective doing the rounds, featuring hits, b-sides, rarities and out-takes from John Lydon's post-Pistols career. I'm pretty sure this won't be on it though. During the 'Flowers of Romance' sessions in 1980, Lydon and Keith Levene were actively involved in the production and recording of tracks by their friend, the journalist Vivien Goldman. The resulting 'Dirty Washing' 12" EP  was issued in America and parts of Europe in April 1981, with a UK 7" release containing two of the three tunes (the third being a dub version) coming later in the Summer. These songs are a must for lovers of that particular strain of scratchy groove based post-punk that runs from The Slits, Raincoats and early PIL through to LoneLady and beyond.

In addition to the PIL factor, 'Launderette' also boasts the violin of Vicky Aspinall from the aforementioned Raincoats, musical maverick Steve Beresford contributes toy piano and percussion comes courtesy of Robert Wyatt, while 'Private Armies' adds a production credit for one Adrian Sherwood. This second tune wasn't so much covered as replicated wholesale by Sherwood and used as the closing track on the debut LP by New Age Steppers, which was also released in that heady year of 1981.

Vivien Goldman - Launderette 

Vivien Goldman - Private Armies 

New Age Steppers - Private Armies

Monday 16 July 2018

Clear Spot

Clear Spot were a short-lived instrumental combo comprising drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig from My Bloody Valentine, guitarist Simon Johns of Stereolab and future Heliocentrics member Mike Burnham on keyboards. In 1998 the trio released their one and only 7" single on Stereolab's Duophonic label, the rather fab 'Moonman Bop'.

Clear Spot - Moonman Bop

Tuesday 10 July 2018

All That Jazz #7 - Sonny Red

Large swaths Blue Note's legendary back catalogue were re-issued as part of a deal with EMI in the mid-1980s. The label's roster seemed an endless parade of wonderfulness to me. Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, Jimmy Smith, the list went on and on and, working in a record shop, I was in the fortunate position of having access to many of the gems on offer.

A lesser known LP that I discovered sandwiched among the jazz giants in the reissue programme, was 'Out of the Blue' by saxophonist Sonny Red. Originally issued in 1960, it features Miles Davis alumni Wynton Kelly, Jimmy Cobb and Paul Chambers among the backing musicians. Biographical details are scarce, but later in the 1960s Sonny played extensively as a sideman for trumpeter Donald Byrd and eventually drifted into obscurity after releasing a final, self-titled, LP in 1971.

Sonny Red passed away 37 years ago at the age of 48, leaving 'Out of the Blue' as his only Blue Note LP as a band leader. Here's the very cool 'Bluesville'.

Sonny Red - Bluesville

Thursday 5 July 2018

The Moon in June

A little over a week ago, our mutual blogging chum Alyson (of What's it All About?) posted the latest instalment of her fascinating series in which she celebrates every full moon throughout the course of the year - the one due last Thursday (June 28th) was apparently known to Native Americans as the Strawberry Moon. So far I've managed to miss all of the previous full moons in 2018 thanks to either inclement weather, work or simply by being asleep, but, on Thursday evening, as I wearily climbed the wooden hills to Bedfordshire, I glanced out the window and there it was, hanging in the inky blackness, very large and certainly somewhat unusual in colour. I grabbed my faithful point and press and fired off these couple of shots to capture the moment. Perhaps not so much strawberry, as tangerine!

I can't imagine that Alyson will use today's tune at anytime during the course of her series, particularly as the month in question has now passed. 'The Moon in June' originally appeared on the third Soft Machine LP in 1970 and featured a semi-improvised vocal by Robert Wyatt that alluded heavily to an adulterous romantic fling. This version, however, was recorded for John Peel's Top Gear radio programme and features a completely different, though equally rambling lyric from Wyatt, this time concerning The Soft Machine themselves, their contemporary pop-star pals and previous appearances at the BBC and on Peel's show.

' to all our mates like Kevin, Caravan, the old Pink Floyd allow me to recommend 'Top Gear' despite its extraordinary name yes, playing, playing now is lovely here in the BBC...' 

' still performs a normal function background noise for people eating and talking and drinking and smoking that's all right by us don't think that we're complaining after all it's only leisure time, isn't it?...' 

Soft Machine - The Moon in June (BBC Version)

Tuesday 3 July 2018

Richard Swift RIP

The terrible news broke just minutes ago that Richard Swift has succumbed to the previously reported life threatening condition from which he has been suffering. He was 41 years of age. The world has lost a uniquely gifted singer, songwriter and producer.

Richard Swift - Broken Finger Blues

Thursday 28 June 2018

More Twists Than Harold Pinter

Sometimes, when a thick head drags you down, when a sore throat refuses to clear and when a nose CONTINUES to stream, all that's left to do is pour another hot toddy and listen to some really classy pop music. London-based singer-songwriter Lail Arad has two long players to her name, while Montreal’s JF Robitaille boasts a catalogue containing three albums and one EP. The pair met last year, since when they've been touring together and recording tracks for their debut collaborative LP, from which these two tasters have so far emerged. When I first heard their stuff I was convinced that they must be Australian - there's definitely something of The Go-Betweens about their delivery and song structure. I'm not sure that I can pay a higher compliment than that.

Monday 25 June 2018


I honestly don't know where it all comes from. Just over a week ago a 72 hour bug temporarily knocked the stuffing out of me, but thankfully galloped through my system so quickly that I didn't really have much time to think about it. However, ten days later and feeling in otherwise fine fettle (and with apologies for over-sharing), my head is still a phlegm making machine. The throat rattles & wheezes and the nose is a constant (and I mean constant) pouring stream. No matter how often I blow my schnoz, it just keeps on coming.

I do hope I haven't put you off your breakfast.

Given all this unpleasantness, there is only one tune from my collection that truly fits the bill today. I picked up 'Harcourt', a Pehr compilation, from a long-gone Greenwich Village record store in 2002. At the time, Pehr specialised in the kind of dark post-rock I was particularly partial to, but I'd heard of none of the acts on this cheap sampler. 'Lunarcy' by French four piece Phlegm is the standout and quickly became a favourite of myself and Mrs S. The tune is taken from a split 12" EP, 'Phlegm / Telemak', their only release, a physical copy of which took me a further ten years to track down. The full EP is now available on Bandcamp if you're interested, though given the sometimes graphic nature of this post, perhaps you'll never want to think about Phlegm again.

Phlegm - Lunarcy

Thursday 21 June 2018

I Will Listen to Your Every Word

Troubling news broke over the weekend that gifted singer, songwriter and producer Richard Swift was recently hospitalised in Tacoma, Washington due to a non-specified life-threatening condition. In addtion to releasing a clutch of fine solo albums and EPs, Richard has carved out a career as a well respected sideman and producer, working with the likes of The Shins, Dan Auerbach, Kevin Morby, Foxygen, Laetitia Sadier, Damien Jurado and most recently Jessie Baylin.

Richard is uninsured and his medical costs are high, so his friends have set up a GoFundMe page for anyone who feels that they would like to contribute a little to his care and recovery.

Richard Swift - A Song for Milton Feher

Monday 18 June 2018

Long Afloat On Shipless Oceans

One of rock music's odd little Trivial Pursuit facts is that Tim Buckley premiered 'Song to the Siren' on the last ever episode of the Monkees TV show. The 1968 performance, which was introduced by an off-screen Micky Dolenz, is stripped back, acoustic and in a completely different key to the studio version that finally appeared on the 'Starsailor' LP two years later. Also, in the interim, the line '...puzzled as the oyster' was wisely amended to the altogether stronger '...puzzled as the newborn child'.

Tim Buckley - Song to the Siren (1968 Version)

It is of course, spellbinding stuff, as indeed was the superb reading by This Mortal Coil in 1983, though there are some that would argue that this Peel Session from 2002 contains the definitive interpretation of Buckley's song.

Thursday 14 June 2018

Version City #70 - Jason Falkner sings Joni Mitchell

In the precious few moments that I've had to sit down and listen to any music at all since Brian posted this at the weekend, I dug out the first two Jason Falkner albums, 'Presents Author Unknown' from 1996 and 1999's 'Can You Still Feel?' Classics, the both of 'em and available for pennies on eBay and at Discogs. Our advice? (and I'm taking the liberty of speaking for Brian as well here) - buy them, buy them, buy them. They are astoundingly assured and extremely classy pop records. Brilliant songs, brilliantly executed.

In addition to these twin masterpieces, during the second half of the 1990s Falkner also committed an eclectic selection of covers to tape, including songs originally performed by the likes of Magazine, Monochrome Set, The Kinks, Swell Maps, Def Leppard and Joni Mitchell. Ironically, for a man who is no stranger to playing every single instrument on his studio recordings, the one time I saw Jason perform 'Both Sides Now' in concert at The Garage in 1999, he did so with his broken right arm in a plaster cast, thus preventing him from playing any instrument at all.

These days in addition to his own endeavours, Jason Falkner is an in demand producer (Daniel Johnston, R. Stevie Moore, Pugwash) and versatile gun for hire, contributing bass to Noel Gallagher's recent LP and establishing himself as the guitar slinging mainstay of Beck's live band.

Jason Falkner - Both Sides Now

Monday 11 June 2018

All That Jazz #6 - Miles Davis / Reggie Lucas

Miles and Reggie on stage

Reggie Lucas, one of the two guitarists in Miles Davis' controversial 1972-75 band, died in New York last month at the age of 65. Great commercial success came to Lucas in the 1980s when he produced the majority of Madonna's first LP, wrote her hit single 'Borderline' and, with fellow Miles Davis alumni James Mtume, co-wrote 'Never Knew Love Like This Before' for Stephanie Mills and 'The Closer I Get to You' for Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway.

The music played on stage by Miles and his band from 1972-75 was often a dense fusion hybrid that, to many observers at the time, challenged the very notion of jazz itself. In contrast 'Chieftain', a studio recording from August 1972, but which remained unreleased until 2007, is a sparse, nervy piece, pushed along by the relentless tap-tap skittering of Al Foster's rim-shots and Lucas' periodic guitar stabs. Even if you're not a fan of jazz in general or Miles in particular, this may be worth a few minutes of your time.

Miles Davis - Chieftain

Thursday 7 June 2018

Trying to Get Along Together

'Easy' is the latest track to be pulled from 'Hetrogaster', the debut LP from Blythe Pepino's new band Mesadorm, following the split of her art-pop trio Vaults. The song, which features vocal contributions from Blythe's Mother and Grandmother, concerns the day to day trials and tribulations of family life and, by unspoken extension, all human life. The touching video shows the band with various younger and older members of their own respective families. Don't go getting the impression that Mesadorm are a one trick pony though. 'Tell Me', released late last year, is the kind of off-kilter pop song that wouldn't be out of place in the work of fellow Bristolians Rozi Plain or This is the Kit.

Monday 4 June 2018

Lay Llamas

I was surprised when the the postman knocked on the front door on Saturday morning and handed me my pre-ordered copy of 'Thuban', the third studio LP by Italy's Lay Llamas, as it's not actually scheduled for release until Friday 15th. Unfortunately Mrs S and I have a particularly packed schedule for the next fortnight, so the one quick spin through the record that I've managed so far is probably all that it's going to get until well beyond that official release date. I'll hopefully return to 'Thuban' in greater detail in due course, but for now if I said that it features guest appearances from the likes of Goat, Clinic and Mark Stewart of The Pop Group and is an exotic melting pot of afrobeat, psychedelia and krautrock, it might get you into the general vicinity of the noises you can expect to hear.

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