Sunday, May 22, 2011
It's rare for 'celebrity' records to warrant the amount of hype that can surround them but in the case of Peter Wyngarde's effort I can happily say that most of it is justified.
Putting out an album was hardly an unusual step for an early 70s television or film icon, with this Wyngarde joined the ranks of William Shatner, David McCallum, Richard Harris and many others. What was odd was the subject choice. We knew it was going to be saucy, the man's Jason King character was the blue-print for Mike Myers' Austin Powers persona after all. What the world hadn't prepared itself for was 'Rape' the song that owns the first side of the album.
Many reviews cite this as a social commentary on different types of rape across the world. I have a different take on it: The track comes after 'You Wonder How These Things Happen' (She was asking for it?) and the albums seductive opener in which Peter invites us in to his bachelor bad, asks us to sit down and pours us a drink, it's a first person narrative. I think the second track 'Rape' is also from Wyngarde's POV and it tells of a series of events that follows whatever was dropped in the opener's drink.
Well that's pretty shocking. Yes in 2011 it is, but then what isn't? You have to remember that this came very roughly around the same time that Jones and Moon were cavorting about in SS uniforms. The world was a very different place, one where terrorism was sexy, where children didn't go missing at the hands of paedophiles but rather 'ran off to join the circus'. I doubt very much that it even an eyebrow was raised back in 1970 when it appeared.
Years later though you don't need to wonder why it was never re-issued as is. The album is available in it's complete form as part of the Wyngarde compilation 'When Sex Leeers it's Inquisitive Head' where it is re-contextualized minus the above artwork.
Talking of the artwork, I imagine that just below the shot on the front sleeve our man is holding up a prisoner number and slimy moustache and bouffant comb forward is about to be dressed not in leather pants or a stylish safari number but prison blues marked with a nonce-wing ident.
The problem is that with an absolute juggernaut of a song like 'Rape' on it is that the rest of the album rarely gets a look in. I went through a period of putting the song on whenever anybody (potential girlfriends withstanding) came over. Never once did it receive anything less than a
'What the fuck?'
I first heard about this in the mid 90's and was lucky enough to come across a copy around then. The rest of the album is surprisingly well orchestrated and in places very catchy. 'Hippie And The Skinhead' is a standout as is 'Neville Thumbcatch' and in amongst the songs are a couple of breaks that would sit perfectly on 'Ill Communication' era Beastie Boys tracks.
Anyway, whether this is the worlds first and only 'date rape' concept album or not it's incredibly catchy and well worth a look.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
For those reading from outside the UK a 'Flea market' is not quite as rancid or moldy as it sounds and as a rule insects are not involved. It's basically a communal garage sale.
Anyway I say once legendary because record shopping wise the Chesterfield Thursday Flea Market has suffered from exactly the same blows that the rest of the world has. The internet, Ebay the birth and death of the CD. These factors also seem to have effected the quality level of the rest of the junk on sale. Interesting military collectibles have been replaced by piles of clothes based jumble that would not look out of place stuffed in bin liners left outside the Spastic Society. The 'mucky book' man has cleaned up his act and now appears to focuses soley on yellowing Mills and Boon novels and crossword puzzle books and 'Video Nasty' seems to have vanished.
As for the record guys. There used to be three of four, a couple of whom also had stores on the legitimate Saturday market. The stock was of varying quality but always reasonably priced and you could pick up anything from recent Cure bootleg albums to much of the Vertigo back catalogue. I have a memory of seeing the COB album for about 4quid sometime in the mid 80's. I distinctly remember laughing at the shit album sleeve, which serves me right.
In 2011 there are two intrepid peddlers of plastic left. There are of course others with the obligatory torn and tattered plastic record box crammed with scratched copies of Paul Young's 'Non Parlez', uninteresting Deutsche Grammophon titles and Christmas albums but they would just as soon sell you an antique horse brass or Andrew and Fergie royal wedding mug so they don't get counted.
As you can see above there isn't too much left, a few crates, nothing to get exciting about but in fairness what is there is still relatively well priced. What's most upsetting is that 'Moustache guy' has thrown in the vinyl towel completely, I did try taking a picture of Moustace Guy' but he kept staring right at me, perhaps recalling a younger version of myself, school uniform minus tie excitedly thumbing a copy of Kiss' 'Music From the Elder'. Anyway, Moustache Guy is strictly CDs and DVDs now. Poor Moustache guy, given the recent resurgence of interest in records it looks very much like he backed the same two dud horses that are about to sink HMV.
So is it worth a trip to Chesterfield's once fabled Thursday Flea Market? I would say no, unless you still have a VHS video recorder in which case there appears to still be an unusually high selection of big box Warner and Entertainment Vide titles for you to get lost amongst.
Friday, May 20, 2011
Unfortunately the first pressing also sounds like a pair of slippers. Memphis label Ardent obviously had other things to spend their money on besides quality shellac. Luckily this album has been released and re-released so many times that there is forced to be a half decent pressing out there somewhere.
So what can you possibly about this album that hasn't been said before? Well quite a lot if you don't like an impossibly forced close to nasal vocal style. Luckily it would appear that I do, which is odd because the mere thought of Geddy Lee is enough to turn my stomach.
'Number 1 Record' is basically 'hit' after 'hit'. It's an exercise in perfectly honed and fully focused guitar or power pop. I would stop short of saying that it rocks though because it doesn't. The internationally used 'Scale of Rock' has Cheap Trick representing 'absoulte zero' IE: The very least rockingest sound possible and this, 'Big Star' falls short of that. Now this isn't a bad thing. As a band they are aeons away from the demented and dull twatishness of Cheap Trick but do they rock? No, not really.
Big Star 'roll', and this isn't a weak joke aimed at the bands admitted love for the 'doob' either. They have a rolling sound, a sound that rolls.
So what's on the album? Well there's that song that Cheap Trick borrowed for 'That 70's Show', there's the blue print to Scottish Indie janglers Teenage Fanclub's entire back catalogue. There is also 'The Indian Song' which I flag because it's always stood out for me. Not necessarily as being any better than the rest of this truly solid offering but because it sounds like it doesn't belong. You could very easily drop 'The Indian Song' onto 'Forever Changes' and give it a Brian McLean vocal credit as it would sound perfectly at home there.
So is it all good? No, there almost has to be a weak link and that weak link is 'Don't Lie To Me'. That's what happens when a 'Rolling' band tries to 'Rock'. It just goes horribly wrong.
Now according to Google this album actually exploded when it was released which is news to me, I was under the impression that it was one of those under-peforming slow-boilers, something that wasn't given it's due credit until years later. But apparently not. So why didn't smash the charts? Turns out Stax (Ardent owners) had problems distributing the record so nobody could actually buy it.
To be honest it took me a good few years to 'get' Big Star. I'd owned it more than once (It's a pre-requisit for working in a record store) due to the fact that it came up in conversation on an almost weekly basis. The first time I gave it a spin I remember it just washing over me in the same way The Replacements and the Soft Boys still do. It was dull, wishy washy nothing special, I didn't get it. I do now.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Mental note to self. Don't say the words 'Animal' and or 'Collective' in succession again unless you want a million angry post-folk rave fans descending on you like one of the saucier plagues of Egypt.
Anyway, moving swiftly along.
Last night saw me back on the ravioli (walnut and gorgonzola if you are interested), as I chewed away I channel surfed until I found something that wasn't reality TV or a talent show. I came in about half way through what I think was the first Tomb Raider film. It's pretty fucking terrible.
So why didn't I while away the evening listening to something wonderful? Thin walls, baby downstairs, a stereo that despite my best efforts refuses to perform at low volumes. That and Angelina Jolie's cod 'English' accent hypnotized me into wondering just how bad it and indeed the rest of the film could get. Answer: Very.
I did manage to give this a spin this morning though and decided that in the absence of anything more interesting passing my fair ears I should share my thoughts.
So Beach House. I was turned onto the first album a few years back by a friend in Portland OR. when they had more of an overt Goth/Folk thing going on. That mood seemed to continue through to their second effort 'Devotion': Bleak, late night, Diazepam music. On 'Teen Dream' that slow and steady temperament is still there, Victoria Legrand sings like she is on the verge of falling asleep and it's a delivery that wears well, adding to the dreaminess (dare I say 'Dreampopiness') of it all. 'Teen Dream' is lazy sex music with the added bonus of improved song writing and tunes.
The backing for the most part hides behind a synth-wash of some sort or another that and cymbal heavy percussion. It's a good if not at times fulffy sound. That said it's obviously very deliberate and anything more clinical might drain away some of the band's magic.
Despite being quite partial to the sound of Beach House they don't get off that easily, even if one half of the band is the granddaughter of score composer legend Michel Legrand ('Umbrellas of Cherbourg' may well be the creative pinnacle of mankind). I've already touched on her at times questionable delivery. She sounds like she is from Hartlepool or one of the less glamorous areas of the North of England. Why such an odd affectation? Then it struck me, is it a misfired attempt at trying to channel some of Siouxie Sioux's dark energy? After all her's has become a popular voice to imitate/emulate of late.
Gripe number two with a bullet would be the album sleeve. It's bollocks. The albums predecessor saw the duo huddled around a candle-lit table, it was a good visual clue to the sound within. What is your man on the street going to think if he picks this up? Tapioca? Semolina? Rice Pudding? Bread Sauce?
Anyway, I would suggest that you listen to this but given the amount of mad propz it received toward the end of last year landing in pretty much every year end list I read, my guess is that you already have... Which in retrospect makes the above exercise, with the exception of the Tomb Raider opening a bit pointless.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
It is just not me. Now we've established that, I need to try and find out why it's anyone at all (except for the original listeners) in the year of our lord 2011. 'No Roses' doesn't have the curious instrumentation or acid tinged lyrics that make the Incredible String Band so appealing. Despite the inclusion of a couple of murder ballads, it's not dark enough to be 'death folk' and it isn't catchy enough to compete with Fairport Convention at their best. It's just a less than curious artifact from a time when other people were creating a lot more exciting or proficient music.
Add to this the fact that it was recorded in that sprawling metropolis of London and any visions of wooden caravans, camp fires and burning of wickermen should vanish in a puff of pipe smoke because the geography of it's recording betrays the sentiment sold on the sleeve and in the sound.
The front sleeve proudly lists the names of twenty seven players. You would expect a pretty huge sound from twenty seven people playing all at once but the reality is there's a lot of guesting through out, some of it very inappropriate like the saxophone on the opener 'Cloudy Banks'. Much of it sounds plodding, pedestrian, colour by numbers.
So does anything even come close to rescuing this from the 'File under: 'Maypole Dancing Shit' section?
Three things. The back of the sleeve (as pictured above) - Don't know who he is but that has to be contender for 'Neck Beard of the decade'.
There's a Jew's Harp on one of the tracks and let's be honest, who doesn't love a bit of the old Jew's Harp. It's an instrument so moronic that it comes full circle to being even more awesome than the triangle.
Finally there is the last track. 'Poor Murdered Woman'. Despite my playa hating I have to flag this as being a hell of a song. It's the only track where Shirley lets her 'hey nonny no' vocal stylings slip into something heart-felt and listenable and whilst the instrumentation is in no danger of setting the world on fire it does work, succeeding in painting a very dark picture of rape and murder from days gone by.
I'm assuming there's a rape in there anyway. As a rule of thumb I always assume that when they mention 'flowers' in folk songs they are actually talking about vaginas, and they mention flowers a couple of times.
Anyway. I'm glad I got rid of my vinyl copy of this. It had a weird clouding on one side when you held it up to the light and whilst it didn't smell of cat-piss it gave that impression.
This review was done from the Castle Recordings 2004 Release - Props as always to Castle for always dropping a couple of staples worth of insight, sleeve notes and pictures onto the CD as should I ever want a true insight into this patchy outing I am well armed.
So, 'No Roses'. Buy another copy of 'What We Did In Our Holidays' instead.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
The down-side to living in a world of convenience that when the wheels fall off every minutes delay or unnecessary wait in line feels like a punch in the face.
My train home to see the folks was delayed by 90 minutes. Not only was it delayed by 90 minutes but it failed to get to it's destination being cancelled about thirty miles outside of my home-town.
It would have been a minor pain in the face if I was traveling alone, I'd have got lost in my ipod and read some ridiculous graphic novel. As it was I was traveling with family: Small child and wife, dead-body heavy suitcase and 'collapsible' stroller.
So what can you do? Well there's nobody to complain to, the staff (what there are left of them in 2011) know well enough to lock themselves in the guard car. That only really leaves one path of recourse.
There is something quite satisfying about punching the living shit out of a train. Yes my knuckles hurt and it was juvenile but that coupled with every swearword I knew and a couple I made up for the occasion seemed to do the trick. I waited until the carriage was empty after the impromptu alighting and steam was vented.
So what have I learned? Next time I need to get a train in the UK, it is more sensible to hijack a helicopter.
What does this have to do with records? Well I thought that I'd take time out to visit Sheffield's ever lovely 'Record Collector' shop in Broom Hill.
Was it worth it? Was a good time had by all? Did I come home sacks a bulging with all sorts of vinyl based wonders.
Record Collector has gone a bit shit and here's why:
It's not necessarily the inclusion of a handful of new vinyl (presumably to get them bumped up to 'Record Store Day' status, meaning access to loads of guaranteed to sell and be seen on ebay within days stock) but this does not help. The lines are now blurred, where is the NEW section?
It is that they haven't done a decent used record buy in what feels like a year. The walls are plastered with over-priced or over familiar stock. The racks? More of the same with the same few records that I take up to the counter on every visit in the hope that they are either somehow in better condition than last time I saw them or that my standards have slipped.
Despite the gripe I'm not bitter. It's still a shining beacon in an otherwise barren city. I got my hands dirty (literally) and bought a Father Yod album so I shouldn't moan too much, it's just that the shop has now well and truly fallen from my list of 'Record Shops You absolutely have to visit if you are in a 30 mile Radius', which is a shame as by now I can pretty much fit them all onto the back of a postage stamp.
So the source for the review is from one of the 'remastered' definitive CD's released by Virgin. They did a horrible job, flimsy sleeve, no notes and according to a mis-print on the spine this is a live album. That gripe aside the CD works and it sounds a lot better than a vinyl copy might.
Oh come on. Do you really want the slightest crackle or pop to pepper the musics more quiet passages? I have much of the groups catalogue and can't think of an instance where I have preferred hearing it on vinyl. It's a case of the practicality of a situation outweighing the romance that might be involved in listening to this in it's original form.
Anyway, why am I reviewing this? Well somebody in the office just started playing M.I.A and it offended me to the point of having to drown out her racist hate-mongering ramblings with the closest thing to hand. Lucky for me it was this rather than a copy of the first Opeth album.
'Exit' starts off easy enough, the opener, imaginatively also called 'Exit' wrong-foots a little and ends up sounding like a reeled off list of holiday destinations bringing to mind mid-80's travel shows and that orange faced camera slut/reader's grandmother Judith Chalmers. Despite that it's not a bad way to kick off the album, suitably enigmatic and futuristic.
Much of the 'Exit' comes across as either Horror soundtrack or Porno music, maybe both, Horror/Porno. The type of sound that thanks to the like of Steve Moore and friends is well and truly en vogue. Basically it's like seedy new-age music.
Onto the album's other stand out 'Pilots of the Purple Twighlight', why? Because of the awesome name? No, because if you listen to the keyboard in the background this is where James Earl Jones voiced wunderkind Tay Zonday got the loop for 'Chocolate Rain' from.
Despite my best efforts of turning this up to eleven M.I.A still seeps through the more silent parts and my teeth grind in time. Can't she be arrested for something? Inciting violence or just making criminally bad records comprised of half-arsed samples and utter gibberish and mono-tonal lyrics.
'Network 23' comes on and as I am transported back to the 'Blade Runner' inspired audio future/past of 'Exit' all thoughts of a juvenile public school girl glamorizing terrorism fall away in favor of a wide and empty soundscape inhabited by nothing other than electronic pan-pipes and a machine that generates keyboard riffs especially for midnight chase scenes.
Great album. Any better than the three before it or the four or five after it, who can really say for sure? Edgar?
No, thought not.
With a name like 'Pride' you expect something massively gay. What 'Pride' deliver is twee, jangly, Dan Fogelberg tinged blancmange... But it isn't particularly homosexual.
The reason for my listening to this album is mainly that it appeared on a 'beat head' acquaintance's 'want's' list and I decided to investigate. You know the type, flat-rimmed baseball cap, a vocabulary awash with Americanisms and an unhealthy knowledge of which track was sampled for which Hip Hop track and when. This in mind I shouldn't really be that surprised when it turned out to be not massively impressive.
Albums usually fall onto such lists because of a couple of drum fills or breaks, at best they are held up by a couple of half-decent tracks, one of which nearly always features that all important sound or instrument of the moment be it Fender Rhodes, fuzz guitar, Moog or the accordion.
Anyway, my point is that people become obsessed with these records for portions that they can dissect, play over, possibly loop and re-invent. The original body of the album cast aside, forgotten about and left un-played.
This however may not be the case with 'Pride'. Despite many of the tracks having some oh so tired 'break beat' or other rumbling along in the background there isn't really a stand out. Many of the songs are quite pleasant and the breezy and so laid-back it's horizontal sound that 'Pride' create is very listenable, if not over-inspiring.
It was produced by David Axelrod, the man behind The Electric Prunes always interesting soundtrack to a Christian Cult period ('Mass in F Minor' and 'Release of an Oath'). Sadly none of the stylings that made both of those records so catchy despite of their Xian content appear to have been employed here. It lacks quirk, it's mono-tonal, over sunshiny. I mean I can listen to it, I am listening to it now but it might as well be the soundtrack to a retirement home picnic.
Pride sound a bit like somebody has sucked all of the drugs, excitement and danger out of The Byrds with some kind of purpose-built soul vacuum-cleaner and instead replaced it with sand, sand and maybe a couple of shiny marbles. In fact I would go as far as to say that if ever there was an archetypal 5/10 record, this is it.
...5 1/2 if they said the word 'cunt' once in a while.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Before you get too jealous, this is a review of the CD remaster rather than an original Deram press of 'Time of the Last Persecution.'
I bought it from Amazon after an entire year of it sitting on my 'Records that people tell me I HAVE TO listen to' list.
So, I've listened to it.
Am I going to add it to my own personal 'Oh my shit! You absolutely have to listen to this record because it will make your tits explode with joy' list?
It's alright, I mean he looks fucking awesome on the front cover and what a name for an album. So why doesn't it get a high-five or even a pat on the back? Two reasons really.
First off Bill voice sounds way to close to that of my musical nemesis Ronnie Lane. That's right, the guy who made every Faces record he sang on sound pompous to the point of being fucking ridiculous. Anyway, it doesn't do well to speak ill of the dead so I won't expand on that other than to say that I still have nightmares about that man's singing 'ability' years after hearing anything he sang on.
If you need persuading give 'You're So Rude' a spin and listen to the way he pronounces 'They've all gone to see AUntie Renee'.
Where was I? Right, point 2. The saxophone. It doesn't feature throughout but whenever it does rear its ugly head it does nothing to benefit the over-all sound of the record.
When I was first told I had to give this a go I was told it was like Skip Spence's 'Oar'. It is a bit, but instead of the psychedelic undertones of that album 'Time of The Last Persecution' seems to be lumbered with Ray Russell's blues based guitar wankery. It also sounds far too English, too polite, too far away from the action.
Oh and whilst I'm at it the drums sound very 'session'.
What does work is the piano (as does the fuzz guitar). If Bill could some how have seen his way to relying more heavily on this tool we'd have something closer to the whacked out Elton John I'd been expecting.
Without wanting to list tracks there are some corkers on here and I am sure I sound like a heathen when I say it would make great source material for other bands to run with and improve. In fact in reading that back reminds me of the time I upset pretty much everybody I knew by saying that I preferred Girls Against Boys version of 'She's Lost Control' to the original Joy Division one.
Another reason to give this album the time of day is the lyrics. If that's your cup of tea and you take into consideration that this album comes from a very different world, one where the Vietnam war was present tense, one where that Haight and Ashbury dream of love and peace had just tuned out to be 'right drugs, right music, right time' rather than the beginning of the glorious global revolution and it makes a lot of sense. There is bitterness, apathy and disappointment in this music and it sounds pretty good 40 years on.
Dear Xeno and Oaklander, are you French? I notice your album 'Sentinelle' is recorded in New York but you either sing in Gallic or a type of English that suggests that the language is not your first. It's just that you don't look particularly French, not to say I am looking for a beret and a string of onions, but I've seen pictures and I wouldn't say you look any more French that I do and I'm not French.
It doesn't really matter it's just that I was going to compare you to Mathematiques Modernes but just incase you aren't French I won't. Just to be safe what I will say is:
Xeno and Oaklander, architects of a newly re-discovered bed-sit lo-fi electronic world originally given birth to by the likes of Soft Cell have taken the concept mysterious and miserable down-beat electronica and smashed it out of the proverbial park. I think the cool kids call it chill or dark wave nowadays. Back then it was just plain old electronic pop.
Not to say for a second that 'Sentinelle' is a classic or necessarily even a keeper but they have certainly done their best to stay true to the original battle plan.
The electronics which come courtesy of both parties are pretty competent and as you might expect for a minimal excursion into the world of analogue electronics. Nothing fancy, couple of nice hooks a distinct 80's feel and what I would describe as a methodical Germanic tinge.
My issue with the group is the vocals, not so much the French language pieces but the robotic English that fills at least half of the album. When such delivery was part of Kraftwerk's schtick they were let off the hook because they were pretending to be robots. When the same vocal sound was of the Belgian New Beat scene (Front 242 etc) it was annoying but somehow the punchy and plain Fascistic sounds made up for that. Now in 2011 it falls South of quaint or kitsch and just sounds a bit silly really.
Part of me would rather have the entire album sung in French, if they are French.
Anyway, to give you an idea of what to expect from the sound I asked a friend what he would recommend off the back of the fact that I was blown away by Sally Shapiro's 'Disco Romance' album and he wrote the name of this band on the back of a receipt and passed it to me. It was all very exciting and covert. Unfortunately I couldn't really read his handwriting so it took a while to track down.
Was it worth it?
Yeah, course it was. It's alright. Not going to set the world on fire or anything like that but there are worse things to listen to on a Sunday night. Although after the events of last night I feel like I should probably be listening to Bruce Springsteen's 'Born in the USA' happily ignoring the true meaning of the song and instead seeing it as a perfect meathead anthem to celebrate the fact that they 'aced' that modern day Fu Manchu Osama Bin Ladin yesterday.
Mixed emotions about that, either way, Ding-Dong the witch is well and truly dead...