Friday, October 26, 2007

DFA freebie

Thanks to that nice James Murphy, you can click here to download a free three track DFA EP featuring the aforementioned LCD Soundsystem, Shocking Pinks and Fall sound-a-likes Prinzhorn Dance School. And, hey, it's worth every penny.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Street smarts

While her ex-husband Phil (seen on the left--and isn't that new Genesis P- Orridge* look that he's rocking really quite fetching?) has been facing murder charges, Ronnie Spector's four-part documentary on doo-wop (Street Corner Soul) is currently airing on Radio 2, and is highly recommended. Tracing the history of the genre from The Orioles onwards, it gives an insight into why aficionados like Brian Eno and Martin Rev of Suicide fell for this "Martian music" when it crackled through the airwaves at the birth of the fifties.

To my mind, one of the high points of Western art (let alone of doo-wop), and right up there with Fallingwater, or Duchamp's Fountain, is The Flamingos cover of I Only Have Eyes For You, written in the 1930s and popularised by Peggy Lee, among others. The song is deceptively simple, infinitely complex, and is only connected to the songwriting tradition in the same way that a Wright building is connected to traditional architecture. It sounds like nothing else on earth. It is sui generis. The first three guitar chords lull you into a false sense of security, and then four seconds in, you're hit with an incredible wall of sound. That insistent piano note. Voices that sound like they were recorded in a submarine. At the bottom of a sea. On Mars. Forget street corner soul: The Flamingos are street corner Satie; spare, minimal, sepulchral.

Martin Rev, one half of Suicide, took this template and updated it in the seventies and eighties, and similarly married technology with New York street corner soul. His sparring partner and lyrical foil in Suicide (Alan Vega), however, eschewed the saccharine subject matter of doo-wop and instead told harrowing tales of dystopia in the songs they did together as Suicide, even if their insistent, repetitive melodies owed as much to the Orioles, the Flamingos and the Coasters as they did to Suicide's CBGBs contemporaries. It was only in his solo albums (especially Clouds of Glory and See Me Ridin') that Rev was able to pay explicit homages to the music that he'd have heard in his youth. Whisper, from his aforementioned album Clouds of Glory, doesn't actually have any lyrics, but if it did you can imagine that they'd be sing-songy paeans of everlasting love, and its arpeggiating harmonies could easily be replicated by four voices standing on a Brooklyn corner.

Download the Flamingos' I Only Have Eyes For You (MP3) (deleted May 2008)

Download Martin Rev's Whisper (MP3) (deleted May 2008)

* For those that want to compare and contrast, Genesis is pictured below...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

StSanders is God

With apologies to those that may already have seen this, but I had to share it, as it is the best thing on YouTube right now... Slowhand plays some free jazz. Skronk out! The sax at 1.33 is the bit that tips most people over the edge...

...and kudos to the comment that Thurston Moore would sign Clapton to his label in a heartbeat if he really did sound like this.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Blanc looks



After watching the grand finale of The Restaurant this week, I couldn't help noticing the distinct similarity between Gallic restaurateur Raymond Blanc and Harry H. Corbett, aka Steptoe fils. Could they by any chance be related etc...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

And the nominations are...

While I'm mentioning Blur, it seems apropos that I mention Alex James' recent autobiog, which I'm partway through. It's mostly a pretty breezy read, though James is no Peter Ustinov or David Niven. He's had a pretty charmed life though, with few of the struggles that typify rock biogs; Blur are fully formed by page 38, and have had their first hit by page 67.

One passage stands out so far. Not because it's well written, or revealing, or shocking, however. Instead, he's describing hotel life and touring...

Having worked in a hotel, I knew exactly how demanding guests could be and I set about making myself a nuisance, calling reception and asking for more pillows, more towels, more bubble bath, some matches, board games, books, whether they serve Ricicles at breakfast and if they knew anywhere I could get Golden Nuggets.
Okay, it's hardly Led Zep fishing for sharks with groupies, or even The View flooding a Travelodge. But I can't help thinking that unlike Robert Plant, John Bonham, Jimmy Page et al, James had actually worked in a hotel. And therefore his actions are even more reprehensible. For taking the piss out of underpaid and overworked staff, Alex James is officially the Irk The Purists ***TWUNT OF THE MONTH***

Nominations for November's Twunt of the Month will be announced shortly.

Duke Spirit

The world can be divided into two sorts of people, IMHO. There's the sort that leaves a movie the moment the moment the story has finished, leaving in a noisy tipping-up of seats, crunching popcorn underfoot and generally getting in the way of the screen. And then there are those who stay resolutely glued to their seat until the very last frame of the credits has spooled through the projector. I bet you can't guess which category I fall into, eh? I usually tell my long-suffering companions that I want to ensure that "no animals were harmed in the making of this motion picture", but really I feel I owe it to the hard-working best boys, Foley artists, gaffers and focus-pullers to see their work credited appropriately. You often learn a lot too; you start to see the same names, the ones that help you to navigate around And you get to see the music credits, which are often the most interesting part of the film. At least with some directors. Oliver Stone, for one...

Anyway, you may not be surprised that I'm rather similar when it comes to record sleeves and CD booklets. I tend to pore over every credit; the sleeve designers (and thank you Malcolm Garrett, Stylorouge, Keith Breeden, Reid Miles, Vaughan Oliver, Benoit Hennebert and countless others), the engineers (Martin Bisi, Jason Corsaro, Gary Langan, Bob Kraushaar) etc. It's probably how I came across the name John Metcalfe, whose name appears in the small print of many CD booklets. Metcalfe has been the strings arranger of choice for Morrissey, Durutti Column, Lloyd Cole and Stephen Duffy among others. While this provides his bread-and-butter, I get the feeling his heart is really in his solo work and the side project he has with Louisa Fuller and Ivan McCready, The Duke String Quartet. Exploring the canons of composers such as Joby Talbot (of League of Gentlemen fame), Kevin Volans, Graham Fitkin and Michael Nyman, the Duke Quartet are nothing if not versatile (they also work with the Dixie Chicks and The Pretenders).

In his capacity as viola player for the Durutti Column in the late 80s and early 90s, Metcalfe was instrumental in establishing the Factory Classical Label, and one of their first releases was the Duke Quartet's first CD. It's long out of print and now fetches a pretty penny on Ebay, but I've added a couple of tracks below, the first movement of Shostakovitch's String Quartet no. 8 Opus 110, and the third movement of Michael Tippett's String Quartet No.3. I've also included a download of Blur's Tracy Jacks. This doesn't really need an excuse to have an airing, but it's included here because if you scrutinise the small print of your Parklife CD, you'll notice that the spiralling strings are provided by none other than The Duke Quartet.

Download Tippet String Quartet no. 3 (deleted May 2008)

Download Shostakovitch String Quartet no. 8 Opus 110 (deleted May 2008)

Download Tracy Jacks by Blur (deleted May 2008)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cracked LCD

....but first this. The new LCD Soundsystem single is insanely good, even if they have speeded it up somewhat compared to the album version. I'm pretty sure the version they're playing on the radio is the regular ol' album version. Anyhoo, I'm told the video director was Doug Aitken, for those that care about these things.

Do you remember when New Order sounded this good? Yes, it was a long time ago.

All apologies

"It's been a long time/I shouldn'a left you/Without a strong rhyme to step to..." Thanks, Rakim.

And thanks to you readers for sticking with me. I'll try and update more often. I did promise, in a rash moment some months ago, future posts on Moose, Explosions In The Sky, Miles Davis, the Duke Quartet and others; this was mostly to give myself a kick in the pants, and spur on my posting rate. Well I'm still only posting sporadically, but I do intend to make good on my promise. Before 2008, if you're lucky. Anyhoo, today, I will get round to a look at The Duke String Quartet...