Tuesday, August 18, 2009

First among equals


I was equally surprised to see that Alan Vega is 70 years old. I know this isn't news: I first heard it last year, but dismissed it as a typo, reasoning that he couldn't possibly be over 60 (plus, most biogs, like this one, claim his birth year as 1948). However, I looked at the Blast First (Petite) (i.e his own record company) website recently, and that's proclaiming that this is Alan's 70th year on the planet, so I guess if they're saying it, then it must be true. And, now I delve further, it seems that more and more biogs, such as the one on Wikipedia, are listing his birth year as 1938. In fact, I suppose that makes him 71.

Whatever his age (and God, I hope I'm as sprightly at 71), we should be thankful that Blast First (Petite) have seen fit to release some fantastic covers of Suicide tracks by the great and (occasionally) good of the music biz, including Klaxons, Primal Scream and, unbelievably, Bruce Springsteen. It's not a secret that Bruce was always a big Suicide fan (he'd said as much in the past), but it's incredible that he'd deign to release a limited edition single on the label that originally brought us Big Stick, Labradford and Pan(a)sonic. If, like me, you're a bit cash-strapped, all the singles in the series (including Bruce's cover of Dream Baby Dream) are available on Spotify.

I mentioned Big Stick and Labradford there, though technically these were released by Blast First, rather than Blast First (Petite). Confused? Well, the two labels are related. Both are overseen by one Paul Smith (no not that one); the former was and is an offshoot of the venerable Mute, though since EMI took a controlling share of Mute, Blast First's output has slowed to a trickle (its last release through Mute was two years ago, seemingly). The latter (BF(P)) is a more recent, truly independent variant which as well as releasing the aforementioned Suicide covers has, in recent years, given us Return of The Giant Slits, and promises within the next year to release a live DVD by the Au Pairs, another by John Fahey, and, most audaciously, a series of rare albums by sculptor and furniture designer Harry Bertoia (right). As well as re-releases,Blast First (Petite) showcase going concerns such as Klang and Pansonic. And, as such, they should be celebrated. Hooray!

MP3s? Ok, if you insist. Below are some examples of the label's diverse output, though they all come from the Blast First stable (i.e. through its association with Mute rather than released independently--do keep up). The first, by Head of David, is from circa 1991, when the label was primarily concerned with bring us the likes of Sonic Youth, Band of Susans and Stretchheads. If you like these, there's a good chance you'll like Head of David. The second, by the Williams Fairey Brass Band is a cover of 808 State's Pacific 202, and one of a series of brass band acid house covers co-ordinated by the future Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller in 1998. More info here. Finally, from the compilation Hot Shit by Sean McLusky's Sonic Mook Experiment, a bit of Erase Errata. And why not?

Download Vulture Culture by Head of David (mp3) (deleted Nov 2009)

Download Pacific 202 by Williams Fairey Brass Band (mp3) (deleted Nov 2009)

Download Other Animals Are No. 1 by Erase Errata (mp3) (deleted Nov 2009)

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