Monday, April 28, 2008

Orange crush

collinsI was a little too young to fully appreciate the impact of the short-lived but celebrated Postcard record label ("The Sound of Young Scotland") in its heyday, but I followed the subsequent careers of the label's acts (Aztec Camera, Orange Juice, Paul Haig of Josef K, and, to a lesser extent, The Go-Betweens) throughout my adolescence, and it's hard to open a magazine these days without contemporary bands like Franz Ferdinand or Camera Obscura acknowledging the debt they owe to Alan Horne's pioneering imprint.

So it was fortuitous for me that two of the labels mainstays (the aforementioned Paul Haig and Edwyn Collins of Orange Juice) played within 8 days of each other recently in Edinburgh. It was even more fortuitous that Roddy Frame of Aztec Camera is currently deputising as guitarist in Edwyn's band, and so within a short space of time, I was lucky enough to see the three major artists associated with Postcard up close and personal. In addition, a companion noted that Dave Ruffy was tanning the skins in Edwyn's band. I was aware of his past as drummer for The Ruts (and I know people who swear that The Ruts vs. The Mad Professor's Rhythm Collision Dub is the greatest work of art in western history- hello Richard Oakes) , but was unaware till today that he had also served time with Aztec Camera as well as playing with Edwyn in the days when he was signed to Alan McGee's Elevation. To complete the Postcard-tastic experience, Malcolm Ross who played with Josef K, Aztec Camera and Orange Juice was spotted in the audience... surely some enterprising promoter can rope in Robert Forster and put on a Postcard revue?

I've already written a brief review of the Haig show below. However, for sheer emotional impact, Collins' and Frame's appearance at the Queens Hall last Monday had the edge; emotional because this was one of Collins' first live appearances since two well-documented and near-fatal brain haemorrages and a consequent bout of MRSA two years ago. The strokes he suffered have left him extremely unsteady on his feet, he had trouble speaking clearly and spent the gig, quite reasonably, perched on a stool; however the fact that he was present in any short of shape was nothing short of miraculous, especially as he had been unable to speak or walk two years ago. It was entirely correct, therefore that he and his band were greeted with the sort of standing ovation normally reserved for the likes of Nelson Mandela. I saw the show with a couple of people involved in rehabilitation therapy, and while their attendance was out of musical rather than medical interest, it was heartening to hear their positive prognoses on Edwyn's condition.

You can download a recent podcast where Roddy and Edwyn converse here:

It's of interest partly because of the content, but also because you can hear the extent of Edwyn's recovery and his struggle to overcome his limitations. You also get to hear that his familiar hyuk-hyuking laugh is still intact.

The audience's appreciation was rewarded with three gems straight out of the gate, Falling and Laughing and Poor Old Soul, two of the early Postcard singles, and What Presence? from Orange Juice's purple patch c. 1983. "It's good to be back," he intoned with some difficulty, to deafening cheers. He wasn't quite able to hit the high notes on Rip It Up or A Girl Like You, but then again he wasn't really able to before his stroke, either. The interplay between Frame and Collins was quite touching, nearly thirty years of friendship and amicable rivalry informing their onstage rapport.

The show concluded with brisk run-throughs of Blue Boy and Don't Shilly Shally; kudos to him for coming back on to do an encore, something even the able-bodied Paul Haig didn't manage the week previously.

Now, at this stage in the blog post, you're probably expecting an MP3, right? I know that's why most of you come here. I'm not under any illusions. You're probably hoping for a rare B-side. Or possibly Simply Thrilled, Honey. Well, instead you're getting a sensitive and reverential cover of the song that made Edwyn an overnight millionaire. Please see below for A Girl Like You by a little-known band called The Shirehorses*. Enjoy.

Download A Girl Like You by Edwyn Bobbins (The Shirehorses) mp3 (deleted Aug 2009)

* aka Mark and Lard

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Hood winks

Those of us with fond memories of Thunderbirds may have been experiencing deja-vu while reading recently of newly-appointed, chrome-domed Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel...

The Hood

Selby date

I was alerted by yesterday's Guardian that the 26th April 2004 was the 4th anniversary of the death of Hubert Selby Jr., probably best known for his novels Requiem For A Dream and Last Exit To Brooklyn, both later turned into screenplays by the author. His readers and fans may be familiar with his recorded output too, but for those that aren't, and those that are curious to hear Selby's voice (which could be charitably described as "lived-in"), here's a track from Live in Europe 1989. The track is The Queen Is Dead (the working title for Last Exit), and indeed it's a short excerpt from the book that inspired the title of The Smiths' magnum opus. And it's only a day late!

Download The Queen Is Dead Hubert Selby Jr. (mp3) (deleted Aug 2009)

Official Selby site

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Haig convention

Saw Paul Haig live on Sunday.

Saying it like that makes it sound like an everyday occurrence; on the contrary, it was his first full gig in nineteen years. Given his new-found status as a name to drop, I half-expected a room full of nubile Franz Ferdinand aficionados; disappointingly, the room was full of thirty- and forty-somethings with thinning hair (your correspondent included). Haig himself, however, looked terrific; while most post-punk heroes making a return to the live scene are barely recognisable husks of their former selves, one suspects that Haig, like Richard Jobson, Gonnie Rietveld and a few others, has a portrait in the attic that is slowly aging while he gets younger. Okay, I'm exaggerating slightly, but they're all remarkably well-preserved.

You'd have forgiven the man for having a few first-night nerves. Not a bit of it; he seemed ebullient. The set was an extremely short and sweet eleven songs, with no encore, performed by a tight backing band (actually Haig's side project The Cathode Ray), and included two Josef K songs (It's Kinda Funny and Sorry For Laughing, natch), as well as recent single Reason, Justice, and Something Good. No Big Blue World or Heaven Sent, sadly, but after nineteen years away, the audience knows better than to push its luck.

What I hadn't expected was how funny he was. I always thought of him and his former group as intensely serious- in fact, I'd read that Josef K never talked to the audience, and I didn't get the impression that his solo gigs were laugh-a-minute gag riots either. I actually wondered why the prankish and terminally unserious Billy Mackenzie considered him a suitable musical accomplice for much of his final years. Well, now I can see. It wasn't exactly amiable banter with the audience; it was more like a Goons monologue or a Reeves and Mortimer sketch as Haig essayed various voices, impressions and gnomic utterances (actually, now I come to think of it, I had also read that Malcolm Ross and Haig traded Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin routines on stage...). Example: after the first song, and possibly apropos of the palatial splendour of the venue, he channelled the late Frank Butcher and blurted "Point o' lager and a whoite woine for the lie-dee" in a very passable cockney accent. Later in the gig he mused to no one in particular "Do you prefer a bourbon or a garibaldi?" (this time as Miss Jean Brodie). Later still: "Dirty boy! Go to bed!" (a west Scotland accent)- whatever was he talking about here? Can anybody enlighten me? Suffice it to say he had me laughing.

He plays Nottingham and London later this week, with sojourns to Glasgow and Dunfermline also pencilled in for May, so for a top post-punk comedy turn, don't be vague- ask for Haig.


Ghost Rider

Download Paul Haig Nitemute (mp3) from Cinematique 3 (deleted Aug 2009)

Buy CDs

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ready steady Kook

While I'm at it, now that The Kooks have released an album entitled Konk, will the 80s NYC no-wave group Konk reform to release an album called The Kooks?

It's happened before of course:

David Bowie

Nick Lowe

Lazy Madonna

Is it just me, or does the new (rubbish) Madonna single sound like the new national anthem for a former Soviet state (say, Uzbekistan), as commissioned by a crazed energy oligarch, and remixed by the Black Eyed Peas?

Just me then? O-kaaayyyy.

Did I mention that it's rubbish?

Hear for yourself here. (and see Maddy on top of a Triumph 2000)