Friday, December 30, 2011

End of Year Round-Up 2011

Borag thung, earthlets. For the sixth consecutive year, we present the Irk The Purists look at the highlights and lowlights of the last 12 months. Zarjaz!

Best gig

Well, a narrow field this year, seeing as I hardly attended any gigs. Rock 'n' roll, eh?  (Though I did see a mesmerising performance of classical Indian music in an Edinburgh church a couple of weeks ago.)

Despite encroaching middle age, Mrs. Irk and I did manage one day of live performances, at London's Wireless Festival in July, and the acts ranged from passable to stellar. The former included Chromeo (who would have been great at 10.30 at night- unfortunately they were on in broad daylight, battling the wind and drizzle at 4pm) and Katy B (on a mission, yes, but only towards mediocrity). Slightly better was Ke$ha, who I'd mentally written off as the poor man's Lady Gaga, but who actually won me over with her sheer abandon, ripped tights and largely female band. At 6pm The Streets were (was?) their (his?) usual self, a self I'd got to know well after accompanying Mrs. Irk to various concert appearances over the years, and the crowd moshed accordingly. (How long did he manage to drag out that farewell tour, by the way? It seemed to last all year.) So, Mike Skinner would have got a qualified thumbs-up, were it not for the theft of my wife's mobile phone from her bag during the performance, a theft that only became apparent as The Streets left the stage, and which put something of a damper on the rest of the day. The Aphex Twin performed admirably at 7pm , but we sat outside the tent unable to summon up much enthusiasm for the proceedings. When the headliners, The Chemical Brothers, came on stage at about 8.30pm, we wandered over but my wife's mind was clearly elsewhere. I determined this at about 9.15pm, when she declared "We'll just stay until the Chemical Brothers come on, then we'll go, eh?" It was with a heavy heart that I informed her that we'd actually been sitting watching the aforementioned act for the last 45 minutes. I have to admit my mind was elsewhere too (though I at least was cognisant of who we were watching); I was wondering what would have happened if we'd gone to see Battles in a smaller tent rather than The Streets on the main stage. No doubt we'd have seen a slightly less exciting gig (and subsequent reviews confirmed this. But Battles attract a slightly less thuggish audience than The Streets, and I'd wager that Mrs Irk would at least have kept her phone, and we'd have enjoyed our day out slightly more.

Luckily, the best act by far appeared before the phone theft put the kibosh on proceedings. and that act was Janelle Monae, who had stormed it at Glastonbury a few days previously. Despite appearing at the distinctly un-funky time of 1pm (she was the first act on the bill, incredibly, below Chromeo and Katy B-- I predict she'll be headlining in 2013), Ms. Monae tore the roof off, as the youngsters of today would have it. Actually there wasn't a roof, just grey Hyde Park skies, but I gather this "roof" they speak of is only a metaphor anyway.  And within five minutes she made you forget you were outside on a dull July day with a few hundred early-risers; instead you were transported into her black and white Wondaland.  Seeing Janelle Monae live is like seeing Prince, Morris Day, Stevie Wonder, Cab Calloway, Trouble Funk (the extended, ellided 15-minute sets) or Little Richard at the height of their powers, and at various times she resembles all of these. I didn't really see many acts this year, but even if I'd been out every night, I don't think I'd have seen a better gig than this one. You can get a good idea of what I saw below:


Cesaria Evoria, Bert Schneider, Jeff Conaway, Bobby Robinson, Amy Winegums, Richard Hamilton, Pete Postlethwaite, Heavy D, Saddam Hussein, Christopher Hitchens, Gerry Rafferty, Andrea True, DJ Mehdi, Ken Russell, Loleatta Holloway, Billie Jo Spears, Russell Hoban, Sidney Lumet, Osama Bin Laden, Basil D’Oliveira, Jane Russell, Vaclav Havel, Harry Morgan, Nick Ashford, Bert Jansch, Liz Taylor, Mick Karn, Joe Frazier, Steve Jobs, Peter Falk, Clarence Clemons, Gil Scott-Heron, Elisabeth Sladen, Sylvia Robinson, Kim Jong-Il, Martin Rushent, Poly Styrene, Jackie Leven, John Barry, Jimmy Savile, Jet Harris, Smiley Culture, Jerry Lieber, David Croft, Len Ganley

Best TV

In the absence of Mad Men, I enjoyed Hugo Blick's bleak The Shadow Line, with its who's who of British acting talent, and of course The Apprentice and Strictly continued to provide vicarious thrills (and just how big was Mohammed's "David Byrne" suit in Junior Apprentice? Are we sure he was 16? Did anyone check his birth certificate? He looked and acted about 12).  The Killing was alright, but I'm not sure it justified the 20 hours of my life it took to get to its conclusion. And am I the only person who thinks the Danish police methods (albeit fictional) leave a lot to be desired?  I got the feeling that once Lund had placed everyone in Copenhagen under arrest (and she'd certainly arrested a fair few suspects before releasing them uncharged in the first 18 weeks of the show), she'd get the right one eventually. If British police arrested and released a dozen suspects for a crime before eventually, by a process of elimination, settling on the right one, I rather thank they'd be facing a public enquiry rather than awards and acclaim in the broadsheets' arts pages.

The best TV show, though, snuck right in under the wire at the close of the year. Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror was thought-provoking, well-made telly with high production values and nuanced acting, and in a TV landscape littered with police procedurals, cookery shows and structured reality (TOWIE, Desperate Scousewives), it stuck out like a diamond in a slurry pit. Three separate, unrelated peeks into the lives of people in parallel universes, their connecting thread seemed to be our reliance on technology and its propensity to hurl us all towards dystopia (more cynical readers may see the ongoing existence of this blog as further evidence). He's acknowledged his debt to The Twilight Zone, and  I hope this latter-day Rod Serling gets a recommission, because there are precious few stand-alone TV dramas being made right now, and even fewer as stylish and clever as Black Mirror.

Best TV-related mash-up 

Best music documentary

Nice effort by Martin Scorsese, I thought, but sorry Martin, you've been pipped to the post by Sheffield documentary maker Eve Wood. Her The Beat Is The Law followed up her earlier Made In Sheffield (which took in The Human League, Artery, ABC, Heaven 17 and Cabaret Voltaire) and looked at the years after the miners' strike, when industry declined and Chakk took advantage of the city's empty spaces (and MCA's generous advance) to kickstart Fon studios, without which there'd have been no Krush, no Funky Worm, no Age of Chance, no Warp Records, no Pulp in the charts (possibly), nada. A great documentary, and a lovely 2-disc set with extended interviews and never-before seen Pulp footage; the story of the how the latter came to be discovered is worth the price of the DVDs alone.

See more and buy it here.

Best Album

A strong field this year, with the return of The Beastie Boys, great dubstep-inflected albums from King Midas Sound, Zomby and Jamie Woon (as well as the good but not great debut from James Blake), blissed-out wonky pop from Washed Out (though I thought it was not quite as good as his debut 2010 mini-album) and an interesting debut from Rustie- more please.

Whitehouse's William Bennett managed to unite the critics in universal acclaim (whereas Whitehouse had divided the music press into those who derided them and those who loathed them) with his Afro Noise album (released under the Cut hands moniker), and deservedly so.  In swapping the faux-menace of grown men shrieking about rape and serial killing over synth drones, for genuinely menacing wordless voodoo electronics, Bennett has grown closer to his stated aim of producing a visceral, bodily reaction in the listener. Recommended.

Long-time readers will know that I'm a sucker for female voices combined with electronics (cf. Alison Goldfrapp, Roisin Murphy, Ladytron), and so it shouldn't be a surprise that Class Actress's Rapprocher was very nearly my best of the year. It certainly contained some of the best songs of the year, and the album's first three tracks are terrific. But unfortunately after a cracking start, the album flags a little in the middle, though it rallies for a strong finish. So 4 stars, but not the full enchilada.

Variable quality of tunage kept Class Actress off the top spot, which this year is occupied by Destroyer's ninth (!) album Kaputt.  Who hell they?  Apparently, one Dan Bejar of Canadian band The New Pornographers, plus various mates.  After enjoying Kaputt, I went back and explored the band's previous oeuvre (thank you, Spotify) and was underwhelmed. It was well-made indie pop but somehow unengaging. Kaputt, though, is a different kettle of fish altogether; lush, romantic, a little like Avalon-era Roxy Music, as others have pointed out in reference to the reverbed brass arrangements. To my mind, though, the sax, flugelhorn and trumpet on the album (probably synthesised- the sleeve notes refer merely to "instrumentation") resemble most of all the plaintive work of the great John Gatchell, the trumpet player on Soft Cell's Torch.  If you like any or all of the Pet Shop Boys, Moose (and I will get around to giving them their due, I promise), The Aluminum Group (ditto), or any of the artists on Le Grand Magistery records, you'll like Kaputt.

Best single

Do we have to? When any song ever recorded and digitised is eligible for the charts (and I notice that Merry Christmas Everybody by Slade made it to no. 37 this year with no promotional push whatsoever)? See my comments from last year.  Well if you insist, let's plump for, ooooooooh [covers eyes, puts pin in hand], this one! Ah yes, Tog by Colourmusic. Gets straight to the point, repeats for 4 minutes, doesn't outstay its welcome and exits swiftly. Job done!

Thanks for keeping the faith. See yous in 2012.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

And as it's Christmas, how about Nona Hendryx (ex-Labelle) and Graham Parker (ex-The Rumour) collaborating on a little ditty called Soul Christmas? It was on a 1994 Parker single that also featured the Scrooge-ish Christmas Is For Mugs, but as far as I'm concerned it's difficult to be cynical about the one day in the year when you're allowed to drink Bloody Marys in your undies at 10am. And so, Christmas Is For Mugs won't be getting played at Irk the Purists Towers this year, while Soul Christmas will. It's just below, so you can play it too.  Excelsior.

Download Soul Christmas by Graham Parker & Nona Hendryx mp3

2011 Round-Up next week....

Left filed

A big shout out to the good people at who have keen keeping me extremely entertained over the past few months with superb posts (and uploads) highlighting many unjustly forgotten groups (Clock DVA, Test Dept, Slab, Chakk) and labels, in particular Fetish and Illuminated.  The recent posts featuring the Northern Lights audio magazine, of which I was previously unaware, were particularly welcome and informative. Highly recommended. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Torah Torah Torah

I quite like this.  More former purveyors of ITV indie come good (cf. Bombay Bicycle Club).

Mullah Lite

Another Eno related tune? OK, since you've asked nicely.  And slightly rare, in that it was included on the original pressing of My Life In The Bush of Ghosts, but was missing from subsequent pressings, due in part to protests by over-zealous religious nutcases who thought that the dynamic duo (David Byrne & Brian Eno, in case you didn't know) were being somehow disrespectful.


Download Qu'ran by Brian Eno & David Byrne mp3

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Jam Science

'Maybe I can make the people of England forsake their new-wave records and rush out to buy Fela Ransome-Kuti?' Eno ventured optimistically: 'It's a beautiful music- it's so thrilling to me, I could work twenty-four hours a day on this music. it's rhythmically sophisticated in an interesting way; it's perfect for dancing because it leaves holes in all the right places...You listen to this and you can't help but think, "What do we have? The fuckin' Jam!"'
(Brian Eno to Cynthia Rose of the NME, 1980, quoted in On Some Faraway Beach, p. 337)
Ironically, the new Paul Weller single, Around The Lake is rather good, and arguably no less relevant that Eno's latest offerings on Warp. And while it doesn't necessarily break any new ground in music in general, it's light years from Weller's usual leaden output, owing nothing to any Faces (Small or otherwise), instead seemingly taking its cue from the theme to Fight Club.

Eno's You Know

Half Man Half Biscuit's oeuvre (see below) includes a pin-sharp skewering of the nineties rockist cliché that was the Eno Collaboration.  Which brings me, in a DJ-like segue, to David Sheppard's biog of Brian Eno, first published a couple of years ago, and which I've just finished reading. I only started it last week, and not a couple of years ago, incidentally. Sheppard (a sometime member of Ellis Island Sound along with Pete Astor of the Weather Prophets and The Loft) has a curious writing style, as a friend correctly identified. His sentences can run on for inordinate lengths, so that occasionally by the time you've got to the full stop, you've forgotten the subject. The book is incredibly lop-sided, too, with the vast bulk of its 440-or-so page devoted to the years 1972 to 1981: in fact, the 28 years of Eno's life from 1982 to 2008 (the year of publication) are relegated to the final 90 pages of text.  Finally, the book is riddled with errors, whether factual, homophonic or otherwise. Examples? Well Link Wray becomes Link Ray; hands are rung; seeds are sewn; and Kansai Yamamoto is written out of history as Yohji Yamamoto becomes the designer of Bowie's stage costumes in 1973.

All of which may lead you to surmise that I didn't enjoy it.  On the contrary, the book was thoroughly entertaining, was well-researched and I did learn a lot as well as having some of my preconceptions questioned. I learned, for example, that Eno had produced the earliest studio sessions for Television (although their collaboration went no further), and that Eno also planned to work with Aswad in the 1970s (though this too came to nothing); also, that Colin Newman of Wire was once mooted as the producer of U2's The Unforgettable Fire.  Furthermore, I learned the provenance of the name of New York nightlife staple The Mudd Club (Samuel Mudd was apparently the doctor who treated Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth). And really, you have to love a book that opens with a quotation from one Homer Jay Simpson- "Rock stars- is there anything they don't know?"

Much of the book is given over to Eno's frequent collaborators, from Phil Collins to Fred Frith to David Byrne, Robert Fripp and Harold Budd. One name that crops up frequently is that of Jon Hassell. Very much his own person, with a career that pre-dates Eno's by some years (he appeared on the original Terry Riley recording of In C, for example), his solo and other work hasn't been overshadowed by his work with Eno (compare Daniel Lanois).  Hassell's so-called "Fourth World" style of composition is showcased to great effect on this track (though his remarkable, muezzin-like trumpet-playing is absent) It's taken from his 1990 album City:Works of Fiction, and although there's no direct Eno input on the album, it was released on Opal Records, the label set up by Eno and his wife/manager Anthea.  OK, the sound is admittedly so "of the era" that future musicologists will probably be able to pinpoint the exact day it was recorded (as well as the designers of the Japanese jackets the musicians were wearing at the time), but it's still a remarkable piece of music, one that betrays the influence of Eno but isn't in thrall to him.

Download Voiceprint (Blind from the Facts) by Jon Hassell (mp3)

Monday, November 28, 2011

King Biscuit Time

One of the most insightful and perspicacious articles I've ever read on any musical topic ever is here. Taylor Parkes absolutely nails the appeal and import of Half Man Half Biscuit, seeing past the lazy depiction of the group as a post-punk Grumbleweeds. A must-read.

Ken Russell R.I.P. 1927-2011

Monday, October 31, 2011


And seeing as it's Hallowe'en....

Counter force

Straight outta Northern Ireland, by way of Simon Raymonde's increasingly relevant Bella Union label, it's Cashier no. 9. Very much liking this.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Living Colour

We've had the Colourfield, we've had Field Music, so it was only a matter of time before Colourmusic turned up. Luckily, they're pretty damn good, so we're not going to resent their unimaginative band name. This is Tog, which I believe may be the current single, but it's so damn hard to tell these days.  Incidentally, that looks like a hell of a party.

With Friends Like These...

Brooklyn's hottest combo, apparently. I'm liking this very much, and now that ESG seem to be on another hiatus, this will have to suffice if you're looking for a funky percussive NYC female outfit .  They're called Friends. Who knew that Rachel, Phoebe and Monica had such great voices?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dust Junky

And one more from the vaults, if you'll indulge me.  Staying in New York, 1984 this time, the only solo choon from Rick Rubin (it was on an ace Tommy Boy compilation LP).

Machine head

And fast-forwarding to 1985... MCA and Burzootie's Drum Machine.

Liquid Asset

Staying in New York, c. 1983... I had no idea that this song had ever had a video commissioned.  Enjoy...

Celluloid (out of the) Closet

They're back. God alone knows why, when the music business is on its knees, but if it's good enough for Michel Esteban over at Ze.... yes, Celluloid, the most diverse and prolific record label of the eighties, has decided to reform, reissue and, apparently, release new material (no pun intended).  I doubt that Bill Laswell will be coming back, but if they can coax Anton Fier out of retirement, I'd be a very happy bunny. See more here...

And you can hear Jean Karakos talking to Ross Allen below. If you can ignore Ross's constant "Yeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeah", it's a pretty good interview.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Black magic

I've mentioned the amazing Small Black here a couple of times before- they're apparently part of the appallingly-named "chillwave" scene (as Alexis Petridis says, this moniker presumably decided upon after a long struggle to come up with a worse genre name than "shoegazing").  Anyhoo, they've created a little mixtape which I stumbled upon recently. Though, as is the modern mode, this so-called mixtape is just ones and zeroes rather than chromium dioxide cassette.  (Incidentally, does anyone else have a nostalgia for type I, II, III and IV cassettes, Dolby B, Dolby C etc.? I seem to remember that type IV was "metal", the apotheosis of tape manufacture, and that you hardly ever saw type III tapes. And that Dolby A was only around for a short period before being superseded. No? Just me then. Digression over...).

So, this mixtape is here, and it's already on heavy rotation round our gaff.  While the Small Black team's mixing skills aren't going to give DJ Shadow any sleepless nights, the song selection is first class.  The unofficial re-rub (hey, down with the kids!) of Nicki Minaj's Your Love is particularly fine, and any body that can also put it together with Visage, Tim Buckley, the Durutti Column and Oneohtrix Point Never is always going to get the thumbs-up from Irk The Purists.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


I'm going to have to revise my opinion of Sinead O'Connor too.  Her music's sometimes OK, sometimes a little too strident. But her personality...ecch.  If you'd looked up "humourless" in the dictionary, you'd have seen a picture of Sinead.  Or so I used to think.

Then I was pointed towards this blog post.  It outlines Sinead's trials and tribulations over finding a man, and is a plea for a date. And it's terrifically funny. I particularly liked the lines:

  • Must be very "snuggly". Not just wham-bam.

  • Must be wham-bam.
See?  She's got timing too.  Sinead, I take it all back.  Though I still think you murdered Nothing Compares 2 U.  

Indian Summer

I've had to revise my opinion of Bombay Bicycle Club in the last few weeks (otherwise known in these parts as "Doing a Jack Penate"). For many years, on the few occasions I've deigned to think about them, I had them pegged as basic landfill indie.  And yet, somehow (like The Horrors), they've produced a third album that's a quantum leap for them in terms of quality and ambition. The video for their new single Shuffle, looks a little bit like outtakes from The Inbetweeners (great film that, BTW), and does little to dispel the image I posited above. But the You've gotta love any band that can turn Chas and Dave piano into something vaguely funky. And you gotta love any song that gets to the chorus in 25 seconds.

The album, moreover, is a total grower, by turns soaring, majestic, intimate and moving. Whoulda thunk it?  The band can turn their hands to many varied styles and tempos and tackle each with aplomb, from the Coldplay meets Lotus Eaters of How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep (crazy name, crazy guys) to the motorik groove of Beggars. I'm impressed.  It's apparently produced by Ben Allen, who's produced Animal Collective and Gnarls Barkley.  While I'm loath to ascribe all of the album's success to him, he's clearly got the boys (and they are boys- just look at that video. They look and act about 15...) to up their game.  In fact, Animal Collective are clearly the main inspiration for the dazzling variety on the album.  Go buy, or listen below.

Listen to Bombay Bicycle Club – A Different Kind Of Fix on Spotify

Buy here

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cherry Coloured Funk

Also great. Available on Toddla T's new album on Ninja Tune:

Incidentally, both Mute (who released the S.C.U.M. single below) as well as Domino, Wall of Sound, 4AD, Thrill Jockey, Warp, Southern Fried and countless other labels whose artists have been mentioned on Irk The Purists) were badly affected by the arson attack on Sony/PIAS's warehouse in Enfield. You can help them continue by buying their products in digital or physical format. Man

I was wondering what Valerie Solanas was up to these days...Do you get the impression they may have heard a Ride LP or two?  Despite that, I'm really enjoying this.   Now you too can enjoy Amber Hands by S.C.U.M. Oh, and the single apparently features mixes by Sonic Boom and Silver Apples. Yes, the Silver Apples.

X Factor

He's been mentioned more than once here (most recently in January of this year), but Richard X really is value-for-money. His Black Melody site is always worth a look, and today it directed me to the below, which I'd never seen before.  It's hilarious, apparently the result of Kelis not being available for a TOTP appearance. Instead, viewers were treated to the Blackburn wunderkind rattling a cocktail shaker, and a load of rollerskaters.  The bit where he looks momentarily into the shaker, before pouring out the contents and then winking at the recipent, is improvisational comedy genius. And it bolsters Alexis Petridis' contention that "if Peter Kay scripted a show about a hip dance producer, you suspect that he would closely resemble Richard X."

Sunday, July 31, 2011

I Am Curious Yellow

And talking of coming late to the table, I only just noticed yesterday when watching TOTP2  (27+ years after the event) that Holly Johnson was sporting a yellow handkerchief in his back pocket while performing Relax on the original Top of the Pops back in 1984, a few weeks prior to its infamous ban.

This is something that escaped my attention when I was a teenager.  It's clearly also something that escaped the attention of the Beeb at the time too, and if anyone had realised its meaning, it would have made the subsequent furore created by Mike Read look like a vicar's tea party.

Shore thing

They used to say that an intellectual was someone who could hear Rossini's William Tell Overture and not think of The Lone Ranger.

I only mention this as I've just come back from a holiday and finally got around to reading The Beach by Alex Garland (only 14 years after everyone else).  And for some reason I couldn't read a paragraph without thinking of Pure Shores by All Saints.  Consequently I've had the tune in my head for the last 3 weeks.

To exorcise said tune (not that it's a bad one, far from it), here it is for you, in its remixed "2 Da Beach U Don't Stop" format. Ahem.

Download Pure Shores (2 Da Beach U Don't Stop Remix) by All Saints mp3 (deleted Dec 11)

Bald truth

I've been greatly enjoying the Balding Celebrities website, in part for its subject matter (male celebs who feel the need to hide thinning hairlines by means of wigs, weaves, combovers etc.) and in part for the cool, measured writing style of its author, who appraises the offenders in a detached and objective style (the Norwood rating giving a slightly scientific air to the whole exercise).  Unless he's talking about the various thinning footballers of Chelsea FC, when a note of invective creeps in.  Just read his take on John Terry. I laughed out loud at the comparison with "transexual Lucy Smith".

On a similar note, the story of Stephen Ireland, which not being a football fan I'd never heard, has to be one of the funniest and saddest things I've read this month.  Boys, eh?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Scott Free

An unscientific survey of the popular works of the late Gil Scott-Heron would conclude (based on mentions of his songs in his obituaries) that his fan's top 5 would go something like this:

1. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
2. The Bottle
3. B-Movie
4. Lady Day and John Coltrane
5. Johannesburg (or possibly Grandma's Hands)

Of course, over an erratic but productive career, he was responsible for far more than this narrow selection, but these were the ones the journalists and the radio DJs kept returning to.

Shame, really, that they missed my personal favourite. Re-Ron was released in 1984, and while it treads the same ground as B-Movie, it has far more bite, more urgency both musically and lyrically. The production (by Material) may sound a little dated, but, for me, drum machines, Fairlight stabs, and noise will always embody angry political lyrics far better than the narcotised jazz that accompanied much of Scott-Heron's 70s and 80s output (something that Public Enemy implicitly understood 2 years later).

Keep The Kustomer Satisfied

One more while we're in the American experimental section of Blockbuster? Go on then. Here's (a fantastic quality rip of) Kenneth Anger's Kustom Kar Kommandos:

Brakhage Point

More American avant-garde, and a tribute to Maya Deren, by Stan Brakhage:

Afternoon delight

A small hiaitus, due to various factors, some of which I'll be mentioning in future posts. But normal service (i.e. lame puns, sub-standard writing, erratic posting, extravagant assertions and occasional insights) will soon be resumed.

In the meantime, though, here's a few things that have been keeping me amused/bemused over the last few months. First up, some American avant-garde cinema: Maya Deren's Meshes Of The Afternoon.

And, after she totally rocked Glastonbury and Wireless, here's Janelle Monae's Deren-referencing video for Tightrope.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bell Tolls

Came across this fantastic site, for any fans of cartoon art in general, or Steve Bell in particular. It features some early, pre-Guardian, strips for various IPC comics, and while it doesn't display any of the political bite of later work, the absurdism and distinctive, hard-edged style are already present and correct.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

Vampire Weekend

I’m not a Goth. Or an Emo. I’m not into vampire fiction, and I’m not a teenager (even though I frequently act like one- it’s not an endearing trait). So I’d never heard Bat For Lashes and Beck’s collaboration Let’s Get Lost (which apparently appeared on the soundtrack of Twilight: Eclipse) until this morning, when I caught it on Shaun Keaveny’s breakfast radio show. But it is utterly fantastic; sparse, beautiful, full of yearning, not a note out of place. Funny how music can utterly transport you, even when you’re munching on a bowl of Shreddies. Thanks Shaun.

No, it’s seriously good. And the reason it was being played is that it’s being released on 7 inch vinyl as part of Record Store Day. Which is tomorrow. Please give generously.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Apollo Screed

For anyone who enjoyed this post of last year (there may well be someone; hope springs eternal), I draw your attention to the excellent Being Neil Armstrong, presented by the author of Moon Dust, Andrew Smith. It's on the BBC iPlayer until next week, so take a look.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

One Saliva Bubble

When I bought the 1997 Coldcut CD Let Us Play, one of the most intriguing tracks (on an album stuffed full of intriguing tracks) featured one Salena Saliva. I'd never heard (of) her prior to this, but the track, Noah's Toilet, was knowing, aloof and sonically inventive. Plus, it featured a drawling, bored, clearly posh and very articulate female voice, and long-time readers will know I'm a total sucker for these (cf. Vivien Goldman, Deborah Evans-Strickland, Janine Rainforth...).

Salena appeared again on the speedily-issued follow-up to Let Us Play, entitled Let Us Replay (see what they did there?), this time narrating the Tale of Miss Virginia Epitome. Blimey, I thought, she's one to watch. And then I promptly forgot about her.

Until last week, when she popped into my head again (God knows why) and I decided to try and catch up with her career. Between then and now, she's dropped the pseudonym, and goes by the name Salena Godden. She's completed an autobiography of sorts (though it doesn't seem to have been released yet), contributed to various short story anthologies, and in 2007, released an album, Hunger's the Best Sauce, as one half of Saltpeter- the other half being Peter Coyte (and did you see what they did there?). Their salty ouevre picks up where Godden and Coldcut left off 10 years earlier, with tales of drinking, drugging and casual sex, and the perils therein, though the music has shifted from downtempo electronica to uptempo ska-pop. Godden's lyrical dexterity and raunchy humour are still intact, especially on tracks like Your Wife and I'm Not Gay But...

So, recommended then. Check 'em out on Spotify here. See Salena performing poetry below. Am I allowed to say "phwoar"? No? Ok, sorry.

And buy her books here...

Download Noah's Toilet by Coldcut and Salena Saliva (mp3) (deleted Dec 11)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Black day

Long-time readers may recall a post from a few years ago, when I flippantly remarked that in the future, Z-grade party music would need to be accompanied by more and more explicit imagery in order not just to sell, but to penetrate the clogged mind-space of our Twitter-addled kiddies. I mentioned in passing, too, that the nudge-nudge, wink-wink style of most of today's MTV and VH1 fodder would soon edge closer and closer to outright pornography as music plummeted towards its auto-tuned nadir.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it gives me no pleasure whatsoever (well, only a bit) to announce that that day has come to pass. In the last two weeks music has bottomed out as a creative force, and videos have abandoned their former faux-modesty and embraced out-and-out stroke material. It would be perfect if these two events had occurred simultaneously in the same song and the same video. Unfortunately for fans of synchronicity, I'm talking about two separate things. If the creator of the song in question had commissioned the director of the video in question to create a clip to accompany their musical offering, well, I'd have melted down my CD collection, disconnected from the internet and enrolled at a monastery to await the End of Days, which could surely only have been a matter of months away.

The song, then, as you may have guessed, is Rebecca Black's Friday. Having heard this described by the Twitterati as the worst song ever, my guard was immediately up. Really? The worst ever? Clearly you haven't heard any Gay Dad, I thought. But while this blog's raison d'être is (in part) to challenge widely-held cultural assumptions (what, you thought it was just mp3s and witless drivel?), in this case the majority are correct. The song is absolute dreck by any standard. It's witless, charmless and cynical. Metre, scansion. rhythm have all been jettisoned. Its lyrics are trite and banal. It's below.

This fresh hell was superceded, though, by my discovery of the latest video from Skepta. No, I hadn't heard of him before today, either. He's from Tottenham, apparently. But I suspect you're going to be hearing a bit more about this young man in the next few weeks. When every other video on VH1 is borderline pornography, and when even Rihanna and Lady Gaga are adopting the sort of mise-en-scene that was previously the preserve of the likes of Eric Prydz, I guess it was only a matter of time before someone pushed the envelope. Skepta has not only pushed it, he's torn it into pieces and shoved it up the postman's jacksy. I'm really not sure whether this is a good thing. A large part of me applauds the lack of hypocrisy in posting real sex, as opposed to the stupid faux-titillation on offer from every other R&B star (particularly Lady Gaga, who uses sex to sell her image, but is actually, as far as I can tell, deeply uninterested in the act). Another part of me, though, thinks "must we fling this filth at our pop kids?", a phrase bandied around jokily in the NME for many decades but now strangely apt. The music that accompanies this bacchanalia? Well, it's OK. It's no Rebecca Friday, but still...

If you haven't yet seen the Skepta video, there's a link below. Be warned, it's definitely NSFW. It's also unsuitable for Daily Mail readers, grandmothers, people of a nervous disposition, children, your husband, your wife. Once again, NSFW. I'm still not sure what I think (though there's a definite feeling that the genie's out of the bottle and that things won't be the same again), but as someone on another forum commented, "We've come a long way since Bohemian Rhapsody."

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Conway Twatty

I was perusing Grazia the other day, as is my wont, when I came across a lovely photo of that incorrigible gadabout Henry Conway, son of "disgraced" Tory MP Derek Conway and a man for whom the adjective "flamboyant" may have been coined. Henry describes himself as a "party promoter". God help us if war ever breaks out.

"Would you still love me if I looked like Henry Conway?" I wondered aloud to my wife, who was hovering in the kitchen. "What do you mean 'if'?"she shot back without missing a beat. Touché.

Anyways, it suddenly struck me. Have Henry Conway and Jewish-conspiracy paranoiac Julian Assange ever been seen in the same room? I think we should be told.



Sunday, February 27, 2011

Omni Science

How about some 90s drum and bass? No? Tough luck.

Omni Trio were, confusingly, one man, Rob Haigh. Their (his) orchestral take on drum and bass wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but I quite liked it. And he hasn't appeared on Strictly or Come Dine With Me.

Hear them below.

Download Omni Trio Rollin' Heights (more strings attached mix) mp3 (deleted Dec 11)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Reggae Reggae Source

Just a few more days (if you live in the UK, or have access to a clever VPN) to catch the BBC's recent Reggae Britannia. And you should. A familiar story, perhaps, but still well told in an exemplary manner by Pauline Black and others.

The great thing about these [insert genre here] Britannia documentaries is that they're so engaging that even the stories of the genres with which you may be unfamiliar (or less inclined to admire) are still worth catching. The early Folk Britannia was a case in point.

Don Letts, about whom much has been said already on this blog, cropped up once again in the docu (as did an unrecognisable Jerry Dammers). Not that I'm complaining; Letts is such an insightful, clear-headed and astute correspondent (mercifully immune to the religion- or ganja-induced hyperbole of some commentators) that he's a pleasure to listen to. Back in the day, he compiled a 2-LP compilation for Island, entitled Time Warp Dub Clash. Actually, that's not quite true; the first LP was originally released in the early 1980s, compiled by Paul "Groucho" Smykle and Trevor Wyatt, and entitled Raiders of the Lost Dub. It featured tunes from the likes of Black Uhuru, The Paragons and Steel Pulse. The second, Letts-curated LP was a 90s riposte to the first, and featured the then-current Mad Professor, Dub Syndicate, Jah Shaka and Alpha & Omega. The whole kaboodle was wrapped in a day-glo Intro sleeve and purchased by listeners including yours truly, which is how you're now getting a brief snatch of Black Uhuru below.

Download Black Uhuru Who's In The Tomb (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner) mp3 (deleted Dec 11)

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Down to the Wire

I've been having a dilemma. Should I go and see Wire tonight here in Auld Reekie?

You see, I've made it a point of principle not to see re-formed bands. This wasn't something I had to consider up until relatively recently, but the deluge of bands that have regrouped for one last lucrative hurrah has now reached critical mass. However, it's sometimes not easy to see where the principled gig-goer should stand. I mean, which bands really have split up and which ones have been on extended hiatus? Some bands are a no-brainer. Scritti Politti? Of course. Go see. They may have huge gaps of 10+ years between releases but they've never split up. And as the band is essentially G. Gartside plus A.N. Others, I'm guessing they never will. Magazine? Computer says no. Luxuria, Barry Adamson's solo career, Howard Devoto solo albums... yes, they definitely split. The Fire Engines? No. Win? No. Nectarine no. 9? Yes.

Some bands are more difficult to categorise. Duran Duran? They've had a lot of line-up changes, members in, members out, shake it all about. But they've never actually split up. So I suppose they'd be in. Though as I wouldn't pay to see them, the point is moot.

So, Wire, then. They've had three major periods of activity, as far as I can tell: the EMI/Harvest years up to 1980 or so, the Mute years of A Bell Is A Cup, Manscape etc., and their present purple patch after a break of some 12 years between The Drill and Send . They've lost Bruce Gilbert in recent years (and as The Beekeeper he was part of one of the most memorable gigs I ever saw, a freebie at London's Tower Records with the Balanescu Quartet: but that's another story) and all the members have a huge extra-curricular workload. But did they ever split up? The jury's out. Though yet again, the point is moot, as since I've been prevaricating the gig has sold out. There's a lesson there, I think. Principles can be overrated.

Wire's current album, incidentally, is excellent. You can listen on Spotify here. Some older stuff? How about Finest Drops, from IBTABA? You got it.

Download Finest Drops by Wire (mp3) (deleted Dec 11)

Visit Pink Flag, Wire's official website

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ferry Peculiar

I love the names of tribute bands. I don't rate tribute bands themselves but I love their names. No Way Sis, Pink Fraud, Lez Zeppelin, AC/DShe.... the best name on the circuit is undoubtedly the Pretend Pretenders. I remember a radio feature a few years ago (possibly on Radcliffe and Maconie) where listeners had to come up with names of invented tribute bands. The winner, and possibly the ne plus ultra of tribute band names, though they don't exist, was (Not) Was (Not Was).

I thought I might have trumped it the other day when I was idly musing about further possible band names for theoretical tribute bands. Serendipity, and thinking about internet proxy servers, led me to theorising my own tribute band. I'd call them Proxy Music. You see what I did there? Proxy Music. Ha! I'm a genius.

Well, bugger me, a quick Google search tells me that Proxy Music already exist, doing covers of Ladytron, Remake/Remodel and In Every Dream Home a Heartache to crowds of baying middle managers and wedding parties up and down the south-east of England. Good luck to them. Dammit.

Anyway, I still have other stage names up for grabs. If any butch female comedians with a penchant for tinned steak pies wants to call themselves Faye Bentos, please speak to my agent.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Girls Allowed

A quick perusal of the excellent Black Melody site this morning alerted me to the fact that it's ten years this month since the pseudonymous Richard X (or Girls on Top as he was even-more-pseudonymously known at the time) released a hard-to-find and completely unsanctioned seven inch single that, IMHO, became the most influential sound of the noughties. Being Scrubbed and its b-side I Wanna Dance With Numbers took the now-familiar but then novel trope of combining the vocals from one track with the melody from an entirely different track, usually from a different genre, to produce a new track that, in some instances, transcends its constituent ingredients.

This, of course, led to a further single by Girls on Top (Warm Bitch/We Don't Give a Damn About our Friends), legitimate production work by Richard X for artists including hits from Liberty X and the Sugababes, Kylie's Blue Monday performance at the Brits and a whole slew of artists, producers and DJs (step forward Eddy Temple-Morris, the Freelance Hellraiser, Osymyso and hundreds more) jumping on the mash-up bandwagon. While the mash-up industry is still going (notably in the guise of one Mark Vidler, aka Go Home Productions- two recent productions are below), its apotheosis/nadir arguably arrived in 2004 with DJ Food's 40-minute masterpiece Raiding the 20th Century, to which I'll return in February.

I mentioned transcendence. For me, the B-side of Being Scrubbed (I Wanna Dance With Numbers) manages to achieve this, somehow finding a seam of melancholy in Whitney Houston's original by marrying it the insistent, minor key melody of Kraftwerk's Numbers. In doing so, Richard X managed to change the song's subtext entirely, from a joyous shout of euphoria to a lonely plea of desperation. You can hear for y'self below.

Download Girls on Top- I Wanna Dance With Numbers (mp3) (deleted Dec 11)

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Taking the Mick

Sad news that ex-Japan and Dali's Car bassist Mick Karn died this week aged 52. It's almost as sad that Japan's critical stock is pretty low, and that they tend to get lumped in with their contemporaries Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran and the Thompson Twins. In fact they were far better and far more serious than any of the above, though this fact tends to get obscured by discussion of make-up and hairspray.

For a start, has there ever been (with the possible exception of O Superman) a stranger top 5 hit than Ghosts? Minimal and disturbing, it sounds like it was written by a 70-year old man. That the resigned and world-weary lyrics were written and sung by a guy barely into his twenties just adds to the group's astonishing achievement. Listen closely and you can hear a group disillusioned with the success they'd struggled for seven years to achieve.

Similarly incredibly, they're one of the few bands that started off commercial and then got less listenable, more obscure and more interesting as they went along, both as a group and as solo artistes. They started off on the cover of Smash Hits and have ended up (individually at least) on the cover of The Wire. It's a long way from their neo-glam beginnings to appearing on Top of the Pops to collaborating with David Torn, Holger Czukay, Derek Bailey, Keith Rowe, Christian Fennesz and others. Most groups do it the other way round. Their career trajectory was and is akin to Westlife being asked to curate Meltdown 20 years in the future, right after recording with DJ Spooky and Matmos.

A couple of tracks to remember them by? OK, since you asked so nicely. All of them showcase Karn's supple, liquid bass-playing, incidentally. How about their cover of Marvin Gaye's Ain't That Peculiar from their 4th LP, Gentlemen Take Polaroids? And Talking Drum from their swansong as Japan, Tin Drum? And, as a bonus, here's Pocketful of Change from their pseudonymous Rain Tree Crow reunion LP from 1991, on which they were joined by Michael Brook and Bill Nelson.

Download Ain't That Peculiar by Japan (mp3)

Download Talking Drum by Japan (mp3)

Download Pocketful of Change by Rain Tree Crow (mp3) (all deleted Dec 11)