30 July 2011

Whale - Hobo Humpin' Slobo Babe

Ah, the second 'remix' CD single
Seeing as I have been listening to a lot of Creedence today, I was expecting one of their tracks to turn up.

However, this is called 23rd Track, not 34th Track, so we settle with reality, not fiction.

I, yet again, fall back to the 90's - can't remember the year.  Just remember the great tune....

What?  You don't?

If that bass line doesn't end up sampled in the next 5 years, I'm a dutchman.  Talk about instant classic.  Cymbal heavy percussion, with some great Chili Pepper style guitar in the background, but it's the chorus that breaks it through into something worth owning. And like all great 'classic rock' tunes, it starts with the chorus.  Don't believe me?  I can't seem to find it, but there was a great interview with Dave Grohl talking to Kyle Gas of Tenacious D - and he just lists the 'classic rock' tunes that start with the chorus - hundreds of them.  In short - If you want a hit - start with the chorus.
When it comes back in after her reverb heavy vocals on the verse, the music mellows out to a silence and her voice changes to a screaming shout to usher in the chorus again.  Nice.

What about that video though?  Only two people worth asking about 90's rock videos.... ROCK - indeed.
But what is the song all about?

Well - according to YouTube comments (and that is always a bad place to start...):
"In a nutshell, it's about a woman-a "sex addict"-who prowls the beach(and other places)looking for homeless guys to have sex with. The implication is that the woman is not-for unspecified reasons-able to find sufficient sex partners in "conventional" settings. She is looked upon with some measure(!) of disdain by her partners, yet they CONTINUE to return to her bed again and again("You always came back for MORE!")."

Who cares?

The single was of the era when it was still worth buying on CD-single - why?   Tons of great remixes from such greats as Roni Size, Dust Brothers and Monkey Mafia.  Every one of them a genuine piece of work rather than the lazy generated ones of more recent times.

Does it remind me of times, people and places?  Yes, but only of regret, stupidity and self loathing. So sod that.  Great tune, great bassline - just a shame they couldn't make a decent album or career out of it.

29 July 2011

Richard Berry - Louie Louie

The original, original version
If there was ever a tune that defined rock and roll music it is Richard Berry's defining three chord wonder.

If you have ever thought you were in a band and didn't play this, you weren't in a band.  Full stop.

Frank Zappa apparently once fired a guitarist because they couldn't play it.  I find it hard to believe as it really is as simple as it sounds.

Let us enjoy the original...
Those great vocals following the bass line - magic - "Da da daaaa. Da da. Da da daaaa. Da da."

It was written in 1955, released in 1957 to a moderate success.  The song tells of a Jamaican Sailor returning home to see his love. However Richard Berry made only $750 for it, selling all the rights away to the record company boss.  It can be said this has been the most expensive move in history.
Why?  Well, you recognise the tune, don't you?  Yes, of course you do.

Why do I know this? Because it has been covered over 1,500 times - apparently the most covered song in history, beating The Beatles "Yesterday".  No idea why that has been covered so much, it is sentimental pap in my book.

The version you may have heard is by the Kingsmen....
Obviously, those aren't the lyrics - you can hear the real ones in the original, but that is one of the factors that made it so famous.  People misheard the Kingsmen's lyrics.  And if you are a paranoid American in the 1964, you write to a Kennedy.  And someone did - saying they heard obscene words, wanting it banned.  After 2 years (yes, two whole bloody years) the FBI concluded that it was - "unintelligible at any speed".
Was it on purpose? Was there hidden meanings? No, of course not, it was just recorded cheaply.

The low-fi recording and cult classic status of the song after such a rumpuss meant that it had credentials. Mostly impressing upon the punk and 'underground scene'.  Iggy Pop, himself used to cover it with the Stooges, albeit with his own lyrics.....
There are even more offensive versions out there.  The most offensive bit of his version for me is changing "Lou-ee Lou-eye" to "Lou-ee Lou-eee".

It inspired the Kinks to write "You Really Got Me", which was written whilst trying to work out the chords (For the record - AAA DD EEE DD).  Paul Revere covered the Kingsmen's version and everyone from The Beach Boys to Motorhead have given it a go on record.

However, the real version that turned up as the 23rd Track today is by Frank Zappa.  Of course it was. Not the song Plastic People which is based around a minor deviation of the riff but the version played on organ.  Not any old organ though..... The organ in the Royal Albert Hall....

Being overawed by the surroundings he sent Don Preston up the wall to the magnificent Pipe Organ and when seated orders him to play Louie Louie.  A true 'great moment in pop'.  Since that event the organ has been locked up when visiting musicians come and play.  Every rock musician knows the story and I know that Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips was looking at it longingly when I first saw them a few years back....

The root of rock and roll, I stated.  And it is - from the drums, the simple structure, covers with poor recordings, punk rock and rebellion.  Louie Louie has rightfully been the soundtrack....

28 July 2011

Delayed - again

Another delay....

The excuse this time - building all 6 of these buggers and trying to fit the collection in.

Well, it is now full and only holds half.  And they are in no particular order. There is a Jazz section, compilation section and 'freebie' CD section.  I think getting it to some resemblance of order may take months.....

The kitchen also looks a lot better.  And that needed work too.

As for the guitar....

Yup, she is both pretty, ugly and evil.  A Fender Jagstang - a mixture of a Jaguar and a Mustang. My first short scale guitar, set up with very heavy bottom strings and 10's on the top.  It took a bit of work to get the action down - that bridge is a right old beast of 50's technology - very odd.

But seeing as you are here for music - what shall I leave you with for fun?

How about some Fourtet?  We had a track of his a few weeks back, but it wasn't his best.  Try this one for size....

Nice and mellow opening track.  The rest of the album flows just so beautifuly after it.

In other updates, I mentioned how I didn't really give new music a chance, and was a little down over how much of my music is of a certain era.  To remedy that, I have signed up to Rough Trade Record's "Record of the month club".  Each month they will send a brand new album which they rate above all others - a great idea for an introdution to new music.  Let's see if I agree.  I will definately review this "new album" a week after it lands, each month.... 


24 July 2011

The Cardigans - My Favourite Game

Wow. Could even find the single art today...
More 90's pop....

I do seem to have a certain period of music in my collection, don't I?  Well, instead of doing anything productive this weekend, I visited bloody Ikea, and spent today piecing together chairs and half a dozen huge CD racks.  CD racks so massive, I am going to have to clamp them into the wall and to each other for support.

It seems rather apt that the 23rd Track today also hails from Sweden...

There really is something about this song that says 'driving' isn't there?  It was even used as the opening soundtrack for the Playstation game "Gran Turismo 2". Even more strange coincidence as the album it came from was also called "Gran Turismo".  Marketing to the Playstation generation, perhaps?
The video was banned as it "promoted unsafe driving".  Like anyone was stupid enough to copy this....

The CD single therefore had the super new technology of having the video on it too.  In a real stretch of crappy 90's tech, it also played randomly one of four different endings to the video each time you played it.  What were they?  Ha!  Press play....
What a great tune - a solid beat, background strumming holding the tune together with the bass and that really simple use of a melody line on a distorted guitar, just like Deus yesterday.

However, if you know me, you know what I love about this track.  Yes, Nina Persson.  Is it because she is blonde?  Is it because she is Swedish?  A little.  Mainly because her voice captures both the innocence of younger female voices along with the experience of years. It's clarity cuts through the strong drumming and loud guitars like cold steel.  Live?  Don't mind if I do....
So, just to re-iterate; it is not the fact that their singer is a drop dead gourgeous, square jawed, Swedish blonde in leather trousers that I like this song.  It doesn't hinder it's appeal, I admit, but it is a quirky up-tempo rock/pop classic.

The band, themselves are just great too. Their previous album "First Band on the Moon", is one of those rarities of being superb all the way through, even the strange down tempo version of Black Sabbath's 'Iron Man'.  They, like all bands of that era have taken long sabbaticals during which they have released solo albums, worked with charities, and quite endeeringly for me Nina sang at a tribute to Captain Beefheart.

It just goes to show, the good captain even could inspire what is essentially empty disposable pop.

Back to the Ikea racks.......

23 July 2011

Deus - Little Arithmetics

I even found the single - years later

So am I writing a tribute to Amy Winehouse?
No.  And I won't.  
If you want one - here it is;
"Singer.  Second album was considered a classic. Believed all the hype that was fed to her.  Took far too many drugs, ruined her brain, her body, then her voice. OD'd. Waste of talent and oxygen."

If there is one thing I hate, it's talent that goes to waste. 

Luckily for us all, sometimes talent does get into the recording studio as well as the bar.

What the hell do the hippos have to do with anything?

Anyhow, I first heard these chaps, whilst on holiday.  The room had MTV when they still played music videos.  It must have been about 1996 and this started playing and I hit record on the VCR.  I could tell immediately that it was a great chune.  

It starts ambiently plinking around before heading into a pleasant shuffle, the organ keeping a drone going on in the background.  The chorus changes around nicely, with all the instruments allowing a pause at the end.   Then spectacularly a massively distorted guitar plays a melody.  The same verse - chorus structure again, but ending with an elongated pause, and the distorted guitar melody comes in full time, albeit at a lower volume.  However what sets it apart is the ending.  

A full on fuzz/feedback chaos of multiple guitars, both in strict control and flying all over the place as though they accidentally stepped on every distortion pedal in their collection.
So they can kick it live too....
But who are they?  Well I spent no time looking them up and don't even own the album.  I found the single years later in a charity shop - it hit 44 in the UK charts.  Bought it and loved it still.  I didn't want to risk knowing anymore about them.  I didn't want to hear any of their other music.  This single was just so perfect, with it's innocent vocals and mish mash of folk, ambient textures and punk ending that I didn't even want to hear where they could fail. 

Think of a beautiful model.  She looks perfect.  The last thing you would want is to meet her.  She could have a terrible accent, be a moron, or hold appalling views.  If you find a fault it would colour your opinion of her outward appearance of beauty.  

I feel the same way about Deus. All I do know is that they are from Belgium, lived in cities far apart from each other, so practicing was difficult and broke up in 98, reforming a few years later with a different line up.  

None of which I care about when a pop song can be so ephemeral and inclusively perfect.

14 July 2011

Mogwai - Hunted by a Freak

From the album - Happy Music for Happy People
Another odd one for Track 23 today, but a great find.

Back "in the day" when iTunes didn't really exist (certainly not on PC) but message boards did, I was a member of the "Cook'd and Bomb'd" one - for fans of Chris Morris and Peter Cook.  Fairly good at the time, a real community, where people would meet and thanks to a similar sense of humor, had a fair amount in common.

One of the threads was 'What are you listening to RIGHT NOW?' An interesting concept, and there was a link to this as a video - in fact, this one....
Now that is strange.  If the bands name (after the best actor in Gremlins) wasn't weird enough, the title of the song was still the left of strange, that video pushed me over the edge....

What?  What the heck?  OK the animation is crappy and there were no lyrics, but that video takes the biscuit. It was nearly ten years ago...

At the time, I didn't go and buy the album, or even remember the band, it has to be said.  However I kept seeing their name mentioned.  It was when I was listening to Sigur Ros many years later when I remembered Mogwai, realising they were very similar.  Dirge-like instrumental rock chunes with lots of dynamic.  So I hit Play.com up and grabbed this album. And then another one, and another one.

All fairly similar, if I am to be critical, but fills a gap, and certainly satisfies my musical interest.
But who are they? Is it really guitar based or is it all samples?  Maybe this will help...
So yes, they do really play their instruments, and also use a fair bit of electronic kit.
So who are they?   Four Glasgow chaps with an innate ability to perform seemingly complicated dynamic rock 'instrumentals' which in real terms may well be incredibly simple.  Their gift with 'song-writing' is the ability to know and understand the difference between soft and loud.

WTF am I on about?  Well, most music, certainly all modern pop is performed at one volume.  That particular dynamic has been ruined for us all - have a look at this graph (first time I have written that and not been paid for it...)
The one on the left shows how the volume changes in a song recorded decades ago - massive changes in the loud parts and the soft parts - think Pink Floyd's The Wall or Tubular Bells (which was the first 'popular' recording pressed on thick 'virgin' vinyl - usually reserved for high end classical recordings).  On the right is a modern pop song.  Why the change?  Radio airplay.  I won't go into it, but there is a fantastic article on it here. The guy knows what he is talking about and has a great attitude too....

The main reason that I find the music of Mogwai so appealing is that it still retains this original dynamic in its production. The soft bits are soft and the loud bits are loud. And most importantly, you as a listener are allowed to tell the difference.

That and of course the songs are excellent. That arpeggio was still rolling around my head hours after I had heard it. Always a good sign.

13 July 2011

Deerhoof - Milk Man

Yes, that is the oddest album cover I have seen.
No full review today - it's 11 and I am knackered.

In it's place, not the 23rd Track (didn't even get to 23 today....) but the wonderful San Fran band that opened for Dinosaur Jr and The Flaming Lips on 1st July in Ali Palace. 

Odd, yes. Definately not 'popular' music, but something ephemeral, yet precise and beautiful.  One of those albums you do have to give the full '3 listens' to in order to begin to appreciate and understand.

No video - not popular enough to merit that - and probably the sort of band I would have written off as "hipster" had I not listened to it repeatedly in order to familiarise myself with their material before the big gig.

A pretty little voiced lady quite delicately sings the lyrics, whilst playing bass.  What the lyrics are, I have no idea - not looked them up, and if you have read many of the other write ups, you will know I am not too het up about lyrics unless they really touch me.

What I really like is the soft / loud / louder / soft approach to their tune writing skill.  When those guitars hit, they really do hit.  But they also chime out in a quite opposite style when the tune needs it. There are moments when it all speeds up, or slows down and the musical stylings follow that in a way that most pop music doesn't really care for.

However, live, I was blown away by this chap.....
I think we all were.  On record he doesn't come across quite as drastically as here.  If you are still listening to the first video, stop it and play this one instead. Not the full song, but you get a feel for his pure animal passion for what he is doing. The song starts off with that almost dumb bassline and simple singing.  He is sat there as cool as a cucumber, whipping out an allen key to check his snare and your thought is "Well, he's going to be crap, all I can see is a snare, one cymbal and a bass drum". 

He then forces you to shut the hell up, when you can see what he does with them.

Not only does he pound the living crap out of them, but his rhythm is astonishing. No "1,2,3,4" for this fellow. It's almost as though he is allergic to playing a standard beat.  Even in the gaps where many other drummers would normally play a double timed beat (1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and) he manages to not only quadruple time it, but leave out the count of 3.

He couldn't have made more of a strong impression on the crowd if he had stripped off naked and run around the stage with his genitals on fire.

Even in the quiet sections, he fills in like a hopped up 70's jazz drummer. Beautiful timing and more energy that a bus full of Red Bull. Thank goodness he is in this band.  The bass playing singer was placid to the point of boredom and the guitarists, although technically competent were not exactly a strong stage presence. I've seen a few good drummers, but he proved you don't need a hundred different toms to make a statement (are you listening Terry Bozzio?) you need skill and passion.

Honestly, if I saw that they were playing again, I would go and see them, but only to watch this guy at work...

12 July 2011

Air - Brakes On

Air - the mysterious 'First' Album
Ah, todays 23rd Track was a doozy.  It's superb french easy listening / ambient pop / just a pair of guys "Air".

But it's not from the well known and fantastically popular "Moon Safari".  Oh no, that would be too obvious a choice for well know pain in the bottom and musical fascist, Geej, wouldn't it?

Today is one of the bonus tracks from their EP collection "Premiers Symptomes"

I'll be honest.  Play this whilst you can.  Their record company is one of those that has some poor sap pouring through YouTube videos trying to find copyright infringements in order to stop people enjoying themselves.

So who are they?  A pop duo, a mathematician and an architect, French who seeming love old tech and can play their instruments. You see, they do play them - no over reliance on Macs to organise their music and make it clean.  Just musicianship and taste.  I saw them in London, years ago, with a stage full of 70's organs and improvising away happily for their own fun.  A joy.

What about the tune?  Well, it has a lovely slow build, with distorted low bass until a slow guitar arpeggio marks about a minute of time in.  Then unexpectedly an American reporters voice reports on the Merseysound.  Right as it is ending, a superb addictive bass line rings out as the lead instrument, full of tension, travelling, willing the listener to follow. Being pre-distorted, it is especially good for playing in traffic jams in your car.  It sounds just like those muppets with the £5k sound systems which aren't worth a hundredth of what they paid for it.

Yes, you too can sound like a pleb.

That teeth rattling bass line with it's timing and inherent feel clearly wants to be loved.  It's like a 200lb puppy playing in the fields - it's frisky, simple, playful and could break your back if it wanted to.

In the background "screaming" guitar notes sound out like a foghorn from a guitar Valhalla, warning all who come too close.

It is completely unlike their normal music.  That's because it isn't theirs.  It's a remix of an Alex Gopher track, as is most of this EP collection.

Yes, it's the same track. One of those rare cases where the remix is more famous that the original (Terrorvision - Tequilla, Cornershop - Brimful of Asha)  I can't even find the original on YT.

So, not their track at all, not their style, not even their best track. However, it put them on the map and got their name introduced to a lot of people, leading to their own first album.

However, as I bass my marking on the chune, not the people - still a solid 5 stars for part of the wonderful French electronica disco of the mid 90's....

11 July 2011

Ride - Leave Them All Behind

1992 - and their only Top Ten "Hit"
I've written before about bands that should still be around and should be massive.  In my mind there are four that should be revered by all and sundry - The Beta Band, The Breeders, Plumtree and these fellows - Ride.

It might have come out in 92, but being a little slow, I first heard it on a compilation cassette a girlfriends sister had made.  She was right on almost every track on that C90 but this one shone out....

That's the best sound quality I can find, but at the detriment of length....  The original is nearly 9 minutes long and far better put together than that.....

Here is a live version for comparison....
Starts off a bit like The Who's Baba o'Reilly, before slamming in with a sound not unlike The Cure. However, the music press gave them the genre "Shoe Gazing", refoerring to the fans who danced to their music, seemingly gazing at their shoes. A bit unfair.

And another showing of how giving an artist a genre title can destroy them. With them, the two main chaps, the lead singer (Mark Gardener) and the lead guitarist (Andy Bell) wanted to go different ways. Follow the scene and be popular or move on artistically.  They didn't agree. It got so bad that they refused to have songs on the same side of the album as each other....  Even more petty than the Police in their Coke fuelled excesses of stupidity.

The song, however is another 3 chord wonder.  It goes to show that it doesn't matter how many chords you know - it is how you use them.... Starting off with that wonderful 'tremeloed' organ moving up and down, it then is ignited by the superb  attacking drums, back-beating the intro of the melodic bass line in.  A couple of bars of that and then that beautiful wall of guitars comes in, all at once like a slap to the face.

God knows how many of them are there, but one less would make it seem too few.  A few played backwards for good measure and a great set of lines shaping it with the lead guitar playing a slow line. Well performed, not pyrotechics, but melodic and showing a high level of skill, using distortion, feedback and buckets of delay to excellent effect.

The droning vocals follow the mood of the wall of guitar style, with many harmony lines, especially at the breakdown of the chorus (B to F# then A to E.... Nice)

So what happened to them? They broke up.  Arguments, which thankfully they all now admit were stupid, selfish and detremental to the good of the unit.  Mark Gardener apparently still performs, but Andy Bell (lead guitar) bit the bullet and took a paying job.  As Oasis' bass player.  I remember being dismayed that he had done that.  He is a better guitarist and songwriter that the rest of the band put together.  But I don't blame him.  He tasted the success that eluded them and was due to them 10 years earlier.

I loved it when I first heard it on that C90 from my better half's sister and time hasn't changed my delight when it comes on the iPod. Many songs you relate to people, times and places.  Seeing as that relationship didn't end well (my fault this time) you would think that it may taint my feelings towards this chune, but no.  It remains a firm 5 stars.

06 July 2011

Excuses, excuses.....

Look, life gets in the way.....
I mean, I listen to music all day long anyway, so what is the problem?
Easy - life.

Had a week off, managed nothing.
Bought a new guitar (Jagstang, at last - was in a crappy state, still is)
Saw Deerhoof, Dinosaur Jr and the Flaming Lips (most excellent!!!)
Preparing the house for a new boiler and kitchen (the plumbers may have undercut British Gas by a third but they are messy)

Work is beating me to a pulp, and most importantly, I don't want to turn into that guy.

You know, the one to the left.

I want to get back to this soon - and I will do, but I also need to breathe.
It's 5 past midnight as I write this, and I can't think decently about music in this state

In the meantime, have the music I loved last week - The Flaming Lips - beautiful....