Thursday, 24 September 2015

Young Marble Giants Concert - November 6, 1980

This is lovely, a black and white film of Young Marble Giants playing live at The Western Front, Vancouver, Canada, on November 6, 1980. I'm waiting for permission from Western Front Archive to embed the video here but click on that first link to watch the concert.

After about seven hours total sleep in three days, I flew into London from Boston, MA on Saturday morning and went straight to Martin Newell's London Golden Afternoon gig. It was ace. I was supposed to go out that evening but my body felt like jelly and rest was much, much needed. So I went back to the flat where I'm staying, made myself a large cup of Higher Living Chamomile & Vanilla tea and found this. That combination proved to be exactly what was required. 

I chatted to the legendary Rhys Mwyn recently for my Quietus article on 'Welsh Language Outsider Pop' and he noted: "There's a long tradition of cool bands from Wales. Take your pick but let's say you go back to the Young Marble Giants in 1979/1980. They were absolute mavericks. Their album Colossal Youth was just as powerful as Never Mind The Bollocks. Even though it was minimalist, there was such a power and energy to it."

A good recent piece in MOJO with Young Marble Giants talking about their (initially short) career and now playing at this year's Meltdown Festival curated by David Byrne.

Monday, 21 September 2015

“At last, someone who can write songs”: Martin Newell Interviewed

“If you can’t tempt a man with fame and money, what are you going to do with him? Ignore him, simply enough.” Martin Newell is explaining his situation over a cup of tea in his front room in Wivenhoe, England. With over 25 albums to his name, plus many more songs besides (think of him as the British Robert Pollard), as well as being England’s most published living poet, how come most people have never heard of him?

Martin Newell in Wivenhoe Woods. Photo by Andrew Partridge.

“I mean I love Paul McCartney to death, he’s such a charming man, isn’t he? He really is, he goes around being utterly charming to everyone. Oh right, he’s got all that money, hasn’t he? (laughs heartily) But you know, supposing you don’t want it? All that stuff. Cause I think fame is like a mask that you wear. And once you’ve got that mask on, you can’t take it off. Your dog dies or your missus gets cancer or your children go missing or something utterly appalling happens and it’s like it hasn’t happened to you, you haven’t even got that privacy. So that’s why I’m wary of fame and I’m glad that I didn’t take it. As I got older and it became within reach, I started to study fame in more detail and the kinds of things that happened to people that have got it. The money would sometimes be handy. But I haven’t died because I haven’t had a lot of money. I’ve always had a shilling or two around. I can’t understand how people want so much money all the time. What do you do if you’re Paul McCartney? He must do it because he really loves the music, otherwise there’s no reason for the man to get out of bed, is there? In fact, judging by some of the girlfriends we’ve seen him with, he’s every reason to stay in bed (laughs)


Saturday, 12 September 2015

Say Lou Lou

Female vocals, synthpop & disco, one sweet blonde, one sassy brunette, Swedish/Australian twins with a stellar pedigree (they're The Church frontman Steve Kilbey's daughters), Say Lou Lou have all the right ingredients for an excellent POP band.

I caught them last night at the Brighton Music Hall in Boston, MA. From the moment they took the stage, they commanded it. Equal measures of fun and fierceness in their performance. Elektra (blonde) and Miranda (brunette) each have their own signature style that perfectly complements the other. They looked great and sang with real feeling, their moves and expressions matching the emotions of the songs. They took me to a level of enjoying POP music that I almost forgot I had. 

I was dead tired by the time they took the stage at 10 PM but quickly the exhaustion of the day evaporated and I was moving along with the enthusiastic crowd. Third song, 'Games For Girls', really took things off. I'd heard a few of the tunes before (free download of Free N Losh's remix of 'Nothing But A Heartbeat' at their website), pleasant 'dream pop' (as they are oft described), but experiencing them live really sold me. The songs are ace. An amazing rendition of 'Julian' caused the dance floor to erupt.

They ended with 'Nothing But A Heartbeak', my fave of what I'd heard going into the gig.

And then we gave them their first encore of the tour. Which was 'Better In The Dark'.

And here's 'Games For Girls':

I highly recommend seeing them live.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Linda Lewis - Do You Believe In Love?

Reading about one of my favourite guitarists, John McLaughlin (The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Miles Davis, countless others and solo). Turns out he co-wrote a few POP* songs in the 60s. Here's a very nice soul one by Linda Lewis, 'Do You Believe In Love?', written with Ian Samwell.

The A-side, 'You Turned My Bitter Into Sweet', is very good too. The Discogs page for the single shows no copies for sale and no previous copies sold. I'd love to find one.

There's a new(-ish, 2014) book out about McLaughlin, 'Bathed In Lightning'. Looks great, very thorough. Same for the website there, lots of info. 

*I'm spelling POP in all caps these days, often with an exclamation point at the end. Deserves such, don't you think?

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Songs Of 2014...

This is nearly an impossible task, to rank my favourite songs of this (or any) year. I'm confident of the Top 3, as they had the biggest effects on me. But after that, it's only a loose, ever-changing order. Nevertheless, this should give an accurate picture of what I've been listening to this year. So let's just start with Number 1...

(all quotes from my Quietus reviews)

1. Cleaners From Venus - The Band Plays Delilah

How I love this tune. I fondly recall wandering around Cardiff the day after Martin gave me the new album, listening to this on repeat, perpetually struck by its beauty. "Major key memories slide out from unsuspecting scenes, gathering in a processional to a triumphant chorus where 'the dancers hold each other closer still' and all seems right if just for a moment."

2. Gwenno - Patriarchaeth

Blew me away the moment I heard it. One of those magical Pop experiences, 'POP in all its transcendent glory', the kind that you got into music for in the first place. The joy I felt on hearing the outro of 'Patriarchaeth' ('Patriarchy') was simply indescribable, and one of those rushes one could not wait to feel again.  Unfortunately, the song's not yet online anywhere but you can hear a snippet here. Just buy the album, you won't be disappointed. 

3. Mikey Georgeson & The Civilised Scene - I See What You Did There

This is the version from the live EP, though the original can be found on Blood & Brambles.  Spectacular song all around. A transcendent ripping across the starry night sky.

4. Trwbador - Start Your Car

"The outstanding highlight on their second album Several Wolves is 'Start Your Car'. It's pure cinematic cool with a seductive pulse, picture Ladytron in an opium-hazed driver's seat, propelling you around the bends of long urban tunnels, flashing multi-coloured lights as they speed by, all in slick, slow motion. There's an intelligent, purposeful use of backing vocals throughout the record, and here they're like night angels materialising and stretching across the ether."

5. Gwenno - Fratolish Hiang Perpeshki

 'A song to dance to at the end of the world' - Gwenno

Filled with spectral dance floor magic, "delivered with a power and intensity that we need more of in Pop music." 

6. Cleaners From Venus - He's Going Out With Marilyn

The hook really does its job. In the words of Robert Palmer, it's 'simply irresistible'. I had this on repeat countless times. And those 'ah' backing vocals - ace.

7. Papernut Cambridge - Accident's Children

Such a great laid back rock n roll tune. Killer melodies, honeyed voice, loose loose groove.

8. Guards! Guards! - That Spring

Perfect POP to me. Lovely tune. Great synths and charming voice.

9. Robyn Hitchcock- The Ghost In You

I find it strange to include a cover in such a list, as the song itself didn't actually come out this year. But Robyn's take on this Psychedelic Furs tune is so gorgeous (as is most of his record), I couldn't not include it.

10. Taylor Swift - Style

Can't find the audio to this anywhere online but I'm sure everyone already has the album anyways ; ) There was one week I had this on repeat like 50 times in a row. I actually had to pry the cd out of my car stereo to force myself to listen to something else. It's a great, great, very well constructed POP song. And those pick-up 'and I got that-' lines in the chorus are amazing.

11. St. Vincent - Psychopath

I Love the way this song, especially her vocal, moves.

12. Trwbador - Several Wolves

This song is so badass. How could it not be when it's called 'Several Wolves'? "As throbbing bass cavorts around this shadowy supernatural dancefloor, a lone figure comes to grips with the prospect of extinction."

13. Taylor Swift - Shake It Off

How could this not make the list? It's probably Song Of The Year as far as 'The World' is concerned, and listening back to it now, I'm surprised I don't have it higher. But figuring out where Taylor fits into all this has been a tricky one from the get-go. It is a Superb Pop Song. And so much fun.

14. Robyn Hitchcock - San Francisco Patrol

A gorgeous original from Mr. Hitchcock.

15. Mikey Georgeson & The Civilised Scene - Bringing Rocks Back From The Moon

So nice to see this song get the proper single release that it deserves. An excellent tune and the lyrics are a lovely surreal dash off into the lunar beams, both fun and poignant, in an attempt to make some sort of sense of Mikey's harrowing car accident a few years back.

16. Kylie Minogue - Into The Blue

Excellent Pop tune from Kylie. That chorus is so dang uplifting!

17. St. Vincent - Digital Witness

Thankfully someone's making interesting-in-a-Bowie-esque-way Pop. Great tune.

18. Penny Orchids - Shell Beach

Everything about this is lovely - the changes, Kate's voice, the whole feel. "A beautiful, cinematic dream, with a lovely lazy twist towards the end of the chorus further played upon in the middle eight."

19. The Lovely Wars - Brân i Frân

The Lovely Wars really know their way around a Pop tune (last year's 'Young Love' was my Song of 2013). Here it's that twisting rise through the pre-chorus that really does it for me.

20. Tyson Meade - Buddy Dash

Again it seems to be all about rise, and Tyson's duet with Smashing Pumpkins' Nicole Fiorentino is hundreds of fireworks that just can't wait to BLAST OFF.

21. The Church - Laurel Canyon

Lovely number by The Church. From their very good new album that I need to spend more time with to fully appreciate.

22. Véronique Vincent & Aksak Maboul - Afflux de Luxe

A floating pop dream, reminiscent of Saint Etienne's filmic interludes if they were given a full-on Pop makeover. 

And then there were some discoveries of some absolutely Brilliant songs that didn't come out this year but are very worth noting:

Rita Ora - How We Do?

I was driving back from Cardigan to Carmarthen after a day of hanging out with Nik Turner and his family at the beach at Mwnt. It was my second day of driving on 'the other side of the road' which was still a little thrilling and as Avengers-esque scenery swept by me, this came on the radio. I was jumping out of my skin with excitement. The sheer exuberance it brought reminded me of the all-consuming excitement that my first forays into the world of Pop music held.

Akira The Don featuring Gruff Rhys - We Won't Be Broke Forever (Baby)

This is a great tune. I just love the sentiment. Especially the beautiful hopeful dreamyness of the middle eight.

P.P. Arnold - Everything's Gonna Be Alright

Kevin Reinhardt put this on a mix cd for me this year and it totally floored me. What an incredible Northern Soul tune (co-written by Andrew Loog Oldham) and what an amazing performance/voice.

Life Without Buildings - The Leanover

This is so unique, idiosyncratic, and yet wonderfully POP.

Neon Neon - Dream Cars

How this passed me by I do not know. But it is a perfect perfect tune.