Sunday, 28 August 2011

Julian Cope - "Metranil Vavin"...

Woke up with Julian Cope's "The Greatness And Perfection Of Love" stuck in my head:

And have been thinking, not for the first time by any means, what a great record World Shut Your Mouth is.   Poppy almost in spite of itself, quirky and strange (not least of all in the chosen instrumentation which features a lot of Casio, back in 1984 before it was 'cool' ; ) , his first solo record has some quite wonderful songs on it.

The beautiful "An Elegant Chaos":

The excellent up-tempo "Quizmaster":

The demented rock of "Kolly Kibber's Birthday":

And then there's "Metranil Vavin".  Quite an odd piece of pop to begin with, once you consider the song's subject matter it becomes bizarre.  Originally a Teardrop Explodes song, recorded during their final sessions and later appearing on Everybody Wants To Shag...The Teardrop Explodes (still one of the best album titles ever), Cope re-recorded it for his debut solo outing.  In the first part of his autobiography, 'Head On' (this and the follow-up, 'Repossessed', collected in the one volume, are highly entertaining.  I've recommended them to friends who had no idea who Julian Cope was and they loved them), Cope speaks of a Russian dwarf poet named Metranil Vavin.  Ever since reading of this character in 1995, I enquired in every poetry shop I came across, only to be met with puzzled expressions or blank stares.  Finally in 2006, master sleuth scythrop tracked down some information for me, for which I was and am very grateful.  An explanation here.

"Metranil Vavin":

Thursday, 18 August 2011

ABBA - "I Am The City"...

I LOVE this song.  Its lovely soft sounds, its light joyous feel.  The intro and chorus' descending chords complimented by the stagnant, yet ascending, octave synthbass joined at the end by the higher synth line, and "I am the city" each word going up before the chords travel down again.

One of the 7 songs ABBA recorded for the follow-up to The Visitors, which was provisionally entitled Opus 10.  It was Steve Horry playing the song "The Visitors" last night at Keith TOTP's album launch that reminded me of this gem.  "The Visitors" itself is an often-overlooked synthpop classic.  Strange, dark and moody, with a wonderful sweeping (and what surely must be difficult to sing) melody.  Bursting into the wonderfully poppy depiction of a mental breakdown in the "crackin' up" section.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Smashing Pumpkins - James Iha songs...

James Iha wrote two of my favourite Smashing Pumpkins songs (and co-wrote "Mayonnaise", one of my all-time favourite songs).  Sadly YouTube is blocking them in the UK, but hopefully these other links will work for everyone.

"Blew Away" is simply gorgeous.  Light, ethereal, even the blissed-out guitar ending is weightless, these soft heights enveloped by the sadness in the joy, and the joy in the sadness.

Hear in on Spotify here.

Live at Budokan, 30 June 2000:

And "...Said Sadly"is another perfect expression of joy and sadness wafting through one another.  A b-side for "Bullet With Butterfly Wings", it is a duet between Iha and Nina Gordon of Veruca Salt.  Lovely vocals from both, radiant in a delicate dream, over a melancholically lazy musical backdrop that builds as its pleas grow more and more passionate.  Beautiful.

Video should be here for those in countries it's not blocked.    Spotify link here.

And "Mayonaise", co-written with Billy Corgan from Siamese Dream.  One of the loveliest pieces of music I've ever heard, and lyrics so reminiscent of a certain time in my life.  Listening to this song for me is often devastating.

Live at Budokan, 30 June 2000

Acoustic from Earphoria

Smashing Pumpkins - Songs From 'Twilight To Starlight'...

I woke up very early this morning after going to bed rather late.  As I lay there trying to get just a little more shuteye, not for the first time this week Smashing Pumpkins' "In The Arms Of Sleep" became stuck in my head. So I thought I'd post about the songs from the second disc of Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, 'Twilight To Starlight', that I've always really loved but that weren't singles and I haven't heard mentioned a lot.

"In The Arms Of Sleep", its lovely minor brushed feel, shuffling home alone of an autumn evening, sweeping one's feet through the sidewalk leaves, its soft major turnaround.

Billy Corgan performing an acoustic version at a bookstore in Paris, 30 September 2010:

"Beautiful" is just that.  A floating, dreamy meditation on love and desire, the heart rapturously overflowing on the "Don't let your life wrap up around you" outro.

An excellent stripped-down version of it from the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., 6 January 1996:

And on the other side of the spectrum is "Bodies".  An astounding rock number, its rhythm insistent and propulsive while the instruments sound like they're at war.  Jimmy Chamberlin attacking the drums, the guitars bursting with ammunition, and Billy Corgan shrieking as his very soul is wracked with longing.

A great live version from the United Palace Theatre, NYC, 7 November 2008:

Monday, 15 August 2011

Supergrass - "Za"...

"Za", lead-off track on Supergrass' Life On Other Planets.  This song is just SUPERAWESOME.  Its light, spacey intro, then a stroll through the chords of a perfect goodtime rock song, and its sentiment - "Face, such a beautiful face. But time waits for no one. So why don't we get it on? Yeah."

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Jackie Trent...

On Friday night I played a gig in Brighton with Socialist Leisure Party (Andy Hitchcock and Kevin House from Action Painting!, which was pretty awesome as I was a huge Sarah Records fan).  A great night all around, I really enjoyed playing and Socialist Leisure Party were great, a really propulsive force, the noise and melodic sensibility combining in just the right way.  Before I went on, the DJ played an amazing dark soul 7" and I'm so glad I went and asked what it was as I've been listening to Jackie Trent (who I hadn't heard of before) ever since.

"The Only One Such As You":

"Send Her Away":

"I Heard Somebody Say":

"If You Love Me (Really Love Me)" (apparently a remake of Edith Piaf's "Hymne A L'Amour"):

Friday, 5 August 2011

Bedhead - "Disorder" (Joy Division cover)...

I've heard very few Joy Division covers that I've thought were good/worth doing.  And none I can remember except this one*.  Those songs were so perfectly rendered to begin with, the idea seems almost pointless.  But I've always been mesmerized by the brilliance of this version of "Disorder" from Bedhead's 4-song EP.  The sound is gorgeous, filling a great amount of space and giving the simultaneous illusion of a large amount of activity and a very slow shadowy procession imperceptibly oozing towards its conclusion.

The Joy Division original (one of my all-time favourite songs):

*Actually, Still (John Frusciante, Flea, & Josh Klinghoffer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) do a faithful live rendition of it:

They did a whole gig of Joy Division covers at Spaceland, October 10th, 2000, which is very good.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Wire - 'Our Swimmer' 7"...

I've always thought Wire were what pop should sound like.  Melodic, sonically and lyrically interesting, with music, words and subject matter consistently coming from unique perspectives.  And the way the songs moved within themselves, creating atmospheres both familiar and unexpected, whilst also moving in, to me, decidedly pop directions.

The 'Our Swimmer' 7" contains two gems (later tacked onto the 'Document And Eyewitness' CD) recorded in 1979 but not released until 1981 on Rough Trade.

A-side, "Our Swimmer":

And my favourite of the two, the lovely "Midnight Bahnhof Cafe":

And I often think their "Map Ref. 41°N 93W" is THE BEST POP SONG EVER WRITTEN:

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Flaming Lips...

People go on about The Flaming Lips' "The Soft Bulletin", which I must admit I've only ever heard in passing, and it's good, perhaps it's time to sit down and give it a proper listen, but to me 'Transmissions From The Satellite Heart' was always their masterpiece.  Such a quirky, spacey but decidedly POP record.  With one of the best drum sounds I've ever heard ("Slow Nerve Action" especially).

The excellent pop single "Turn It On":

And the lovely moody album closer "Slow Nerve Action":

"Slow Nerve Action" live at London's Astoria Theatre, October 23, 1999:

And then of course there's the live version of "What A Wonderful World" with Nick Cave, from Lollapalooza 1994, starting off 'nice' but ending up quite moving:

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Donna Summer - "This Time I Know It's For Real"...

Donna Summer's "This Time I Know It's For Real".  Such a joyous song, filled with the relaxation that comes from contentment, but still with a driving, tight pulse.   I love the guitar figure and synth chords.  The chorus is simply uplifting.  And her use of the word "megaphone" inspired me to use it in my own "World's End".  Co-written with Stock Aitken & Waterman, it was the first single off Another Place And Time.