Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Rockets Burst From The Streetlamps - The Cartographer...

I've been meaning to put this up for a while, finally got to it today.  Have a free download of The Cartographer by Rockets Burst From The Streetlamps, our great lost Pop single.

There's also a less distorted version available on the Know Your Enemy: Friends Of The Archenemy Record Company compilation as we could never agree on a final mix.

December 1996. I run into my friend Erin Carey who takes me to a holiday party at The Umpteens' (featuring Don Lennon) house in Allston, MA.  There I meet Keith Uram who I'm thrilled to discover is as into BritPop as I (a rare thing in Boston back then).  The following summer, Erin takes me to The Model (a beloved Allston bar) on a Monday night, where I meet Craig Uram (Keith's twin brother) and Rick Webb.  The new Spiritualized album (Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space) is due to be released the next day but of course we all already had it.  And thus began lifelong friendships.  Later that autumn my sister drops me off at Lupo's in Providence, RI to catch Spiritualized on tour.  I'm on my own but I run into Rick again who invites me to sit with them.  I meet Annie Smidt for the first time.

I'm vaguely aware they have a band.  It had been a while since I'd played in a band.  I was thinking of getting back into it.  Turns out Craig & Keith are living across the street from my sister Jaime and I (Royce Road, Allston) that year, and I'd often see them out walking their dog.  Occasionally I'd ask about their band.  The next summer, after I've graduated from Boston University, I ask again and Craig tells me that they're actually looking for a bass player.  "I can play bass," I tell him.  And soon I'm invited to audition. Only thing is I didn't own a bass when I stated this.  So with some of my graduation money, I headed down to the Guitar Center and bought a beautiful inexpensive Mexican Fender Precision Bass.  A bass I still have and love today.  We rehearsed a few times and then I was off to backpack around Europe for a month and a half (I remember I decided not to take a Walkman with me.  Ever since I could remember, whenever I'd go on vacation, I'd bring a bag stuffed full of tapes.  From the age of 15, I tried to limit it to 40.  But even this was difficult - you never knew what you would want to listen to at any given time.  So I thought of it as an experiment.  What would it be like going without your own personal music for a month and a half?  To be fair, I would be living out of a backpack for all that time so there wasn't much room.  Up until the last minute I toyed with the idea of making just 5 really great mix tapes.  But no, I decided to go without, deluding myself that this would free up my ears to soak up the music of the cities I found myself in.  Needless to say, it was one of THE WORST ideas I've ever had, and the aftereffects lasted months.  I remember going to visit my friend Sia in Paris and when we got to her dorm, being filled with such delight, like a long thirst being quenched, as I sat down at her boombox with her selection of tapes - The Wannadies, The Pixies' Doolittle...)

So yeah, I get back from Europe and we play a gig days later.  Very quickly we started writing songs, coming out of jamming, almost always coming from a bassline I came up with at rehearsal (I'm a guitarist most of all, but I do love playing bass.  Of course a lot of it then ends up sounding like Peter Hook ; )  The first song we wrote together was called Parks & Gardens, which I just listened back to last night and thought it was brilliant.  You can see the Nick Cave influence, who we were all obsessed with at the time, mixed with our love of indierock.  It's available on the Odds & Ends EP which is the bonus disc of our Departed album (if anyone's interested, I'd be happy to send you the mp3s, and I'm sure Rick would send you a cd if there's any left).

Our second song sprang from a bassline I had.  The way I was playing it at the time, it really reminded me of The Sea & Cake.  When I heard what Annie did with it, I was really pleased and surprised.  I had not expected it to turn out so poppy (this happens with almost everything I do ; )  It was a lot different from the rest of the songs and the rest of the stuff we were continuing to write.  In the winter of 1999, when I was becoming a partner in The Archenemy Record Company, we decided to release it, coupled with All The Same (an old song of Rick's, again that didn't quite fit with the others), as a 7".  Sean Drinkwater recorded it at his house, the first time he and I were to work together.  I had a lot of fun making the guitar noises on All The Same.  A video Rick made for it:

It's strange thinking back to the beginning of it all.  It was a really great time (the making of the album, whilst a lot of fun in places, is quite a different story, with us all sneaking into the studio independently to put down things we'd hope the others wouldn't catch.  But a story for another time).  We'd rehearse 3 or 4 times a week, in a loft spaced they rented with a bunch of people.  But a lot of that was sitting around drinking wine and talking about music, film, and literature.  I learned about a lot of cool stuff.  I still feel indebted to Craig for introducing me to The Divine Comedy and Opal's Early Recordings.  

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Andrea Davis (Minnie Riperton) - You Gave Me Soul...

Jess from The Hall Of Mirrors mentioned Minnie Riperton in our interview and I'm very thankful that she did!  I'll write more on Minnie later but right now I'm OBSESSED with this early b-side (to the ace Lonely Girl) she did as Andrea Davis.  This song is Amazing - Joyous & Glorious!!!  Just when you think it can't get any better, the next section comes along to do just that, and as they cycle back into each other it's a huge wave of Pure Ecstasy.  "Give it to me, Don't stop!"  Yes YES!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Favourite Album Of Each Year Since 1970...

‎1970 – Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band – Lick My Decals Off, Baby
1971 – David Bowie – Hunky Dory
1972 – David Bowie – The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
1973 – Funkadelic – Cosmic Slop
1974 – Brian Eno – Here Come The Warm Jets
1975 – Parliament – Mothership Connection
1976 – AC/DC – High Voltage
1977 – David Bowie – Low
1978 – Public Image Ltd. – First Issue
1979 – Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
1980 – The Damned – The Black Album
1981 – Van Halen – Fair Warning
1982 – Duran Duran – Rio
1983 – Van Halen – 1984
1984 – Echo & The Bunnymen – Ocean Rain
1985 – The Jesus & Mary Chain – Psychocandy
1986 – Van Halen – 5150
1987 – The Jesus & Mary Chain – Darklands
1988 – Siouxsie & The Banshees – Peepshow
1989 – The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
1990 – Depeche Mode – Violator
1991 – Red Hot Chili Peppers – BloodSugarSexMagik
1992 – The Jesus & Mary Chain – Honey’s Dead
1993 – Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream
1994 – Guided By Voices – Bee Thousand
1995 – Pulp – Different Class
1996 – The Afghan Whigs – Black Love
1997 – The Elevator Drops – People Mover
1998 – Saint Etienne – Good Humor
1999 – David Devant & His Spirit Wife – Shiney On The Inside
2000 – Fosca – On Earth To Make The Numbers Up
2001 – Panamaformat – Das Hättest Du Früher Haben Können
2002 – Club 8 – Spring Came, Rain Fell
2003 – The Real Tuesday Weld – I, Lucifer
2004 – The Divine Comedy – Absent Friends
2005 – Saint Etienne – Tales From Turnpike House
2006 – Mr Solo – All Will Be Revealed
2007 – The Real Tuesday Weld – The London Book Of The Dead
2008 – The Indelicates – American Demo
2009 – Mr Solo – Wonders Never Cease
2010 – The Indelicates – Songs For Swinging Lovers
2011 – Jah Wobble & Julie Campbell – Psychic Life

I found this INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT.  In fact, it took me almost 2 weeks to complete, having to search out, aside from the available lists, other albums I'm fond of from each year.  It killed me to have to choose some over others for a definitive "favourite album of the year".  This was apparent even from 1971.  Do I really like Hunky Dory better than Maggot Brain?

I found 1987 particularly hard, having to choose between Mad, Bad & Dangerous To Know, Hysteria, You're Living All Over Me, and Earth Sun Moon.  Then I remembered Darklands!  In 1989 there was Auotomatic, Technique, and The Stone Roses.  3 of my favourite albums!!! 

1991 as well - Green Mind, The Real Ramona, God Fodder, Loveless, Nevermind.  1992's runners-up were Doppelganger, Laser Guided Melodies, Slanted & Enchanted, and Henry's Dream. 1993 had So Tough, Songs of Faith & Devotion, Suede, Modern Life Is Rubbish, Laid, Gentlemen, and Very.

1994 was almost impossible choosing between Bee Thousand and Dog Man Star.  Plus there were Tiger Bay, Promenade, Parklife, Let Love In, and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. 

How about you?

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

David Lee Roth's videos...

I showed these to Soph last night and she commented, "This explains a lot about how you became the way you are".  I love these songs and I love these videos.  They were SO EXCITING when they came out.  And I don't think anyone's ever made videos this great before.  A very bizarre world, that's all David Lee Roth.  I can't think of anything else they have to do with or relate to so it must be all that man's unique vision.

First up, Van Halen's Hot For Teacher.  Which I think is the greatest video ever made.  Such a killer song too.  Eddie once called it "a boogie beyond anything" which pretty much nails it.  The drumming and guitarwork is still incredibly impressive.

Then Dave's first two solo videos, before we knew he'd left VH.  I had that Dave TV shirt when I was 10 : )

California Girls:

Just A Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody:

Yankee Rose.  The video that made me want to start playing guitar.  When I saw it in July 1986 I thought Steve Vai making his guitar "talk" was the coolest thing ever.

Going Crazy:

Monday, 13 February 2012


In the autumn of 2003, when I was living in London for the very first time, I went over to Frankfurt to play at an Apricot Records clubnight en route to meeting up with an old friend in Amsterdam.  The Apricot night was fantastic, I really enjoyed myself.  I shared the bill with Holger from Panamaformat.  I was VERY impressed with his songs, it was just him on a nylon string guitar (the album is quite orchestral).  It was great hanging out with him and the Apricot gents as well.  Holger told me that the name Panamaformat came from himself and the other member of the band, Marek, each saying the first word that came into their head and then combining them.  Johannes very kindly gave me the Panamaformat cd (along with some of their other releases, which was ace), Das Hättest Du Früher Haben Können.  I highly recommend you seek it out, a magnificent pop album.  From the bio on the Apricot site:

With each song, they refined: frenchy melodies and playful German lyrics (very Holger), British taste and Italian elegance (very Marek), Preussian pride and Swedish ingenuity (very Jean) ... assembling bits and pieces together in a `song-bricolage´ - until the first album was completed with a pretty nonchalant care that is so typical for each of them.

I remember my friends Liisa and Rick coming to visit me shortly after I got back.  I put it on in the morning and so impressed was Liisa, she bought it later that afternoon at the Rough Trade shop on Talbot Road.  It is a shame I can't find Milchkaffee anywhere on the internet for it is in every respect a perfect pop song, one I really love.  But here are the songs on YouTube.  Incredibly good stuff.

Bourbon Stranger:



Sunday, 12 February 2012

R.I.P. Whitney Houston...

I loved these three songs when I was a kid and still always smile when I hear them, reminding me of that time.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Primal Scream - Ivy Ivy Ivy...

Primal Scream's Ivy Ivy Ivy has been getting stuck in my head the past couple of days (ever since I put on Higher Than The Sun [A Dub Symphony In Two Parts] again to hear Jah Wobble's bassline).  It is arguably my favourite thing by Primal Scream, a great rock n roll song.  Lead-off track on their self-titled second album, which I don't think was ever released in America.  I found it on holiday in the UK in 1998/99.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Public Image Ltd. - Poptones...

PiL's Poptones is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I know.  It blew me away the first time I ever heard it (especially coming after the "difficult" first 3 songs on Metal Box), I remember sitting there in awe as it played.  It's lovely - hypnotic, haunting - very unique, I've never heard anything else like it.  The guitar and bass parts are mesmerizing.  I've been reading Jah Wobble's autobiography (an excellent read) and he gives a slightly different version of the inspiration for the lyrics that I've heard for years (both are told here).  He also says that it's Keith Levene playing drums on the track, which I didn't know.  Wobble himself played drums on The Suit.

The live Paris Au Printemps version:

Live on The Old Grey Whistle Test:

And then there's this "infamous" performance (along with Careering) on American Bandstand in 1980.  Good anecdote on the YouTube page.  I'm amazed this ever even happened.  Metal Box is about the farthest thing you'd think of as being on prime time American TV.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Could This Be Magic? (thoughts on Van Halen)...

I'm reviewing the new Van Halen record for The Quietus. The review should be 600 words. I found that before I even listened to the record I'd already written 1200 words. So before I finish the review, here they are.

I've been waiting 27 years for this.  It would only be a slight exaggeration to say that every day I've wished it would happen.  They were my first love, you see.  And I've often said that Orwell at least had part of it right, though it was really in 1985, the day David Lee Roth left Van Halen, that the world went wrong. I never took sides in the split.  It seemed to me that there were then two great bands to follow.  Though it was never really the same.  And although the Van Halen name stayed, they were a different band with Sammy Hagar.  Not that that's a bad thing, far from it.  I realize it's heresy but I'll admit it here for the first time ever - I like 5150 better as an album than the first Van Halen record.  I think I was too late for Van Halen.  Having been introduced to them at the age of 6 via (Oh) Pretty Woman and then very quickly hearing Unchained (in my opinion, the best rock song ever recorded, followed closely by Panama and Everybody Wants Some!!), by the time I heard Runnin' With The Devil, it was a little too slow for me.  Not to take anything away from that album.  It was recorded live with only two overdubs, and those were rhythm guitar tracks behind the solos!  Consider the caliber of the playing.  And especially thinking of how bands make records these days, this is Astounding.  Back then you had to be able to play.  And boy could they play.  People sometimes mistakenly lump Eddie in with all the hot shot, gunslinging guitarists who came after him.  But if you actually take the time to listen, nobody, repeat nobody, sounds like Eddie Van Halen.  First off there's his tone, the famous "brown sound".  And then there's his sense of melody and phrasing.  His fingers may be flying but there's music behind them.  Van Halen II I absolutely LOVE.  Dance The Night Away is a fantastic pop song, Beautiful Girls (and the rest of them) are excellent rock tunes, and there's always been something about that D.O.A. riff.  Women And Children First I love too.  It has two of the best rock songs ever written on it (Everybody Wants Some!! and Romeo Delight) as well as the amazing melodic pop of In A Simple Rhyme (yes, yes, there's And The Cradle Will Rock..., it's never really been one of my favourites, though that Wurlitzer sound is Awesome.  WACF also has Could This Be Magic?, a great little acoustic blues).  Fair Warning and 1984 are both Masterpieces.  Fair Warning possesses a magnificent dark rock energy and 1984 is just classic pop through and through.  And I quite like Diver Down. Secrets and Little Guitars are amazing pop songs.  I could go on and on (and on and on...) about these records but let's leave it at that for now.

I was too young to see the 1984 tour.  Little did I know of the dark three decades that lay ahead.  My cousin Keith begged my mom to let me go with them, to no avail.  This makes perfect sense - I was 8 years old and he and his friends had just turned 16.  He called me the next day to tell me all about it though, and conveyed that sense of wonder and excitement that has always made pop music so special.  To my mom's credit, she let me go see David Lee Roth's first solo tour two years later, after seeing the Yankee Rose video made me pick up a guitar and literally changed my life.  October 3, 1986 at the Hartford Civic Center.  My older cousin Jenny drove us up and we met up with Keith and his brother Mark.  And voila!  I was introduced to this whole new world, a world I instinctively knew I wanted to be a part of.  A week later, on Roth's birthday, my mom let me stay up late to watch the first ever Joan Rivers Show with Roth as her first ever guest.  (Diamond Dave starts at 6:25 in)

27 years.  My feelings going into this are the most complicated I've ever felt about anything.  They were right there at the beginning of my love of music.  It may have been sparked by the 60's 45s and Beatles records that my mom would play, but Van Halen were the first band that I ever really felt were my own. And not in an exclusive, protective sort of way.  They were there for EVERYBODY.  And in America at that time, it seemed everybody loved them.  This wasn't the hide-in-your-room-and-wallow-in-being-misunderstood music that I'd later experience with the likes of The Smiths and Joy Division.  This was Good Time Music, Party Music, and everybody was invited.  There was a sense of inclusion and unity that made one feel just how enormous the power of music was, a feeling I would be glad to welcome again when I finally got to see Pulp for the first time last summer.  Music as a celebration of life, the one thing we all share.

I'd like to say that I remember the exact moment I heard that David Lee Roth had left Van Halen.  I know people who can recall that moment and describe it to you with exactness and clarity.  But in truth, I don't.  What I do remember, and this is perhaps more appropriate to the situation, is an air of confusion hanging about.  Well, why?  What did this mean (for us, for the world)?  There were 2 bands now, and 2 albums, and surely 2 is better than 1?  But you knew, deep down inside, that it would never be the same.  Not to make this too grandiose, for obviously there are plenty of more earth-shattering and important events that happen to people, but this was the first time in my life, at age 9, that I had to consider the idea that something you loved, that was important to you in way you didn't fully understand, that it could all change and be taken away from you, and to consider the uncertainty of the future.  Which, to be fair, also seemed exciting.  An excitement which carried you far past where you thought things would go - for surely Dave was coming back soon, right? - making things even more complicated.

All that said, I don't really have any expectations for this new record.  I mean, how could I?  Disappointment - a very real possibility, letting 27-year-old hopes build up - would prove nearly fatal.  But perhaps I do secretly wish for one more suspended chord melodic rocker (so much better than that sounds ; ) in the grand tradition of Unchained and Panama (perhaps the song 5150 is the final part of this most excellent trilogy).  I know it's supposed to be re-recordings of old songs that never got released (before I found the old demos online, I always wondered about how much stuff was left over.  B-sides were never a big thing in America, but with only 9 or 10 songs per album, there must be some extras kicking around somewhere), but Eddie always mentions the 100s of hours of music he's been recording the past however many years, surely there must be something great in there?  Will they make that little jam ("Earth", I think they called it) at the end of In A Simple Rhyme, in the fade-out of Women And Children First, into a proper song?  I always dug that riff.  I remember when the remasters came out, my boss called me all excited "You can hear that little jam at the end of the record so much better now!  It's awesome".  So many little things about Van Halen are important and exciting to a lot of people.  If nothing else, at least they'll be touring.  I've still never seen them.  On the last tour, I had tickets for the CT and NYC dates but they were postponed to a time when I was back in the UK.  Maybe I can finally get to see them live (truth be told, I was a bit disappointed when I read that they opened with You Really Got Me on the last tour.  I realize it was their first single and what broke them, but I'd much rather hear one of their songs.  I was gutted when on the 2002 Sam & Dave tour, Roth played a lot of the old covers and omitted Unchained, the best rock song ever written).  I really hope they come to Europe.

Maybe it's true, that the importance of this now is based on childhood experience.  But take a moment to think about your first love.  And how much it meant and hopefully still means to you, how much it shaped who you are, opening huge vistas of possibility and excitement and wonder, without you quite knowing why.  Could this be magic?

I say I've been waiting 7 years, when 1984 was released in 1983 (December 27th) - this being 2012 would make it 28 years.  But in actual fact, I didn't give it a second thought until Roth left.  I always just took it as given in those carefree days that Van Halen would continue releasing records, one a year, forever into the glorious future, or so it seemed.  So I've been waiting since 1985, when suddenly nothing was certain anymore yet we all clung to the hope this would all be resolved shortly.

Now, time to listen to A Different Kind Of Truth...


Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Jah Wobble & Julie Campbell - Psychic Life...

Psychic Life by Jah Wobble & Julie Campbell is one of the best records I've heard in a long time.  My review of it for God Is In The TV here, the first thing I've given 5 out of 5 stars to. It's truly a modern post-punk record and contains one of the best Pop songs of the Millenium thus far in Feel.  The Feel (Remix) from the Psychic Life EP is possibly even better.  Tightrope, the first song on the album, is also awesome, with a killer classic Wobble bassline.  Campbell's vocals are excellent throughout the record.  Keith Levene, one of my favourite guitarists - so inventive - plays on this and two other songs on the album.

Monday, 6 February 2012

France Gall - Il Neige...

Remember the other day when I was talking about that fantastic song, Il Neige, that I knew nothing about?  Well, I asked Bob Stanley on Twitter about it and he told me it's by France Gall!   So exciting, I've been trying to find out about this for 8 years!  I can't really find any other info about the song except that it seemed to be for a New Year's Eve program called "Réveillon" in 1966.  But here it is:

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Van Halen..

The new Van Halen album is coming out tomorrow (well, in the UK, Tuesday in the States. I'm lucky enough to be in the UK and hear it a day early).  I've been waiting 27 years for this.  To say that I've hoped this would happen every day during that time would only be a slight exaggeration.  So in preparation, here's a pop song off each of the first 6 records.

Feel Your Love Tonight from Van Halen:

Dance The Night Away from Van Halen II:

In A Simple Rhyme from Women And Children First.  Great version from 1976 here.

So This Is Love? from Fair Warning:

Little Guitars from Diver Down:

And of course Jump from 1984 (I still get chills hearing the intro) :

Saturday, 4 February 2012


As it's snowing in London (and has been so so cold this week), I'm put in mind of Saint Etienne's cover of Randy Newman's Snow, which appeared on their Christmas 2003 Fanclub EP.  I have 2 copies of this EP as I was in London at the time and finally got to see them properly (when they came to America it was always smaller venues).  I went to the Oxford warm-up show at the Zodiac club, which I believe was the first time Ian Catt played bass onstage with them, and was so glad I did.  It was an incredible show, everything you wanted to hear.  I missed the midnight bus home by 1 minute and therefore had to wait 59 minutes in the freezing cold for the next one, inspiring my Lullaby Oscillator song It's Freezing, Please Take Me Back To London.  But yes, so glad I made the trip.  Great as the xmas gig proper at The Palladium was (Edwyn Collins dueting with Sarah on I Was Born On Christmas Day!!), the sound at the theatre was no match for the club soundsystem at The Zodiac, the way you were meant to hear those songs I think.

Side note:  Before those xmas 2003 gigs, right before they went on, the DJ played a song called "Il Neige", could've been Snow in French, I didn't know the song at the time.  But if anyone knows this Il Neige and can let me know who sang it, I'd really appreciate it.  Thanks.

By the way, have you heard the new Saint Etienne song, Tonight?  It's really good, you can grab it here.

Claudine Longet's version:

Harry Nilsson's version:

I like how they're all a bit different from each other, but all quite good.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Brian Eno - Seven Deadly Finns...

I LOVE finding out about rare stuff by artists I like, even after all these years, I still get very excited at such prospects.  I had no idea Brian Eno's Seven Deadly Finns even existed until Sophia told me about it yesterday.  Released as a single in 1974 between his first two solo records.  A good piece on it on Julian Cope's Head Heritage site.  And here's Eno performing it on Dutch TV in 1974:

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Psychic TV - The Orchids...

The Orchids by Psychic TV is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard.  Utterly gorgeous.  I kept hearing this for years at different places but never knew what it was until my friend Stefan pointed it out last summer.  And I'm very thankful that he did.

Whenever I interview people, my standard last question is "Say you've stolen a space shuttle and are flying it directly into the sun, for whatever reason, what would the soundtrack be?"  I think I would chose this song. The incongruity between the enormity of the situation, which you'd expect to sound thunderous and bombastic, and the delicateness of The Orchids would amuse me.  But also I'd want to be listening to something beautiful in such a situation.  And the lyrics would be perfect.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Ride - Twisterella...

Thinking more about Ride and I'd have to say my favourite song of theirs has always been Twisterella, which is Sheer POP Perfection.  Going Blank Again is such a great album, and such a strong start too with Twisterella coming after the magnificent Leave Them All Behind.

Live acoustic:

Live in Brixton, 1992:

And the scene from the excellent film Billy Liar where (I assume) they got the title from: